Should I Make the Shift to Coaching?

Therapists often contemplate whether they should make the shift from therapy to coaching. This episode discusses the decision-making process for therapists who are considering making the shift from therapy to coaching. 

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Looking at the possibility of therapists adding coaching to their practice or totally transitioning their practice over to coaching.
  • Important questions in your decision-making process: 
    • What is your vision? 
    • What is your niche? 
    • What approach am I going to use?
    • Who are my referral sources?
    • Why do you want to make the shift?
  • Is it a good idea to offer both services?

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As a therapist, should I make the shift to coaching? Today we're talking all about a few simple questions prompts that can help in the process of making this decision on whether shifting to coaching is right for you.

Thank you for joining us for today's episode. Today we're going to talk about one of the questions that I get the most when working with therapists and coaching therapists and now the question is, as a therapist, should I make the shift from therapy to coaching? And having made that shift recently myself, I understand that this can feel like a big decision and to an extent, I do believe it is a big decision to make as far as the direction that your practice and your business may want to go. When this question comes up in coaching with therapists, it usually comes up in one of two ways.

First, some therapists are looking at the possibility of adding coaching as a service to their practice alongside therapy. So their intention is still to continue providing therapy, but also to offer coaching so that their clients have the ability to choose between these two services. The second way that this comes up is therapists looking at the possibility of transitioning their practice over to coaching. So they are looking at in the end no longer providing therapy as a service but only providing coaching.

So today I'm going to walk through some of the questions that we can ask ourselves to prompt that decision-making process and help us make the best decision on whether coaching or therapy is right for us as a professional. This decision-making process starts with the question, what is your vision? And this question is going to be so important because you are going to need to have a very clear vision for who you want to help and how you're going to be able to help them before you can make this decision of if that's best gonna fit into therapy, or into coaching.

So this question starts with what niche are you looking to work in, and if you already have your niche developed, great. If you don't, you're going to need to take some time and really get a good picture of who your population is going to be, what niche you are going to be able to work with, before you can move on and answer the rest of these questions and make this decision. So once you have your niche, and you know what population you work best with, these are the clients that you are excited about working with, that you love to do work with, and that they see excellent progress when they work with you. It's what you become known for, as far as people referring to you. As far as clients coming to you that is your niche.

The next question is going to be when you work with those people, what approach are you using, what approach resonates with you and really gets the best results and the best outcomes for your clients? Now once we have a good answer to these two questions, we can start looking at where our answers fall on the coaching therapy spectrum. And so if our niche is something that is very focused on treating some type of mental health disorder, if we have defined our niche as working with people with x disorder, whether that is a borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, no matter what that disorder is, if we've defined it as people with x diagnosis, then that falls much more on the therapy end of the spectrum than it does the coaching.

And when we talked about the approach and the interventions that get our clients, the best results, how do we get our clients where they want to be and where they need to be? What was your response there, if it was a very specific therapeutic modality, something for example that you need to be trained in as a therapist. I'm thinking things like Parent-Child interaction therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive processing, therapy, themes that require very specific training that is specific to therapists do not go to fall on the therapy end of the spectrum. So once we've got our answers to those questions, and we have an idea of where it might fall on the therapy coaching spectrum, and notice I say, therapy coaching spectrum, because it is not a clear cut therapy or coaching, these are not mutually exclusive categories. There is definitely a lot of middle ground between them. But depending on the type of work you do, there may be a less gray area, there may be a less middle ground, and that's what we're trying to determine does the work you want to do fall more clearly into one of those categories? Or is it very much in the gray area? So once you have really fleshed out what your niches and what interventions and approaches you use to work with that population?

The next question is going to be, who do you rely on primarily for referrals? So if you have established referral relationships within this niche, who are those referrals? Who are those referral sources? Or if you're not yet established in this niche, what referral sources Do you see trying to connect with and build relationships with? And the reason we asked this question is that certain referral sources are going to value your credentials and educational background as a therapist much more than a coach.

So if a large amount of your referrals you intend to come from pediatricians, maybe you work with children, then they're going to value your credentials and your licensure as a therapist is going to lend much more credibility than marketing to them as a coach. Another example says you specialize in working with posts Partum issues postpartum depression, etc. And you intend to build some relationships with ob-gyn, once again, they are going to value your credentials, your educational background, and your experience as a therapist is going to lend you much more credibility with those referral sources than being a coach. So consider that too, when you're looking at this, how is my credentials and my title going to play into the relationships that I want to build for referral sources and that type of thing.

