Introduction to From Therapist to Coach: How to Leverage Your Clinical Expertise to Build a Thriving Coaching Practice:
But the good news is these feelings are natural and common, because I’ve felt them too. Time for a story.
There Was this Men’s Group…
Early on a cold Saturday morning in 1996, I was standing in a large circle of men for the monthly gathering of our men’s organization. At one point a youngish man in his 20s (I’m of a vintage where I can get away with such terms), and known to me as a health supplement salesman — stepped out and proclaimed something that was so absurd and unexpected that I’m positive I’m going to remember exactly how it sounded for a full year after I die. Here’s what this consequence of good ol’ American Dreamism had to say: “I’m training to become a Life Coach, and I’m looking for a few volunteer practice clients!”
Until that moment, while I had read and heard the term “jaw dropping” more times than I could remember, I had not personally experienced it. (Yes, for the curious playing along at home, your jaw really does drop!) And then other body parts got into the action, including my brain, which went into overdrive. Here’s the family-friendly version of my inner dialogue: “Life Coach, what’s that? How can this guy help anyone with their life if he can’t figure it out for himself? Wait a minute — he’s going to charge people money to help them with their life? But that’s what I do and I have a degree and a license! Has this guy been sampling one too many health supplements or something?”
But despite the bells going off inside me – I half expected someone to come over and slap me on the head like an alarm clock – I must admit that I was intrigued. Well, okay – intrigued is probably a bit too glorious of a word, and makes me sound more open minded than I was. Let’s say I was compelled to see this train wreck close up.
So I wandered over to the health supplement salesman/Life Coach, and asked him what this whole thing was all about. His answer was to try a session with him and find out. I agreed.
The following week, we met on the telephone (the telephone of all things! Does this train wreck have an end?), and he asked me some open-ended questions about what I wanted for my life. He paused long enough after each response to make me think that he had a list of questions in front of him, and was awkwardly searching for the next question to ask. It was like helping one of my kids with their homework by practicing a school assignment with them – except my kids weren’t studying to be Life Coaches. Heck, I almost wished he’d just try to sell me some health supplements. (Almost.)
Still, with tolerance that I didn’t know I had, I went along with it and talked about my desire to help people have successful marriages and families, my burnout working with dysfunctional couples and feeling stuck with my current practice, and my frustrations, hopes, and dreams for my practice. And as I spoke, something…weird was happening.
By the end of our unskilled and awkward first meeting, I went from feeling burned out and stuck with my practice, to excited, empowered and re-energized. As a therapist I was obliged to categorize this as that thing that we crave; that seminal event that makes everything else possible, and all the hard work worth it: a breakthrough. No wait. That’s not fair. It wasn’t just a breakthrough. It was A BREAKTHROUGH!!!
That was the moment. That was the hand-off. I was sold on coaching. If a young, unskilled, brand new coach-trainee could help me (of all people) achieve a breakthrough, think of the possibilities! And imagine my amazement that a brand new helping profession was emerging right under my nose, and I didn’t know anything about it until that fateful Saturday morning with my men’s group. Fate sold health supplements in its spare time. Who knew?
I immediately signed up to be trained as a coach, and quickly saw the potential for applying this powerful helping methodology to relationships. My professional career changed forever – and for the better.
Is This Book for You?
Okay. You might be thinking: “hey, real feel-good story David, but how is your book going to help me? You aren’t going to try and sell me some health supplements, are you? Because…there’s someone at the door…I have to take my kid to a thing…I’ll get back to you next week…” Don’t worry. There are no health supplements to buy (honest), and there is a reason you should read this book. Scratch that: there’s a reason you MUST read this book. It’s this:
A long time ago (possibly in a galaxy far, far away or on a dark and stormy night), you decided to become a therapist. At least that’s how it looked to others. But for you, truly, it was a powerful calling in which you didn’t have much choice. I still remember my mother saying “A therapist? You’ll never make a living!”
The point is, you decided to dedicate your life to helping people overcome major life problems, achieve important goals, reach their optimal potential and get to the next level in their lives. So yes, for convenience — and because all this doesn’t fit on a business card — you call yourself a therapist. But we both know that the truth is deeper. We know that you wanted to facilitate meaningful, lasting growth and change, and make a significant difference in the world. You wanted to help.
Now here you are, years later, and guess what? You still want to help! And even if you’re approaching burnout, your original idealistic flame still burns deep within your serving spirit; you wouldn’t be reading a book like this if there wasn’t something inside you urging you forward. True, perhaps you can’t see that flame as clearly as you once did, but surely if you pay close attention, you can still feel its heat and hear its message. Despite your dissatisfaction with how things are, it’s telling you:
- Yes! You deserve to experience the personal and professional satisfaction you were promised by your profession.
- Yes! Whether you’re a specialist or generalist, there must be a way to recapture the variety, freedom and flexibility in your work that has been so utterly devoured by the medical/insurance billing model (“diagnose, treat, bill” and repeatad nauseum…or ad burnout)
- Yes! There are motivated, functional people out there who want your help, instead of those who really need the services of a psychiatrist for their clinical disorders.
