Slide 29. Counseling Strategies

Presentation describes the methods used by the US Preventive Services Task Force to develop recommendations.

Counseling Strategies

Slide 29. Counseling Strategies

  • Tailor teaching to patients needs
  • Purpose, effects and when to expect effects
  • Suggest small changes
  • Use influence of profession
  • Encourage comments from patient
  • Combine strategies
  • Involve office staff
  • Monitor progress
  • Be specific
  • Add new behaviors rather than eliminate established behaviors
  • Link the new to old behaviors
  • Listening
  • Assess readiness for change
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Community resources
  • Refer appropriately


Effective counseling for preventive services is vital for success. This may require more time than a busy healthcare provider has available. Therefore, enlisting the actions of clinic staff is important. A nurse, social worker or an individual in the office with good communication skills and knowledge of the community may excel in this arena.

PPP xxv

Because behavioral choice is critical to most of these risk factors, clinician counseling that leads to improved personal health practices may be more valuable to patients than conventional clinical activities such as diagnostic testing. The bullets on this slide are general guidelines to consider when providing clinical counseling.

  • Frame teaching to patient’s perceptions
    • Counseling should be culturally appropriate. Present information and services in a style and format that are sensitive to the culture, values, and traditions of the patient and at a level of comprehension consistent with the age and learning skills of he patient. Use a dialect and terminology consistent with the patient’s language and communication style.
  • Purpose, effects and when to expect effects
    • Describe the purpose of the intervention, what effects are expected and when the effects may be anticipated.
  • Suggest small changes
    • Although desirable, dramatic changes should not be expected. Instead, changes such as weight loss occur slowly over time and require dedication and perseverance.
  • Be specific
    • The physician should address explicit requirements for successful outcomes and to develop realistic patient expectations.
  • Add new behaviors rather than change old ones
    • It may be more acceptable to add a new behavior (fruits and vegetables to a diet) and not insist on eliminating red meat, eggs and other foods that contribute to cholesterol and therefore CHD and stroke.
  • Link the new and old behaviors
    • During the process of counseling it will be appropriate to link the new behavior with the old to demonstrate the beneficial effects of the changes in lifestyle with the changes.

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Page last reviewed October 2014
Page originally created September 2012
Internet Citation: Slide 29. Counseling Strategies. Content last reviewed October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.