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A model to follow for patients experiencing emotional distress

Being an effective caregiver includes many challenges. One includes the ability to effectively consult with patients in emotional distress. Fortunately, there are resources available to help practitioners and students develop skills in this area. One such resource is an article recently published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling.(1) In this article, Lundeby and colleagues describe a communication pathway called “The Expanded Four Habits Model.”
The model is based on 4 key components.

1. Invest in the beginning by: creating a rapport quickly, eliciting patient concerns, and planning the visit with the patient.
2. Elicit the patient perspective by: asking for patient’s ideas, eliciting specific requests, and exploring the impact on the patient’s life.
3. Demonstrate empathy by: being open to the patient’s emotions and conveying empathy verbally and nonverbally.
4. Invest in the end by: delivering diagnostic information, involving the patient in decision-making and completing the visit.

Inserted within the 4 communication components are expanded elements that should be utilized in the presence of emotional distress. The model provides a pathway for both the provider and patient to move forward with the encounter. Lundeby and colleagues combined psychological principles with the therapeutic process in a skills-based approach to communication.

The authors suggest that specific training is required to fully implement this model in practice. However, I am confident that spending time with this article is worthwhile and will help most providers develop a broader awareness of how to improve their own communication skills in these sometimes challenging situations.

Reference List
(1) Lundeby T, Gulbrandsen P, Finset A. The Expanded Four Habits Model-A teachable consultation model for encounters with patients in emotional distress. Patient Educ Couns 2015 May;98(5):598-603.

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