- Yes! There is a way to bridge the disconnect between what you truly want to do (someone who helps create positive change), and how you’re perceived (someone who fixes problems).
- Yes! You would love to be the provider of first resort when they need support, instead of last resort when they’re desperate and it’s often too late.
- Yes! You want to help people who see the value of and are happy to pay for your services, instead of those who are only willing to work with you if their insurance pays for it.
- Yes! You want to build a solid and profitable business aligned with who you are and why you became a therapist.
If you’re nodding at one, some or probably all of these – and don’t feel alone, because this boat is large and filled with more therapists that you may imagine – then Yes (!), this book is for you. (By the way, I have some health supplements that will help with that nodding…just kidding!)
What you Can Expect
In a fit of good judgment and common sense that doesn’t seem to influence many other books on the market today, this book is written for therapists by a therapist. I understand emotionally, intuitively and intellectually the challenges that you’re facing – because I’ve been there and know what you’re going through. Furthermore, this book is written specifically for clinicians in private practice who want to help people. It’s not written for working with businesses, though the information you’ll learn is meant to be applied to your practice in a business sense.
In a nutshell, here’s what you can expect from the pages that follow:
- a clear, organized, friendly and engaging style that is easy to read and understand for the non-business minded reader
- examples and insights that therapists like you can easily (and sometimes humorously) relate to
- a practical approach on how to build a successful business as a therapist/coach utilizing traditional and creative strategies, including: marketing, getting clients, choosing a niche, and more
- a focus on creative group services and business models suited to the various specialties and niches of personal coaching
- a look at the creative and more profitable models for marketing and service delivery of coaching
- a discussion of the issues, opportunities, and strategies for how you can build a successful business as a coach or therapist/coach
- coverage of the regulatory obligations facing you as a US-based therapist/coach
Above all, I’d like you to know that this is a practical book; not a theoretical one. True, while we cover issues that are emotional (such as your motivation to become a coach) or abstract (such as the noble role of a helping professional vs. what most of us end up doing as therapists), the essence of this book is the information and strategies needed to support your transition from therapist to therapist/coach. As such, you can consider this a workbook, guide or manual for your successful professional future.
In section one (chapters one, two and three), I go straight to the (broken) heart of the matter for most therapists reading this book: working as a therapist in today’s world is just not fulfilling personally or professionally. And if that weren’t enough, it’s also not rewarding financially, either; especially when the bulk of clients are billed through insurance. You’ll read how a burned out therapist (that would be me) was able to build a successful coaching business in three months. I also cover how coaching and its clients are – and are not – similar to therapy and its clients, whether you need training as a coach, how to find the training you might need without duplicating what you already know, and perhaps the biggest question facing some: how to be a coach and a therapist at the same time.
In section two (chapters four and five), I show you how to integrate coaching into your therapy practice. I cover how you can identify if a client needs coaching vs. therapy, if it’s beneficial to provide coaching and therapy to the same client, how to set appropriate fees for coaching, whether you need different liability insurance for your coaching, if you can bill medical insurance for your coaching, and if you need different forms. I also help you identify, develop and choose your mission, profession, speciality and niche. And if you’re not quite sure what any of these terms are, or how they apply to you, don’t worry — I cover that, too.
In section three (chapters six, seven, eight and nine) I help you design your service delivery system through marketing research, programming (the marketing kind, not the computer kind), product integration and joint ventures, and how to leverage technology, time and income to help your practice get ahead. I also show you how to use creative marketing strategies to define and build your brand, use the Internet and other channels to connect with prospective clients and maintain relationships with your existing ones, plus provide you with cost-effective ways to get clients and build a successful coaching business.
A Little Note Before you Begin
Despite your interest and, I would hope, budding or blossoming enthusiasm for becoming a coach, you may still feel hesitant about learning more about this. Don’t feel alarmed by this. Even for seasoned therapists who advocate for change on a daily basis, the idea of leaving the familiar and embracing the new can be scary; because you may think the journey from therapist to coach is going to be long, and you simply don’t feel that there’s a finish line here that you can see. Here’s something for you to think about:
If I go back in time and put myself right where you are now, I can make this humbling observation: you are much better off than me! Unlike you, I didn’t have a book like this to help me focus my strategies and efforts, and now that it’s been around awhile, you probably know more about coaching than I did before my first training.
You could say that this is the book I wish I had read when I was where you are right now. It’ll save you time, money and hassle, while giving you proven tips and practical steps to move forward. It’ll help you avoid some or all of my mistakes, and set you that much further ahead on your way to professional satisfaction. As I’m fond of saying in my workshops and lectures (partially to ruffle the feathers of insight-oriented therapists), “it doesn’t matter where you’ve been. What matters is where you’re going, and how you’ll get there.” This also happens to be my abbreviated definition of coaching.
This is the book that will help you get there. It’s designed to re-energize your inner flame, not just because it’s what you need, but because it’s what the world needs through you; now, it seems, more than ever.
Excerpted from From Therapist to Coach: How to Leverage Your Expertise to Build a Thriving Coaching Practice by David Steele (Wiley, 2011)