Working with a Coach – Why Do It and What It’s Like

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  • 06:45 Wakeup; committed to working out this morning!
  • 07:30 Coffee down the hatch; email and work are calling; I can do the workout at 11:00… (can you sense where this is going?)
  • 11:45 Rats! Where did the morning go?! I’ll do the workout at 17:30 so I can finish before dinner… (great plan, surely this time…)
  • 18:30 Work’s done for day! What, dinnertime already? How’d that happen? I’ll work out tomorrow morning… (do I even believe myself anymore?)

Does any of that seem familiar, at least in general outline? Vaguely?

It’s embarrassing to say, but that’s what my commitment to working out looked like for months, years. Perhaps more embarrassing, but predictable, was that it’s what it would have continued to be like until I finally gave up on myself and stopped even “promising” myself that I’d work out.

Then I decided that since I’m not willing to give up on myself, I need to do something different. I asked my coach Ari (yeah, I have a coach who supports me with my own goals; we speak weekly, and email between calls) to help me rebuild the fitness habit I used to have and managed to lose. I told him I wanted to start working out 4 times a week, plus my weekly indoor soccer game. He seemed dubious, but accepted my plan. Can you guess how that panned out? Yup. You’re right. Not so good.

Next time I asked him to tell me what he thinks I should do. He suggested I start with 1 weekly workout plus soccer. Then build up an extra weekly workout every 2-3 weeks. I took the coaching and built up to 3 + soccer. Unfortunately, a business trip followed by a 3-week illness knocked me back to square 1, but that’s ok. I now know how to rebuild from wherever I start. I also have Ari in my corner.

Ok, but Coaching a Therapist?

Judy’s been in private practice for a long time, seeing 25 or more clients a week on average, many from Medicaid (and spending too many hours chasing reimbursements).

Despite all those hours and the difference she was making for her clients, she had a hard time getting ahead. She was frustrated, upset, and resentful at how the system (including insurance providers, Medicaid, and even client expectations) kept her stuck with her head just above water financially, working much harder than justified by her income. 

When she hired me to coach her, I made several suggestions including that she stop accepting Medicaid (she had already stopped accepting most insurance plans) and increase her session fees. She struggled emotionally and took a while to implement the coaching. Unsurprisingly, until she implemented the changes, nothing much changed – much like with my workout routine (except for increased expenses paying the coaching fee).

After we worked on her relationship to money, especially as it applies to therapy clients, Judy jumped all in. She stopped taking Medicaid clients, and increased her session fees for new clients by $55 (grandfathering existing clients with her old rate). For the following couple of months, she saw an expected dip in business.

Then things started to shift.

Five months later, her per-session profit nearly doubled, allowing her to reduce her caseload by nearly half while increasing her overall profit.

Between the reduced caseload and not having to chase reimbursements, she could focus her clinical work on just those clients she most wanted to work with, and spend more time with her son. She finally also had the time and emotional bandwidth to start developing new services and trainings for clients so she can help more people than she can one-on-one in the chair, which she finds exciting and energizing.

Our work together wasn't a simple "Do this" leading to "Get that result." It took a good deal of sifting through emotions, ideas, etc. and Judy had to do a good deal of heavy lifting (with my coaching support over the months we worked together) to accomplish all that she did.

If you ask Judy, coaching made a huge difference for her, something she wishes would happen for as many of her colleagues as possible.

Is Coaching Right for Everyone?

That’s as simple a question as it is important.

The answer, obviously, is “No.” If one of the following is true for you, you'll find coaching useless at best.

  • I’m happy with where I am, and know exactly how to pursue my goals.
  • I don’t feel like opening up and sharing what I don’t like about myself or where I am.
  • I get defensive when someone points out where I should change what I do or how I do it, even if it’s intended to help me.

If any of the above resonates for you, stop reading.

Still with me? Great. Let’s move on with the assumption that you have goals you haven’t reached yet, and that in service of reaching those goals, you’re willing to share openly and be coachable, just like I do with my coach Ari.

Notice that I’m not assuming that you’re doing everything wrong, just as I wasn’t doing everything wrong before hiring a coach (well, except for how I handled the whole workout thing – that was an epic fail!). In fact, the most successful people in the world are the ones most likely to work with a coach. This includes NBA and NFL superstars, world-famous performers, etc. Obviously, they would do pretty darn well even without a coach, but they work with one anyway because they want to push the envelope beyond what they can do alone.

Why Does Coaching Work?

If the above stories of how coaching has worked for me as well as for my clients leave you wondering how coaching can be so effective, here's the reason.

We all have goals, things want to achieve that we haven’t been able to accomplish yet. Even continuing without coaching, we’ll probably achieve at least some of those goals, eventually. But if we keep doing the same things we always have, what’s predictable is that we’ll keep getting the same results as before (remember my workouts?). At best, working diligently but without coaching, we should expect evolutionary progress, improving slowly over time.

