One of the most important things is to respect clients and treat them with dignity. Just because they have a mental illness does not mean that they are incapable of helping to decide health care decisions. They are a human with thoughts, values, and opinions. Hear them out. They might actually have some good ideas. Listen to what the client is saying. They very well might be trying to tell you something. In general, put yourself in their shoes, as much as possible.
Take the time to do your research. In general, if you can’t even be bothered to learn how to pronounce their illness you are not qualified to give them advice or prescribe them meds. Study as much as you can about any illness that a client comes to you with. Know the client’s history, personality, and health care options, and how you can help them best. Keep up to date on current relevant health research and information. If you are not equipped or properly trained to handle a particular element of a case don’t be afraid to admit it and then point them in the right direction to get the treatment/help they need.
This goes into being honest with your client. Is there a time and place not to be brutally honest? Yes, however, for the majority of the time the truth can be hard to handle, but it allows for clients to see things more realistically and make necessary changes. Honesty is often more appreciated then telling someone what you think they want to hear. The truth to this is this simple, you want them to be honest with you and trust you as a professional. If this is the case you need to show that you can be trusted and that you are in fact honest with the client. Be direct, people don’t have time to figure out what you’re trying to lead them to.
This leads to the trusting your client. Do I believe that clients lie, not know a lot of facts, and can easily make mistakes, why without a doubt. This does not mean that you don’t have to listen to what they’re saying and trust them. Behind every lie is usually a grain of truth. The point is if you want them to trust you to help them you need to trust them too. It goes with out saying that you should not judge them based on their mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Just because they make different mistakes then you do does not mean you are any better than them.
Last, what do you do when you make a mistake? This says a lot about a person and is good advice for anyone. Acknowledge your mistake, apologize, and don’t blame the client for it and or other professionals. Most people are generally fairly easy to get along with and descent people. If you follow most of the above advice you should be able to have a better professional relationship with the client.
Another tip: Don’t be afraid to share relevant information about yourself with the client that might be beneficial to them. It goes without saying don’t divulge more than you are comfortable with. However, if you can share your own personal stories and seem real (not like superhuman) it will help them to be more comfortable and share more with you. Odds are they already know your not perfect and don’t expect you to be.
For the record, most of the professionals I’ve dealt with are excellent at all the above. The truth is in every field there is always someone else who can and will be able to do the same stuff as you. So, if you want to keep clients and get them to refer people to you, you really should follow all the above advice.