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Client Education

Improve client communication with specific activities based on Multiple Intelligences

Everyone in this field is an educator, whether you do relaxation massage or injury rehabilitation. The education occurs in two implicit manners: you teach the body how to properly respond (relax and repair); and you increase your clients' general physical awareness. Some therapists take additional routes to broaden their clients' knowledge by describing what they're doing and why; demonstrating stretches and self-massage techniques; showing videos; sharing information on related wellness topics; providing reading materials; and assigning homework.

Clients don't always get the results that are possible, or their progress takes longer because they mainly rely on the therapist's hands-on work. These are the "do it to me" clients. Educating clients so that they can understand the cause of their pain or concerns, and the methods by which it can be alleviated (or their goals achieved), makes them better informed so they assume the responsibility to get better, stay well and attain their long-range health or performance goals. As a nice aside, it also enhances their ability to promote your services to their friends and colleagues.

It is so easy to fall into a routine with clients by presenting information in the same rote manner. Therapists need to expand their instructional repertoire by using a variety of approaches. This applies to guiding a client on how to ease his pain between sessions or teaching a room filled with executives how to decrease stress. Some clients respond well to verbal information or instructions, while others need to see charts or take home information to peruse. Other clients want you to demonstrate and then watch them to see if they got it right. And then there are the clients who need a variety of formats. Plus, the more fun you make it to learn, the more likely your clients will participate (particularly when the activities are outside of the treatment).

Many theories on learning and personality styles have emerged over the past few decades, all in the attempt to address the learning needs of adults. The work I find most applicable is "Multiple Intelligences" formulated by Howard Gardner and extended to the classroom environment by David Lazear. Teaching has historically been conducted from a verbal/linguistic or logical/mathematical framework. Effective teaching takes all eight intelligences into consideration.

Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner was disturbed by the classroom emphasis on linguistic and logical-mathematical symbolization. While they are obviously important, other symbols also figure prominently in human cognitive activity. This led Gardner to a conceptualization of human intellect that was more capacious. He identified eight major intelligences (although there is rumor of a ninth). They are: Verbal/Linguistic; Logical/Mathematical; Visual/Spatial; Bodily/Kinesthetic; Musical/Rhythmic; Intrapersonal; Interpersonal; and Naturalist.

This system of understanding how people learn has nothing to do with labeling people as being a specific type. We use all of the intelligences it is just that some are stronger in us than others. While personality types are what a person is most of the time, multiple intelligences are strategies for teaching. By using a variety of intelligences with your clients, you assist in their comprehension and ensure greater compliance.

The following information is excerpted and adapted from the book Eight Ways of Teaching: The Artistry of Teaching with Multiple Intelligences, Third Edition, by David Lazear. 1991, 1999 by SkyLight Training and Publishing, Inc. Reprinted by permission of SkyLight Professional Development.

