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Over the last few months, I have listened to and read some great practical advice and inspiration on how functional medicine practitioners are adapting their clinical practice in these challenging times. And one leading functional medicine practitioner in particular highlighted just how valuable group sessions could be as we start to ease forward. In this article we take a closer look at the key benefits of group sessions and how they may help us to adapt and build resilience in these unfamiliar times.

These adaptations are not just about how we, as practitioners, can keep our businesses going from a financial perspective, they’re also about finding ways to adapt our practices to meet the changing needs of our clients whilst looking after ourselves too. How can we best support a community that is dealing not only with health issues that were already there, but that are now coupled with unprecedented levels of stress, worry and uncertainty? And how can we, as practitioners, keep going, meet these needs and support ourselves and our loved ones’ practical and emotional needs at the same time? Burnout is common among clients but has become a real and growing concern among healthcare practitioners too, and it’s crucial that we check in with ourselves on these issues as we move forward.

Clearly, there’s no single quick fix to dealing with the many issues we now see emerging, but insights from one online session in particular seem particularly valuable to share.

Renowned functional medicine practitioner, Dr Shilpa Saxena presented, ‘The simple plan to start building resilience in your patients’ as part of the PLMI ‘Simplexity Medicine 2.0 – Quantifying Patient Resilience’ online event in July. She highlighted the increasing prevalence of burnout among healthcare professionals and shone another light on the widespread benefits of incorporating group sessions into clinical practice which are perhaps even more relevant amid today’s challenges.

5 Key benefits of group sessions

1. Building your own community
Experiences over the last few months have highlighted the importance of maintaining social connections and community to protect mental health and support health and wellbeing overall. Whether run online or in-person, group sessions not only provide community and connection for participants but for you as a practitioner too.

2. Vicarious learning / knowledge sharing
There is a mistaken assumption that we as practitioners always have all the answers, when in fact, in a group setting the whole group benefits collectively from the knowledge and experiences of each individual. If you gather people on a common subject they will have answers and solutions for their peer group that are beyond your understanding, and this is especially true if you are speaking on a topic that you haven’t personally experienced. For example, you may be running a group session on pain and inflammation and a group member asks for your thoughts on a particular pain relief device? If you’ve never suffered from chronic pain / tried this particular device you won’t be well placed to answer the question, but another group member likely will be.

3. Income multiplier
As a healthcare practitioner your income potential will always be limited by the number of hours you have in a day unless you develop ways to work beyond the one to one consultation model. The group experience not only delivers therapeutic benefits to group participants, but there is potential for income multiplication compared to the same time spent in one to one consultations. The last few months have highlighted the importance of considering how you can make your practice more resilient during uncertain times by developing different income streams.

4. Mastery experience
If you find yourself having the same conversation with multiple clients you may find a group session on a particular topic is beneficial to offer, and this is especially relevant amid today’s concerns. You can spend longer with a group of people than you can with an individual which will result in participants leaving with a greater level of mastery of the subject being discussed.

5. Leveraging time
Making group sessions a part of your practice means you can help more clients yet reduce the total number of hours of client engagement, thus protecting your own energy and resources at the same time. Burnout among healthcare professionals is becoming increasingly common and it is important to take steps in your practice that protect you against this in the long term. Group sessions are a great way of leveraging time.

Working together to build resilience
Setting up group sessions may seem an unusual suggestion during times when we are being encouraged to maintain a social distance, yet creating and building communities and fostering ways for people to connect, albeit virtually for now, is arguably more important now than ever before. Group sessions also offer an opportunity for you to reach more people whilst looking after yourself too. There is a lot to learn from the last few months and one vital lesson is that building and nurturing resilience is absolutely key, in every single area of life, and it is vital that we all work together to make this happen.

“Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Henry Ford

Dr Shilpa Saxena ‘The simple plan to start building resilience in your patients’
PLMI - Simplexity Medicine 2.0 – Quantifying Patient Resilience - online event in July 2020

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