New Class in Healthy Communication Begins

Ideas. Insight. Inspiration.

New Class in Healthy Communication Begins

August 10, 2009 Life Skills 8

This post is a reformulation of a blog entry from February, when I last taught Psyc 604 at SCNM.  I’m posting it  for the benefit of my new students.  I promise to finish the top ten list.

Today is day one in my healthy communication intensive class (Psyc 604)  at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine.  This intensive is one of the most challenging things I do each year – in part because of  my ambition to put everything of value into the class that I possibly can, and in part because it requires me to be on my feet going for it for 4 hours a day, 5 days in a row.   This intensive is also one of the most rewarding things I do each year, because I relish the chance to teach these future doctors as they begin their academic career at the school.

The class is 20 hours of contact time, organized roughly as follows.

Day One:  Narratives, Agreements, Observational Skill

Day Two:  Listening To Go Deep, 9 Gates, Motivation

Day Three:  Persuasive Communication

Day Four:  Changing Habits in Yourself and Others

Day Five:  Principles of Teamwork, Class Projects

I’ve made some great facebook friends, and if you’re one of my students, I hope you’ll maintain a connection with me there. I’ve also made some awesome friends in previous classes,  friendships that I know will continue for many years. These are students who stay in touch with me, share their experiences with me, include me in their life events (weddings, babies) and allow me the pleasure of witnessing their development from student to doctor, from new doctor to established doctor.  I’m awed by them and grateful to know them, and excited about their future.  I’ve even been invited to be graduation speaker by some of my classes.

Because of the way I’ve structured the class, and because some students struggle with having someone else in control of their grade, I’ve  on rare occasion also had some difficult moments – including threats, misplaced rebellion, misunderstandings and projection – about which I have previously blogged.  I could make this whole thing easier on me, by making it easier on them.  But I won’t.  I come here to give my best, and in part that means challenging them to give their best.

When the going gets tough, I get it.  The students are, after all, only human and they are embarking on an often difficult path – becoming physicians in a small and determined profession.  Some come from privilege, some from seriously difficult backgrounds, and they are every one of them beginning an expensive and challenging program that will consume most of their time and energy for the next several years. When they graduate, they’ll be responsible for making potentially life and death decisions with their patients.  It’s enough to give just about anyone a bit of the jitters.

But the program is a great one, I’ve designed the class to provide the best foundation I can for all that is to come, and my hope for this class is that they pull on me to give them every thing I’ve got, and don’t waste their time or mine on foolish resistance to the common courtesies I require for passing.  I know that if they take me up on my challenge, and commit themselves to making the most of the time we have together, no excuses, the class will reverberate into their futures for a long time to come.

I’m posting this just before heading off to the school.  I’ve had some really great classes over the past few years. I’m pulling for an even higher quality experience than I’ve had before.   I’d like to experience the totality of a class taking responsibility for itself, where each student is eager to maximize their learning and minimize their drama, ready to do all the assignments and participate 100%.  It may seem like a lot to ask, because they have a full day of classes each day, and many of these students find it easier to lose their focus than to hold themselves accountable.  It’s a stretch, I know it’s hard, but I also know that this is earth, life is often hard, and the wise choise is to get it, get with it, and get on with it.

Wish me luck!  And please do share your comments with me.

Be well,



8 Responses

  1. rita says:

    I just “entered” and will leave a comment! First of all, this sounds like a good job you do because e. g.: me in whole life, being a very rare long-time “patient” (mostly due to surgery-reports and X-rays, less with permanent contact) with many various professors and doctors over decades, I wasn´t allowed back then and still, to face the sunny side during our conversations. Hard facts were thrown right into my face, as a kid of 9 y., as a teenager, as an adult – not on purpose but hard to take if none warns you when being a rare patient and the story goes deep down to cell-mutation. And there was no training for those doctors how to handle e.g. such a rare patient carefully (the soul gets hurt) when the news are bad and the on-going life is absolutely unkown and probably just dark.
    Within my 1st book-project I actullay hope to also reach medical students, by showing the inside of me, after I got the results thrown into my face. How I handled it. So I plan giving advice how to do nicer.
    Luckily, the bad news for my future never appeared in my life, today of course I feel fooled – but am lucky. There are no complaints about my past, only the clue of what happens if “it” doesn´t happen.
    The main thing about my personal strength is that there is none to blame on earth for my fate, none caused this genetic default (wrong software program) on purpose, which makes my life rather stressless – I don´t know jeaulousy and I am relaxed about it. I look absolutely normal, none would expect this life behind my curtain. (which makes it harder because I aleady did fight for ages!)
    Yes, medical communication needs a new level. The ratio loves to throw numbers in the air, funnily mixed with fatcs but its still the facts which hit us patients. Back then, I missed background knowledge to understand “what” I am but did not know that there was no such background. (now I know!)

    I should take the chance and listen to what you teach! I am curious if it meets my spirit. I plan 2 vacations next year in the U.S. so we´ll keep in touch.
    Please feel comfortable when reading my web-page, it is mostly packed with fatcs and will allow a little inside of what I went through (I didn´t list all).
    In parallel I live a regular life as if noting ever happened except there aren´t many “friends” so I look for other challenges since I don´t want this life being lived for nothing or put in a draw and forget about it. No!
    I plan to safe 1 soul at least! Whatever it takes…there are reasons for such roles! Right ? ;o))

  2. Raul says:

    And now for something entirely different:

    Good luck! 🙂

  3. Andrea says:

    Dr. Rick!!

    You’re back at the school already! Wow, time just flew by since I saw you last. I am in California otherwise I would be by to visit and take another trip to Oregano’s! Enjoy your week with the new class…you will enrich their lives, like you did mine.

  4. Angela says:

    I am so appreciative of this class! I have learned an incredible amount on information that I intend to apply throughout my future. I fully intend to reflect upon what we are learning and re-read your books in the future.
    Thank you so much Dr. Kirshner for your devotion to our success.

    • Angela,

      Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it deeply! I love teaching this class, just wish I had enough magic or mojo or whatever to actually install that set of agreements into every student.

      Occasionally (like earlier today) I hear about classes that forget the agreements after awhile, with the consequence that they get stuck in politics, gossip, needy and demanding behavior. What a missed opportunity! All they have to do is make and keep their word to live by those agreements and all the information from the class becomes available.

      So it means a lot to me when a student takes the time to write to me about it all. Stay in touch, ok? I’d love for you to comment occasionally on my different posts!

      Best wishes,

Comments are closed.