Health and Wellness Club

A platform for health professionals around the world to meet and interact.


May 11, 2022: What to do if your patients are not motivated enough ?

Speaker: Jelina Shah, a holistic diabetes health coach and a clinical pharmacist.


As a health care professional, your conduct with patients is of significant importance. Motivated clients who complete your treatment successfully can cement your expertise in your area. Thus, it becomes critical that you understand your unmotivated patients so you can ensure their journey doesn’t end before it starts.

Understanding the issues you face with unmotivated patients:

  • Worsening health conditions or outcomes
  • Complicated conditions = more time
  • Frustration
  • Less Money

Our speaker suggests using negotiation as a tool to deal with unmotivated patients.

She has 5 key lessons that can help you hone your negotiation skills.

Lesson 1: Resist the urge to correct ambivalent patients.

These patients know they should change their behavior and the steps to take to change. However, they have a “but” response.

For instance, “I know I have diabetes, but it’s not that bad. I can just take insulin. “

If you correct these patients, then they become defensive, which lights up their amygdala’s fight-or-flight response. In this state, they won’t be receptive to any of your valuable suggestions as they will perceive you as a threat.

Move their thoughts from the amygdala up to the prefrontal cortex where they are processed more rationally. This brings us to Lesson 2.

Lesson 2: Acknowledging their feelings.

Deactivate their defense mechanisms by repeating what they said. This technique is called mirroring.

Patient: Wow, I am surprised about that.

You: I can see that you are surprised.

Alternatively, you can use the technique of “Labelling”. You label their expressed feelings by saying something like, “I can see how this is surprising or disappointing to you.”

 Lesson 3: Understand their motivation

Obstacles are inevitable while they change their behavior. Knowing the source of their motivation and if it is intrinsic or extrinsic, can help you support them better when they encounter obstacles.

Lesson 4: Listen

Listen to them when they speak of their problems and motivations. They will mention something about their schedules or environments, which can serve as a clue.

You need not listen to them for hours on end every time, but do invest more time in initial appointments. Once you establish trust at the start, they will be more forthcoming in their upcoming appointments. Eventually, you can diagnose their problems quickly.

Lesson 5: Gradual steps

Suggest easy, incremental steps that will empower them and build their trust in the process. Thus, their efforts become sustainable.

In the interaction session that followed, members discussed valuable tips about

  • How did they motivate their patients?
  • What did their onboarding process for patients look like?