Self-advocacy is often a phrase that may be misunderstood and certainly underappreciated when it comes to managing your own health and well-being. It is a practice that can be learned by anyone. An added benefit is that there is evidence showing when you learn how to self-advocate and practice it, you can improve your quality of life and pursue those things most important to you.
Self-advocacy refers to the process of effectively communicating, conveying, or negotiating your needs or interests in order for you to gain new knowledge, learn new skills, or gain access to resources that will help you achieve your goals. Developing self-advocacy skills will help you build resiliency, or the ability to manage stressors in your life, and will boost your confidence or belief that you are in charge.
In our current health care system, a critical mandate for all health care providers is to deliver “client-centered care”. While this may sound simple and obvious to many, it remains a challenge since health care has historically been focused on knowing what is best for clients or patients; after all, many people seek out health services to “fix” a problem they are experiencing. Today though, many individuals seek out services to learn how to live with health conditions, some of which are chronic with no real permanent “fix”. In order to meet the requirements for client-centered care, providers need to know your struggles/challenges/needs so they can provide you with options for your care and include you in making decisions about things that affect your life.
The time is right to build your own self-advocacy skills and here are a few simple things you can do to prepare for that next visit:
- Be aware of what is going on with your health, your body, your routines, and habits.
- Do your homework to understand how your health condition affects you doing the things you want or need to do.
- Identify what is important to you, both in long and short-term timelines.
- Engage in some problem-solving – if you are having specific issues, jot down what they are, when they happen, or other information. Your healthcare provider can use this to help with options.
- Write down your specific needs, concerns, and goals to discuss with your provider when you visit, and make sure you take it with you.
- Stay positive and focused; remember, it is your life, your health, your well-being and you are the one affected by the decisions you make.
- Take a “partnership” approach with your healthcare provider and know that you too, will have some responsibility to make sure you meet your own needs and goals.
- Continue to track/communicate with your provider about results over time. They value your efforts and doing this closes the loop and helps both parties be successful.
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