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  • Writer's pictureLaura Gajda

5 Things To Do When Working With A New Client

Updated: Aug 20, 2022

You have a new session booked tomorrow and you are PUMPED! This person believes in your message and you are excited but also very nervous about how to initial session is going to go. When you start to look at it, you start to doubt yourself or feel like you have to over-prepare to do well. You might even look over their chart and prepare some materials that you feel like you “might need.” Just remember a few things.

  1. Listen

The first session can be primarily about listening and you do not need to give out a bunch of materials, entice them to come back to you for more information. Your job in the first session is to identify what the client's needs are and how you are going to get there together. It does not need to be an all-in-one informative session where the client comes out changed, because that does not happen.

2. Learn

Be an active participant in the session. Learn about this client and be curious. Ask the questions that you feel like you want to ask them about their personal life or actions. This will only help you with helping them in the future

3. Be a human

Food is a vulnerable part of someone's life and a person is coming to you and asking for help. Therefore, please remember to be a human and validate their experience. Use phrases like, “that sounds like a challenging time in your life, must’ve been hard” or “it seems like things are not going in a way that you would like, let’s see what we can do to shift things for you.” If I have a client that is coming to me specifically for weight loss, I could say something like; “I am hearing that you are feeling uncomfortable in your body and want to change some things.” I remember at this moment that I do not have to challenge everything that they are saying but validate that they are going through something that is leading them down the path toward getting assistance.

4. Give them reasons why to come back.

This is a big one! You do NOT have to give them a hundred “to-do’s” in the first session or even give them worksheets. Instead, to keep them enticed you are within your rights to give them one nugget of information or one worksheet as a bit of a teaser to keep them engaged. This helps them with understanding why they would want to keep coming back to you. For example, a client comes in with an eating disorder and you tell them that you have an idea of what they need to try to “kick it” but they will need to work on logging their food this week to help you better understand. This way they have an assignment, they understand the goals, and are in a zone of working toward you helping them.

5. Reinforce their goals

At the end of every initial session, I like to remind the client of why they are here? Why did they decide to come to the session today? What did we uncover that was not there before? You need to be asking yourself these questions throughout and be able to recite them at the end of your time. This shows that you were actively listening to what their needs are and thinking about how to help them. It is also very important to look at not challenging a lot of their ideals in this part of the session. If a client is coming in for weight loss and you are a weight-inclusive dietitian, it is going to be hard for you to agree to weight loss. However, it is a goal that they are stating they would like help with so you could say something like, “After hearing you answer some of the initial intake questions, it sounds like you are most interested in healthy and sustainable eating habits and interested in weight loss.” Therefore, you are putting in the fact that you heard them about the weight loss but want to insert that you feel like you can primarily help them with healthy eating habits.

Having initial sessions is supposed to be fun. Remember to have a little bit of fun with it. Spend a little bit of time at the beginning of the session joking around with your client and trying to help them feel more at ease. If everything else fails, ask them if they found the office okay or how’s the weather outside? These questions can help a client feel more relaxed and hopefully open up a bit more.

Congrats! You got your first client, now it’s time to rock that initial session.

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