Know When to Let Go: Building Trust by Releasing Patients from Your Care

Please Note! Due to the high volume of irritating spam and slow-down of participation here, we are no longer accepting new comments, questions, or subjects on this Forum. We are keeping all the subjects and comments for review as there is a lot of good stuff here relating to practice-building subjects. So, dig deep! Thanks to everyone who participated here but it is time to move on to bigger projects educating the public about acupuncture! Matt Bauer

24-Jan-2013 08:48 AM

Matthew Bauer

Posts: 211

One of the greatest challenges faced by those starting their practices is earning the trust of their patients and prospective patients. Of course, providing great clinical results plays a key role in this but this is not necessarily the be-all and end-all of building trust. I occasionally have patients come to me who were treated by another acupuncturist with good clinical results but were unhappy with other aspects of their experience so sought another acupuncturist. The reasons for this can vary and include such things as painful needling, lack of communication, and high treatment fees but the one I want to cover here is how releasing a patient from you care helps build trust.

I released two patients from my care yesterday, one a former patient I had treated five times over a 3 week period this go around and another first-time patient I treated 14 times over a 2 month period. One thing I learned early-on in practice was that people seeking acupuncture tend to be leery about getting taken advantage of. Just like when you hire a construction contractor or mechanic for repairs and you are OK with paying for necessary work at a fair price but concerned they might run-up the bill on unnecessary things.  Patients feel vulnerable because they are getting into something they don’t fully understand and one of these concerns is being told they need to keep coming-in for “maintenance care.”

While I believe virtually everyone could benefit from regular acupuncture as a preventative balancing measure, I do not push this on my patients unless a patient comes to me specifically for that (something very rare in my area). I do try to educate my patients about all the things AOM can do for them including maintenance and prevention, but I don’t try to get them to sign-on for this.

 I encourage acupuncturists to let their patients know the treatment process takes place in three stages – a beginning when we make something good start to happen, a middle where we build on that progress and take it as far as we can, and an end when we make sure the progress we attained will be as lasting as possible. I have heard from many patients who were treated by other acupuncturists that they never reached an end stage because they were encouraged to keep coming for maintenance and it made them feel this was more about the money for the acupuncturist than their own care. This is especially the case in a practice that is just starting out and does not have many patients.

So, while it may be tempting to encourage patients to keep coming to you even after you have helped the issue they came to you for as much as you can (maximum therapeutic benefit), tread lightly. Just think of how you have reacted to mechanics or contractors when you sought their services – the ones who earned your trust and those who didn’t.  Try to see things from the patient’s point of view. Once you earn their trust, you will have a loyal patient who will come back when they need your help and refer other to you and that is the key to building a successful practice.

Matthew Bauer


21-Feb-2013 07:00 PM


Posts: 2

What about patients you actually DO want to let go? Patients who love you, but are toxic and use the treatment as a dumping session.  What is a skillful way in letting them go?

 I have one who comes in 1x/month despite me communicating that I’m not helping her very much. I think she comes in more for the psychological release and nurturing, than for the physical pain. While that is a legitimate reason to seek care, I can’t deal with her toxic spewing much longer. I feel slimmed despite my efforts at building Qi Gong & psychological shields. 

I’ve tried referring her to another practitioner closer to her, but she doesn’t want to go. 


Ann Marie Deas, L.Ac.


02-Mar-2013 10:54 AM

Matthew Bauer

Posts: 211

Hi Ann Marie – I just realized I did not reply to this question and didn’t explain that I hoped my reply to your other posting (Communicating with Patients who change their mind) would also apply to this. It is a difficult thing when people want to dump on you but the more you make clear from the start that you are like a specialist hired to improve their energy operations, the better you can distance yourself from them if they start spewing toxic waste. As long as you don’t get too personally wrapped-up in their emotional state you should be able to let it more roll off of you. I sometimes have patients tell me things that upset them like how the Hispanics are getting too much welfare or similar things that I don’t agree with politically or personally but I don’t let it get to me. People are who they are and who am I to judge? My job is to improve their energy dynamics and I can do that whether I feel I would like or dislike this person socially. You can still be deeply compassionate, wanting the best for your patients without getting sucked-into their negativity. You have to work on finding the right balance between caring energetically and caring too much emotionally. It is not easy but, like so many other things, the more you work on it the better you get at it. Matthew Bauer