The Eight Intelligences

  1. Verbal / Linguistic: This intelligence processes information through written, spoken and reading aspects of language. The capacities include: understanding the order and meaning of words; convincing someone of a course of action; explaining, teaching and learning; humor; memory and recall; and metalinguistic analysis. It uses such tools as essays, debates, public speaking, poetry, conversation, creative writing and linguistic-based humor. This intelligence can be seen in poets, playwrights, storytellers, novelists, public speakers and comedians.
  2. Bodily / Kinesthetic: Relates to physical movement and the innate wisdom of the body. It includes using the body to express emotion, to play sports, invent things and do things by memory (e.g., riding a bicycle). The capacities include: expanding awareness through the body; miming abilities; mind/body connection; improved body functions; control of preprogrammed movements; and control of voluntary movements. It uses tools such as dance, drama, physical games, mime, role-play, body language and exercise. This intelligence can be seen in actors, athletes, mimes, dancers and inventors.
  3. Logical / Mathematical: Often called scientific thinking, it embodies pattern recognition, working with symbols and solving problems. The capacities include: inductive reasoning; deductive reasoning; discerning relationships and connections; performing complex calculations; and scientific reasoning. It uses tools such as problem-solving, calculation, logic, numbers and geometrical shapes. This intelligence can be seen in scientists, programmers, accountants, lawyers, bankers and mathematicians.
  4. Musical / Rhythmic: Occurs through hearing, sound, tonal patterns, vibration and rhythm. The capacities include: creating melody and rhythm; structure of music; schemas for hearing music; sensitivity to sounds; and sensing qualities of a tone. It uses tools such as singing, musical instruments, tonal associations and environmental sounds. This intelligence can be seen in musicians, composers and music teachers.
  5. Call Out: Encourage clients to write original pieces (e.g., essays, poetry) about themselves, their condition or their goals.
  6. Visual / Spatial: Relies on the sense of sight (physically seeing something) as well as internal vision (visualizing an object). The capacities include: accurate perception from different angles; recognizing relationships of objects in space; graphic representation; image manipulation; finding your way in space; forming mental images; and active imagination. It uses tools such as drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, montage, visualization, imagination and pretending. This intelligence can be seen in architects, draftspersons, film directors and artists.
  7. Intrapersonal: Relates to inner states of being, self-reflection, metacognition and spirituality. The capacities include: concentration of the mind; metacognition; awareness and expression of different feelings; mindfulness; transpersonal sense of the self; and higher order thinking and reasoning. It uses tools such as journals, affective processing, teaching for transfer and self-esteem practices. This intelligence can be seen in philosophers, psychiatrists, spiritual counselors and cognitive pattern researchers.
  8. Interpersonal: Operates primarily through person-to-person relating, communication, teamwork and collaboration. The capacities include: creating and maintaining synergy; discerning underlying intentions, behavior and perspectives; passing into the perspective of another; working cooperatively in a group; sensitivity to others' moods, motives and feelings; and verbal and non-verbal communication. It uses tools such as cooperative learning, empathy, social skills, team competitions and group projects. This intelligence can be seen in teachers, counselors, therapists, politicians and religious leaders.
  9. Naturalist: Deals with the recognition, appreciation and understanding of flora and fauna. The capacities include: communion with nature; caring for, taming and interacting with wild creatures; sensitivity to nature's flora; recognizing and classifying species; and growing natural things. It uses tools such as hands-on labs, field trips, sensory stimulation and classifying natural patterns. This intelligence can be seen in farmers, zoologists, gardeners, cooks, veterinarians, nature guides, animal trainers and rangers.

Creative Client Education Techniques

Verbal / Linguistic Intelligence

  • Journal/Diary Keeping: clients record their thoughts, feelings, ideas and progress.
  • Creative Writing: encourage clients to write original pieces (e.g., essays, poetry) about themselves, their condition or their goals.
  • Storytelling/Story Creation: clients make up and tell stories about their background, health or goals.
  • Formal Speaking: hold open houses and give presentations on wellness topics where clients can attend.
  • Humor/Jokes: create puns, limericks, and jokes about muscles, stretches or post-session assignments.
  • Verbal Debate: present both sides of an issue in a convincing manner.
  • Vocabulary: teach clients new words by using them accurately in regular communication.
  • Reading: supply clients with written materials on a concept, idea, product, treatment or process.

Logical / Mathematical Intelligence

  • Abstract Symbols/Formulas: design a meaningful summary notation system for different processes or knowledge content (e.g., chart notes).
  • Forcing Relationships: create meaningful connections between non-congruent ideas.
  • Graphic/Cognitive Organizers: work with logical thought maps such as webs, Venn diagrams, classification matrices and ranking ladders.
  • Logic/Pattern Games: provide clients with puzzles that challenge them to find a hidden rationale or pattern.
  • Number Sequences/Patterns: provide numerical facts and current statistics on a topic.
  • Outlining: present explanations in a point-by-point logical manner.
  • Problem Solving: enlist clients in brainstorming using specified steps, operations, processes, formulas and equations.
  • Syllogisms: Make if..., then...logical deductions about a topic.
  • Cooperative Learning Strategies: using structured teamwork (e.g., demonstrating to clients how to do stretches with partners).
  • Empathy Practices: encourage clients to explore and express understanding from someone else's physical standpoint.
  • Giving Feedback: allow clients to give honest, sensitive input on their opinions, concerns, conditions, and progress.
  • Group Projects: organize workshops or projects where your clients can investigate topics with others in teams.
  • Person-to-Person Communication: present new ideas with a focus on how people relate and how to improve their relating.