If you want rapid, breakthrough results, you have to do something different. Something you’re not aware of, that makes you uncomfortable, and/or that you don’t know how to do. I can’t count how many times Ari had me do things that I hadn’t considered doing (even though I knew those “were things”). Some weren’t very comfortable, but by breaking through that discomfort and doing them anyway, I achieved things that weren’t going to happen anyway.

Coaching works because it provides us with structure and accountability, and someone who reviews what we’re doing and makes suggestions without emotional attachment. Usually, the coach knows things we don’t know, how to do things we don’t (yet) know how to do. Even if we know some of the same things as our coach, he sees things we can’t see because he’s looking from the outside and can see things from a perspective we don’t share, simply because we’re “inside the frame.”

What Benefits Can You Get from Coaching?

Coaching can help with:

  • Identifying your goals, priorities, and commitments through open discussion.
  • Building new habits that support those goals, priorities, and commitments.
  • Achieving breakthrough results that weren’t predictable.
  • Taking greater responsibility for your results, good or bad, so you feel empowered rather than a victim of your life.
  • Greater insight and clarity that comes from getting feedback from an external, objective viewpoint.

If you’re not achieving your goals because of limiting beliefs, coaching can help surface those so you can address them head on, upgrading internal conversations. This could be a poor relationship with money, difficulties with authority figures, inability to stick with things even if you’re committed to them (workout much?), feeling stuck, etc. As one of my coaching clients said after a session, “After our meeting, I felt a focus and optimism about my ability to make needed changes that would not only help my business succeed, but also make me feel like a successful business owner.

The accountability that’s a natural part of the coaching relationship makes it harder to hide from yourself whenever you sabotage your own progress (yup, workouts…). If you need to establish new habits, doing it as part of being coachable is more likely to succeed. Since coaching is an ongoing process rather than a once-and-done event, and since ongoing feedback is built in, building new habits is more achievable.

What Does Business Coaching Look Like?

When I coach you, we’ll start by reviewing your starting point – where are you right now as a professional, and what’s your vision or destination? After all, how can I help you get from where you are to where you want to go if I don’t know those two points, or worse, if you don’t know them?

Some examples of questions I ask you to consider include:

  • What’s important for your vision of your practice (e.g., making a difference for your clients, financial freedom, building your reputation, helping colleagues, etc.)?
  • What is your ideal client like?
  • What do you see as your greatest advantages in helping that ideal client?
  • What do you see as your greatest challenges in achieving your professional vision?
  • What ideas, thoughts, and beliefs about money did you receive while growing up?

Those, along with questions about your current results, what you’ve found works for you and what doesn’t work so well, as well as what you like doing and what you hate doing, all serve as the initial basis for our coaching work. Many clients find this sort of enquiry eye-opening, and that it challenges inbuilt ideas and patterns of thoughts they may not have been aware of.

Next, we’ll work together to identify specific measurable results you want to achieve, and come up with actions you can (and are willing to) take toward achieving them. The critical part here is that, as your coach, I can’t be more committed to your success than you are because you’re the one who needs to take the actions that will get you to your goals. This is just like, as a therapist, you can’t work in session harder than your clients.

Finally, we’ll set up the logistical coaching structure. How frequently do you want to talk – monthly, twice-monthly, or weekly? What days and times work best for you (that fit my schedule too)? Are you more comfortable using video calls or phone calls? What can we accomplish via email? Etc.

What Results Can You Expect from Coaching?

This is a natural question, but a tough one to answer generically. If you’re committed, willing to be coachable, and we’re a good fit, you should see significant progress toward your goals in a few months. As you saw in Judy’s story, coaching can completely transform your financial results, and more importantly your whole experience of practicing therapy.

Who Decides What You Have to Do When You Work with a Coach?

As the owner and sole decision-maker for your practice, you’re the only one who decides what you will do and what you won’t. I can and will advise you, and if I think you’re making a mistake I’ll tell you that and explain why. However, ultimately, it’s your decision and yours alone, since you know yourself and your situation more intimately than anyone else ever will; and since you’re the one who will reap the benefits (and/or pay the price) for those decisions.

Here are a couple of examples of how that played out for my coaching clients.

One client wanted support with just one aspect of her finances. She wasn’t interested in coaching on insurance panels, session fees, or how to work effectively with associates. I shared with her that I could help with those other aspects, but she declined. Thus, we only worked on that one area where she wanted support. Could I have made a bigger difference for her if she expanded our scope of work? Probably, but only if she was prepared to do the work it would have required. As it was, she got exactly what she asked for.

