“Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
-Matthew 13:9 (NIV)
Recently I met a new friend at a mindfulness retreat, Brian, who expressed complete fascination with my dedication to excellence in clinical practice, my gift of hope for people suffering around the world and my unique ability to bring relief to people with dizziness and vertigo, even people who have suffered for many, many years and already consulted with experts, specialists and numerous other healthcare providers.
I shared with Brian that people may develop anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideation when they have chronic problems with dizziness or vertigo because they often feel scared, misunderstood and hopeless.
As Brian was grasping the depth and magnitude of the work that I am doing in the world, he asked me very innocently: “How do you do it? How do you cure someone from dizziness or vertigo? Especially if no one else was able to do it?”
In response to this question, I smiled from the deepest place in my heart and reflected on the hundreds of photographs of my Grampa, my mother and my friends that I have taken over the years to create my teaching handouts. I recalled the hundreds of pages of professional training manuals that I have created, narrated, published, revised and re-published to thoroughly offer the answer to Brian’s question to physical therapists, physical therapy assistants and primary care providers who I am currently teaching and mentoring.
For a moment, I considered answering his question clinically by describing to Brian an abbreviated list of all the possible physical, mental, structural, postural, physiological, vascular, energetic, spiritual and nutritional causes of dizziness and vertigo symptoms that I might identify using The Bell Method assessment strategies that I’ve developed.
I was also tempted to respond sarcastically with, “How much time do you have?”
But then I realized a new truth about the human value that I offer to my patients, and I expressed it to Brian by saying simply, “The most important thing I do is listen.
I listen very deeply to what the patient tells me. I sit and face my new patients with an open heart, giving them eye contact and my undivided attention for as long as it takes them to tell me their whole story.
So they can empty their heart and feel that someone truly cares for them – that they are no longer alone and I am there for them, with my full presence, witnessing their story with compassion.
Sometimes during an initial evaluation for a new patient, it takes me two full hours just to hear all about the patient’s history, and then I complete my detailed hands-on primary care assessment for dizziness and vertigo, which takes another hour, and provided education and treatment for a total of four hours at our initial encounter.
I believe there is a healing that occurs when people feel seen and heard by someone who truly cares for their well-being and is dedicated to discovering and relieving all the causes of their suffering.”
As I reflected on the insight that had just come out of my mouth, I realized that I intuitively feel the healing power available in the experience of “being seen and heard.”
That’s why a warm hug, a kind word from a professional colleague, a chat over coffee with a close friend, a phone call with my Mom and even sharing a smile with a stranger feel so nourishing to me. I feel seen and heard in a loving way – and it heals me. This insight inspired me to write a new original song on my guitar called “I See You, I Hear You,” which I will share on my YouTube channel in 2017.
I’m aware that listening deeply is often missing in our Western healthcare delivery model today, especially in fast-paced clinical settings that rely on health insurance reimbursement.
My patients tell me that other healthcare providers often sit facing away from the patient, rush through the visit, never look the patient in the eye, and ask the same questions repeatedly while filling out the required forms on their computer.
Ultimately, it makes the patient feel they are not being seen or heard. After a few minutes, regardless of whether the patient has received any answers or relief, they report being moved along to make space for the next patient.
I mentor many of my colleagues across the US who practice in insurance-based clinical settings.
The healthcare providers I mentor often express frustration and complain that they feel they do not have enough time with their patients to use the depth of the skills that they possess. With declining reimbursement and the increasing paperwork burden for those who bill insurance, it is only getting worse for them and their patients.
My hope is that all healthcare providers will find a way to listen deeply to their patients in order to offer the possibility of more deep and complete healing.