Ask clients questions that require them to synthesize, integrate and apply what you've said and they've experienced.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

  • Altered States of Consciousness Practices: assist clients in learning to shift their mood or awareness into an optimal state.
  • Emotional Processing: encourage clients to explore on their own or with a counselor the affective dimensions of the hands-on work.
  • Focusing/Concentration Skills: help clients learn to focus on a single idea or task.
  • Higher-Order Reasoning: ask clients questions that require them to synthesize, integrate and apply what you've said and they've experienced.
  • Metacognition Techniques: clients think about their thinking (i.e., tracing the various processes and steps used).
  • Mindfulness Practices: create exercises that help clients pay conscious attention to their life experiences (the opposite of mindlessness or "living on automatic pilot").
  • Silent Reflection Methods: clients work with reflection tools such as journals, thinking logs, and diaries.

Visual / Spatial Intelligence

  • Active Imagination: clients find connections between visual patterns (e.g., charts, diagrams) and prior experiences or knowledge.
  • Color/Texture Schemes: associate colors and textures with various concepts, concerns or processes (e.g., show charts where the nervous system is in one color and the vascular system in another color).
  • Drawing: provide clients with body diagrams and colored pencils so they can illustrate their problem areas.
  • Guided Imagery/Visualizing: create mental pictures or images of a concept, idea or process (e.g., how muscles expand and contract, what they will look like and how they will feel when they've reached their treatment goals) for your clients. You can also encourage clients to write their own visualization scripts, record them and listen to them regularly.
  • Pictoral Representations: refer to posters, charts and handouts when teaching clients.
  • Mind Mapping: create visual webs of written information (e.g., adapt treatment plans to a non-linear format).
  • Collage: clients design a collection of pictures to show various aspects or dimensions of a concept, idea or process.
  • Painting: encourage clients to use paints or markers to express understanding of concepts, ideas or processes (e.g., mural creation).
  • Sculpting: clients create clay models to demonstrate understanding of concepts, ideas or processes.

Bodily / Kinesthetic Intelligence

  • Body Language/Gestures: embody meaning, interpretation or understanding of an idea in physical movement.
  • Enactment: clients create a mini-drama that shows the dynamic interplay of various concepts, ideas or processes.
  • Movement: encourage clients to breathe fully into the areas that are being worked on and to tune into the subtle muscle movements.
  • Folk/Creative Dance: clients choreograph a dance that demonstrates a concept, idea or process.
  • Inventing: clients make or build something that demonstrates a concept, idea, or process (e.g., a model to show how something works).
  • Physical Exercise/Martial Arts: create physical routines for your clients to perform. Have clients immediately do each routine (e.g., stretches) after you've demonstrated the proper method.

Encourage clients to breathe fully into the areas that are being worked on and tune in to the subtle muscle movements.

Musical / Rhythmic Intelligence

  • Environmental Sounds: incorporate natural sounds (e.g., an indoor fountain, music of rainstorms or birds chirping).
  • Instrumental Sounds: encourage clients to employ musical instruments to produce sounds that represent specific conditions (e.g., the tension in a muscle, head pain).
  • Music Composition/Creation: clients compose and create music to communicate understanding of a concept, idea or process (e.g., the flow of lymphatic fluid).
  • Rhythmic Patterns: produce rhythms and beats to show the various aspects of a concept, idea or process.
  • Singing/Humming: you and/or clients create songs about a topic (or condition or goal) or find existing songs that complement a topic. Consider Weird Al Yankovich for inspiration.
  • Vocal Sounds/Tones: encourage clients to express sounds with their vocal cords to release pain or increase movement in a blocked area.

Naturalist Intelligence

  • Archetypal Pattern Recognition: relate the repeating, standard patterns and designs of nature that manifest themselves throughout the universe to your clients' conditions.
  • Caring for Plants/Animals: encourage clients to engage in projects that involve caring for and/or training animals, insects, other organisms and/or growing natural things.
  • Conservation Practices: use recycled paper and other recycled products whenever possible.
  • Nature Encounters: work outside (if possible) and bring nature into your office via videos, music, objects, animals and plants.
  • Nature World Simulations: have small live plants or show clients pictures of plants used in your oil and lotion formulas.
  • Sensory Stimulation Exercises: expose clients' senses to nature's sounds, smells, tastes, touches and sights (e.g., have essential oil samples that clients can whiff).