Another client decided to move her office to a more affluent town closer to her home. When she told me she wanted to move, I was all for it, but suggested she keep her original space open in parallel for existing clients for at least a couple of months. She declined, inviting her existing clients to shift to her new space. Many did, but some didn’t (of course she referred those out and didn’t simply abandon them). Partially due to this decision, there was a brief financial and emotional struggle until business built up in her new location.

However, she made this choice because running two locations in parallel wouldn’t have worked for her state of mind. This was a case of having to choose which of two stressors she'd rather deal with, and she chose the lesser of two evils.

As I mentioned above, whatever the outcome of your work with a coach, you’re the one who has to live with it. That’s why your decisions should be informed by the coaching, but must be tested against what you know of yourself and what you want to accomplish. It is, and has to be, your prerogative to not ask for coaching in certain areas, or to follow coaching only partially or not at all.

Of course, if I conclude that I can’t make a difference for you, I’ll suggest we go our separate ways. I’m a coach first and foremost to make a difference for my clients, getting paid as a natural consequence of that difference. If I can’t make a difference for you, I don’t want to take your money.

Interested in Exploring if My Coaching Fits Your Needs?

Remember Judy from above? She recently told me, “Your help allowed me the SPACE, the breathing room to get creative. I can't stop the flow of ideas now if I tried!” That kind of feedback reinforces my passion for helping therapists do well, which is deeply deserved because of all the good you do for your clients. It’s simply unconscionable that the system is set up in a way that starves you and your family of the income you need, and forces many of you to burn out and quit. I’m committed to helping reverse that.

I have a standing offer of a free, 20-minute, no-strings-attached initial consultation call with anyone who wants to explore if my coaching would be a good fit. In that call, I get an initial snapshot of what you’re up to, offer thoughts on some areas that you could work on toward those goals, and describe a bit of what working with me would look like.

I’ve had reactions ranging from, “Great! When can we start?” through, “I need to first figure out what I want to do before coaching could help me!” to, “I don’t think this is a good fit for me at this time.” Any of those is perfectly valid and legitimate, and I wish the greatest success to whomever I talk with, regardless if they ever become my client.

I’m about to open a limited number of slots for coaching clients, first-come-first-served (subject to being a good fit). Since I’m not willing to short-change existing clients by over-committing my time, once those few slots are filled, I won’t take on any new clients until existing ones complete their work with me. If the above sounds interesting, send me an email now to set up a call like that, so you see first-hand what might be possible from coaching, and make an informed decision about your next step.

Interested but not Certain if this is for You?

If you think you may be interested, but are having some doubts, here are some things you may want to consider.

"This costs too much, I can't afford it now"

Recall Judy's story? The result of her hiring me was allowing her to work 43% fewer sessions, saving many hours wasted jousting with insurance companies, and increasing her profit by 7% after accounting for the coaching fees she paid me. The cost of good coaching is much more than offset by your improved results.

As a caveat, you do need to have enough income so you can get past the few months it will likely take for the coaching to make a big enough difference in your results. If you're not sure where next month's rent will be covered from, hiring a business coach is not a good idea.

"I don't yet know exactly what I want, so it's too early to hire a coach"

As I shared above, that's exactly what I start off working on with my clients -- helping them figure out where they are now, and where they want the coaching to get them.

"I'm not sure I'm willing to let someone else tell me what to do"

To quote Homer Simpson, "I resemble that remark! " It's called the "You're not the boss of me!" issue, and that's one I've been guilty of too many more times than I'm comfortable telling anyone (but you'll keep my secret, right?).

The question to consider here is which is more important to you, being the absolute boss, or making your goals a reality? Also, as I stated above, it's always your decision what coaching to take, and how deeply and quickly to implement it if at all. The worst that will happen is that I'll let you know we need to go our separate ways if I get the sense that I can't make a difference for you.

If you have a different concern, that's exactly why I suggest we talk for about 20 minutes free of charge and with no strings attached, so you can air those and we can figure out if we'd be a good fit. So, you have nothing to lose by sending me an email to set up that free call.

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Comments (2)

  • B
    • 2019-05-16 04:53:22

    If you used the name Brandon instead of Judy I would be wondering how you developed such strong clairvoyance. I’m Judy. I’m totally there right now. Last time I checked my problem claims, the total was over $8000 in unpaid claims and invoices. Anyway, thanks for the article. It really hit home with me. Hopefully I can take you up in your free 20 minute strategy session soon.

    • O
      Opher  in reply to Brandon
      • 2019-05-16 13:40:15

      Brandon, it's unconscionable how the health insurance industry treats mental health providers. That's what was behind my post "Are You a Walmart Therapist?" ( It's also why I'm so passionate about helping therapists so you guys can be paid commensurate with the incredible difference you make for your clients, and through that work, for society at large. As for the free 20-minute strategy session, just email me (to what number I should call to reach you, and what are days and times of day that you're typically available to talk, and we'll coordinate that call.

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