How do I get a provider to take me seriously? Tips to help

How do I get a doctor to take me seriously
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How do I get a provider to take me seriously? This is such an important question! Over the last 15 years working as a physical therapist, yogi, and intuitive coach in the world of chronic pain and pelvic floor PT, I have seen too many clients who come to me saying they do not feel valued, heard, or attended to with their health, wellbeing, and symptoms by their providers. Here are some tips to help you find and talk to your provider and advice on what to do if you’re still feeling unheard.

If you’re getting dismissed, it’s not you…it’s them

Being unheard in a healthcare appointment can make all of your hope for help turn into a big nope. It’s so frustrating to feel minimized when you’ve come somewhere fore help. You may not have gotten to tell your story or say how your symptoms are affecting you. Or, you did, but you weren’t believed. The stories I’ve been told are about small things and big things–but they’re all hurtful and dismissive. For example, women with painful intercourse have shared that they’ve been told to “have a few drinks” and that will help. That’s not okay, and it’s not something anyone should have to hear.

On a personal note, I too have personally experienced the feeling of not getting the help you need and not being taken seriously. My son has an ultra-rare genetic disorder and navigating it has been a difficult journey. As terrible as being dismissed or not believed feels in the moment, it helps to remember that it’s not your fault.

Tips for finding the right provider for you and advice on how to get a provider to take you seriously

Get clear on your goals for each provider. (And share them!)

Asking yourself some questions before making appointments can help you find the right person–one who has the background to help you and one who has a reputation for really listening. Would you feel best with someone who values hearing your whole story? Do you value efficiency and top-rated doctors? Feel like you’ve tried everything and want holistic approaches or integrative-mindedness? Needing a surgeon who will listen and is excellent at their craft? Or, are you wanting a provider who is willing to consider out-of-the-box options?

Once you reflect on these, you’ll have a good idea of what you need from each practitioner you visit. Get even more clear on your goals from here, and write them down. Re-read and review them. De-stress and clear your mind before your appointment. It will make you more comfortable and confident in communicating what you need and want from each practitioner.

Use a women’s group to help you find a provider with the qualities you’re looking for

Friends and family are great. But some of the best resources are women’s groups who are dealing with similar issues. Ask lots of questions and get referrals from others you trust. (Using women’s groups has led to so many women finding aligned practitioners.)

Doing research on providers before contacting them is helpful. Ask your group. Search online. You can even call the front desk to get the vibe of the office. You deserve to feel good before you go into the appointment. And, if you find a negative review, don’t let it always sway your decision to proceed (or not). Consider the opinion as valid but then make your own, so you’re not swept away by one person’s experience. 

Own your power as a patient by looking at your first appointment as an interview

It helps to treat your first visit as an interview (with kindness, of course!). We have the right to choose who we see and work with and gone are the days when there was only one choice. Health problems already make us feel powerless in so many ways. We put so much hope, time, money, and energy into each new appointment. Many of us feel our power slip away if the tone is dismissive or disbelief. Neither of these things are ever okay, but looking at first visits as an interview where you are also making a decision about the provider in front of you is a way to help you hold onto or regain your power as a human being.

Going into an appointment feeling empowered to choose and make decisions aligned for you is vital. You deserve it. As you interview, be objective. Take notes afterwards. Check in with your core and your gut. Did you feel safe, heard, and valued? Is it worth your time and energy to go back? Do you need to visit a few times to get a true read on a place and provider?

So what if you don’t have options and resources? Telehealth can help you get more opinions at a lower cost, and there are ways to travel to seek care, even if finances are an issue. (I can help explain this.)

Don’t walk on eggshells or stay silent if you’re not getting listened to or what you need

Speaking up or asking questions about your provider’s reaction, treatment plan, or anything else doesn’t make you confrontational. The provider that’s right for you should welcome your input because you are, after all, the expert in your body, how you feel, and what you’ve tried in the past.

Politely asserting yourself at your appointments is important. It clears up miscommunications. It gives your practitioner your experience. And it opens the door for conversations about your health. Keeping your words on the situation helps. Instead of a frustrated “you’re not hearing me,” or “we’re not on the same page,” try stating it as something like, “I’d like to walk back to this part” or “let’s talk through this again.” That should be enough for a good provider (who is maybe having a bad day) to realize that they need to soften or listen more closely. If someone is offended by this, they’re not for you.

Don’t be afraid to appreciate… and move on

Not all providers will be the right fit for you. It’s okay to be upset and feel the feelings, without any judgment, if an appointment didn’t go well. Do not be afraid to move on. One of my favorite things I’ve learned is that we have the power to appreciate what someone must bring for others and still move on ourselves. The reason this is so important is that helps us not hold onto the anger of it. But isn’t anger appropriate when I’m dismissed? Of course it is! Feel it, but see if you can release it too. Your anger doesn’t hurt the provider you left, but it does hurt you. When you are already in chronic pain or navigating a scary health issue, all that anger just drains your energy when it’s already on short supply.

The right match for you is out there. Sometimes we have to find a few (or a lot of) wrong-for-us to get to the right team for us. Do not be afraid to shop around and move on when you need to. That is the ultimate self-love.

One more thing to remember

Not all medical providers or even holistic providers have the same education or emphasis. Health is a fine art, as well as a science. Different fields or degrees can have completely different approach and that’s to be expected. (Though you should always feel listened to.) But, for example, surgeons and physical therapists for example are yin and yang. Surgeons learn to keep you alive. Physical therapists and most all holistic providers will more closely examine and help with your day-to-day feelings and living. Knowing that can help you find someone who aligns with your views and who you will feel like takes you seriously.

Sara Smith, DPT, RYT-200, CHC
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