The pen is mighty… if it’s in the right hands

Written resources (like information sheets and take-home exercise programs) are commonly given to clients to help increase their knowledge about how to manage their health and wellbeing. But how effective are written materials in terms of helping clients achieve actual, beneficial behaviour change?

The reality is that too many of the written resources given by health professionals to their clients end up in no-mans-land – too important to throw out (because it came from their trusted health professional), but not actionable enough to put into use… so it gets tucked away somewhere close-ish to be referred to again in the future (hopefully). 

A common reason for this is as health professionals we can be a knowledge focused bunch. There can be a tendency to emphasise what a client needs to know about their health, with less information focused on how clients can go about achieving the positive behaviour change(s) needed to actually improve their health. 

The research on this topic is clear: When elements of behaviour change are included in written materials, clients are more likely to take the desired action(s). While behaviour change is a broad field, spanning areas from human biology to educational psychology, there are some tried and tested items of low hanging fruit that can be used to make significant improvements to the quality of written resources for clients. 

 Examples include:

  • Outcome expectancy: Help identify for clients the expected results of taking action (like better mood, sleep and endurance, which tend to be positive and in-line with what’s known as the gain-framed approach) 
  • Self efficacy: Outline for clients how to take the desired action(s) effectively, such as key cues for how to do an exercise, or how to obtain social support (like how to link in with an exercise group)
  • Self-regulation: Give clients information that helps them to set goals, make a plan and monitor progress (Note: of all the behaviour change strategies available to support long-term, sustained progress, this one is perhaps the most strongly supported in behaviour change literature, and is generally straight forward to incorporate into your written materials)


Use the Low Hanging Fruit infographic to help you create written resources that move clients from saying ‘I know I should’ to ‘I know I can’.

Your free download: Low Hanging Fruit Infographic.pdf

Looking for more?

Preview our course about running high quality education sessions for clients

Topics covered include adult learning principles, instructional design essentials and tailoring education to help achieve behaviour change, as well as how to deliver engaging education sessions in both individual and group settings. See the video below for a look inside this course (or check out the course landing page for full details).
Course landing page

Course Preview

How to Run High Quality Education Sessions