I recently read an article about the different ways in which doctors try to motivate their patients to engage in some sort of behavior modification. Different techniques were discussed that can be utilized to prod patients into losing weight, to quit smoking, to exercise more, etc. The more that I read that story, the sadder I became. What in heaven’s name are we expecting our doctors to do when they need to take their very valuable time to find ways to get grownups to do what they already know they should be doing?
I do understand that there are times when someone knows that they need to change their behavior and they really don’t know how to go about it. If they choose to ask their doctor for help, that is wonderful and the doctor should take the time to assist and direct them in any way possible. However, why should any doctor feel responsible to find ways to talk to the patient who is 100 pounds overweight into losing weight? Why should a doctor feel the need to talk once again to the smoker who is coughing like crazy because they smoke 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day? Why is there a need for a doctor to find a technique that will change the alcoholic’s behavior so that they may be able to keep his liver from being destroyed? This is a complete waste of time and effort and energy, if you ask me.
Every single person knows exactly what they need to do in order to improve their life with regard to making changes in their behavior. No one needs to have the doctor chastise them, scold them, embarrass them or bully them in order to have them make changes. In fact, if you ask most people, especially those who “hate” to go to the doctor, it is because they don’t want to have to deal with that aspect of the visit. And I am sure that every single one of us knows someone whose life was at risk if they did not change certain behaviors and that still was not enough of a motivation. So, what’s the answer?
I believe that everyone who chooses risky or bad behavior has a very real psychological reason behind it. As a result, no medical doctor who tries to change that behavior without addressing the underlying problem will have success. Therefore, to continue to browbeat a person in order to get them to lose weight just won’t work and will alienate the patient every single time. And if a more subtle approach is used and the patient is still not willing to address the matter then it should be immediately dropped.
It is time for the medical doctors to utilize their time as medical doctors and not waste it as psychologists. With the changes that are occurring where less and less time is available to spend with the patients, it is time to let go of feeling responsible about not being able to make the changes for those patients who choose not to change. It is like the old adage, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”
For the patients, it is time to step up to the plate and take responsibility for your own behavior. You know what you are doing that is causing the problems with your life and health. It is up to you to change. Don’t feel that it is your doctor’s responsibility to prescribe something that will overcome all of the improper health choices that you have made over the years. If you truly don’t know what to do then absolutely consult your doctor. That is why they have trained so long and hard in order to help. But, bottom line, it is up to the individual to decide what to do and therefore, it is the responsibility of that person to create the life that they wish for themselves. And while not every medical problem can be improved or eliminated by behavioral changes, many can be and it is up to each person to decide what they should and can do, not the doctors.
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