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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: How Health Workers Can Promote Self-Care 
Interview with John W Travis MD, MPH
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

When I work with a client, the first session is often spent with the client trying to hand the responsibility for his or her health back to me. And I have to keep saying no, no, no, you can do it yourself.

Your readers might assume that since I'm an M.D., I'm providing medical services. I'm not. I'm working as an educator. Having the M.D. experience is very helpful but not a prerequisite.

TF: How is it helpful?

JT: In having credibility. Mainly that. Also in knowing what the limitations of medicine are. In knowing if something might be organic or not. In understanding how bodies work, so there's not an unknown between the psychological and the physiological. Some other practitioner might say. "Well maybe that's something a doctor ought to look at." I can often make that decision myself.

TF: Can a family practitioner use some of your techniques in his or her practice? Or should it be a completely different person doing it?

JT: It would depend on the circumstances. A family practitioner could certainly use biofeedback, but then it would become much more of a treatment. There' s a real advantage to isolating the two. I think it would be ideal to have a family practitioner working closely with a wellness practitioner. Here's what you can do and here's what I can do.

TF: How do you define what you can do, when you're making the initial contract with a client?

It's essentially that we're not diagnosing, treating, or taking care of the person. We're serving as a consultant, to give them more information, teach them skills, to show them how to become more aware of their past, to see what's going on inside their bodies, how to visualize, how to communicate better, how to love and accept themselves.

TF: What kind of success are you having in getting people that come to your center to deal with those kinds of in-depth issues?

JT: I've been surprised that so few people are really willing to look at their lifestyles and consider changes. We see lots of people who have obvious, major stress related problems, but who aren't willing to commit themselves to getting a full understanding of them and making changes.

What we've found is that there are quite a few people who'll just come in for the initial evaluation÷but who aren't willing to go any farther with it. Who essentially just want to come in and get themselves checked out, but aren't interested in making any changes in their lives.

We've found that the people who are willing to commit themselves are people who are really hurting. It's hard for people to feel comfortable about spending money on something they can't see. They'll spend ten thousand dollars on a car that can sit in their driveway, but they won't spend two thousand dollars on themselves. Wellness is not a product, and we're very product oriented.

TF: What are the kinds of hurting you see?

JT: Headaches, asthma, angina, high blood pressure, total body pain, insomnia, lack of concentration, sexual problems, chronic anxiety, fear, depression, the whole gamut.

TF: In terms of personal satisfaction. how would you compare the kind of work you're doing with the traditional medical role?

I think most helping professionals get positive feedback by helping other people, and in general have a hard time asking for and getting the same attention for just being themselves. I think that has to be debilitating in the long run. They don't really take very good care of their health. They've externalized their attention to other people÷to their own detriment. They have high rates of suicide, they have heart attacks at an early age, they tend to be very uptight, in poor physical shape, they may be overweight. All because they're so externalized to taking care of other people.

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
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