Communication Tips

As an exercise physiology student on any placement, you will discover the importance of communication for building rapport and facilitating consumers working toward their physical health goals. Good communication is a particularly powerful tool for engaging consumers on your mental health placement. Below are some communication tips from mental health professionals that you might find helpful.

 

  • Allow consumers to “tell their story”.  Acknowledge their story and the impact it has had on their life.

  • Re-direct, rather than re-enforce. Delusions will lead some consumers to express beliefs that are fixed, however false. Acknowledge the beliefs, but do not reinforce them or pretend they are real. Instead, acknowledge and then re-direct conversation.

  • Be non-judgemental. Ensure that your language reflects a non-judgemental attitude.

  • Don't take things personally. Do not personalise events or issues that occur on placement. Focus on the issue or the behaviour, not the person.

  • Speak appropriately for your audience. Ensure your language conveys emapthy, not sympathy. Also, do not speak to adults as though they are children.

  • Demonstrate active listening. Pay attention, paraphrase and ask questions.

  • Consider your non-verbal communication. Think about your eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone and the 'way you say it'.

  • Be mindful of your own communication. It is possible that you may say something that might be considered in appropriate by a consumer or your supervisor. If you are unclear about whether certain terminology or topics are appropriate, always refer to your supervisor.

  • Be ready for inappropriate comments. It is possible that a consumer with a mental illness may make a comment that is inappropriate or that may offend you. You need to be prepared for how you might deal with this. In the moment, you can always refer to your supervisor. Other opportunities for debriefing include with your peers, other staff on the unit and your university practicum co-ordinator.

  • Be ready to hear things that you may find worrying or confronting. It is possible that a consumer with a mental illness may discuss something that you find worrying or confronting, such as drug use. You need to be prepared for how you might deal with this. In the moment, you can always refer to your supervisor. Other opportunities for debriefing include with your peers, other staff on the unit and your university practicum co-ordinator.

  • Be ready for inappropriate questions. It is possible that a consumer with a mental illness may ask you a question that is inappropriate. If you are prepared for how you might answer this, you may find the experience less confronting. For example, if someone asked you for a cigarette, you may respond with: 'I can understand why you would like a cigarette, but it would be inappropriate for me to give you that, and so I have to say no'.