The value of any relationship (client, patients, family, business, personal) is ensuring mutual understanding.

An integral part of a patient’s understanding, is to be mindful (self-awareness). The health provider (professional) must be aware of a patient’s (health literacy); exercising patience, listening actively, and focusing on quality interactions.

That means consciously leaving time in the discussion with the patient to ensure his or her understanding of the information. A study study by Schwartzberg, (n.d.), found that physicians assess patients’ understanding of their instruction only two percent of the time. This clearly is an area with room for improvement.

The value and true importance of employing effective interactive communication strategies that demonstrate understanding is having patients “teach back” the information. Or asking, “If this were your medicine (pills, exercise program) tell me how you would take it?” This technique provides a rough measure of health literacy and a good introduction to discussing the instructions in a meaningful manner.

Self-awareness and discernment is so important. If we really think about it, our strengths can be weaknesses, if not cultivated in a well rounded manner. For example, my strength is listening, however, this strength can sometimes lead me to conclude (assume) too quickly a response (judgment) in mind and limit my perception into exploring further solutions. Or, my desire to help by giving too much information, where “less is more” would be just as effective.

Counseling brings so many rewards and gives us the opportunity to share our strengths with others (empathy, listening, persuasion) while also demanding a personal responsibility and accountability for our own actions as trustworthy professionals. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. And to be understood, we need to clarify understanding.


Schwartzberg, J. G. (n.d.). Health literacy: Can a patient understand your instructions? CRICO.



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