So once you've really clarified your vision and your niche, and you know where that falls, and then you're looking at marketing and how you're going to present themselves and what kind of credibility each of these different roles or titles would lend you as far as marketing.

The second question we want to move on to ask is why do you want to make the shift. So why are we even asking the question? So like I said, this question comes up all the time, should I make the shift to coaching? And after we've really fleshed out what the vision is and what the niches? The big question is, why, what's the benefit and making the shift? So some of the things that I often hear, first of all, I often hear coaches make more money. And I would just like to put it out there right now that that is not true. It is a myth. Yes, there are some coaches out there that are very lucrative coaches. There are also therapists out there that make just as much money as those coaches. You can absolutely make a good income as a therapist, just like you can as a coach, income is not a good reason to make this shift.

There are many coaches out there that are not making a significant income doing coaching work, but the perception is that coaches make more money. It's kind of grass is always a greener phenomenon. The perception that coaches are making more money than therapists is coming from a handful of coaches that are doing very well. And the reason that we see them so front and center is because they've got excellent marketing techniques, their marketing tactics are spot on. And so we see them all the time, and they are doing well. But if you as a therapist had your marketing tactic spot on like that, you'd be doing every bit as well as those coaches.

So income is not a reason to make this shift. It's not going to be the change that swings your income trajectory in a big way. The other reason I hear therapists say, Why do you want to make the shift is because it will open up the opportunity for them to reach out to more clients. And a lot of times this is being discussed in the context of taking their practice online.

So if I'm an online coach, as opposed to an online therapist, then I can practice across state lines and is much easier and more simplified to do that. And yes, there is some truth to that. And I have another episode that talks more about the legal aspects, five legal considerations that talks more about the legal aspects and legal considerations of coaching. But yes, while that's true, most of the time, once we've really explored that vision, the same therapist says, gives them a larger potential client pool their vision was not to create a large multi-state group practice. And so my question then becomes, it does give you a larger client pool, but are there really not enough clients in your entire state for you to fill your practice? And usually, there are, even if you're wanting to limit your practice to high-income earners, or you have a very, very specialized niche, usually, there's going to be enough clients in your state in need of your services that you don't need to expand beyond state lines to fill your practice.

So the potential to reach more clients may be a valid reason for looking at making this shift. But sometimes it's not. Another big reason for making the shift can be for therapists who move around a lot. So for example, therapists that are in the military or have a military spouse, and they're frequently moving from state to state or therapists who just they want to travel, maybe they want to do full-time RV living and they want to travel from state to state and the truth is that it is much easier to coach from state to state or beyond state lines than it is to do therapy because therapy regulations haven't caught up with all this yet. And so it becomes very much this well is therapy happening in the state of clients in the state the therapist is in some states say it's both places and so we're constantly having to consider all these different moving parts as a therapist, that just is eliminated with coaching. And so if you hope to be a full-time RV or you are in the military or have a military spouse, that can be a very valid reason for looking at making the shift.

And then other times, I hear therapists say that they just want to take their practice online. And that can be a valid reason too for making the shift from therapy to coaching. But I want to also acknowledge that you can have a very successful therapy practice online as well. You don't have to do coaching to take your practice online. There are very successful therapists that only practice online. So while that can definitely weigh on the end of coaching, you can still be a successful therapist with online practice. Absolutely. So once we've weighed those two big questions, hopefully, we have a good idea of it. Least which direction we lean towards on the spectrum of therapy versus coaching.

Going back to what I talked about earlier that a lot of therapists are looking at doing coaching in one of two ways. One being that they're going to add coaching as a service to their therapy practice, and to being that they are going to make the shift from therapy to coaching, on the issue of adding coaching as a service in your practice so that you are offering both coaching and therapy, it's typically something that I discourage. And my question becomes, why do both and sometimes we feel like well, it gives our clients options. It gives our client the choice of choosing therapy, or of choosing coaching.

But honestly, first of all, as therapists we know that it can be convoluted the distinctions between the two, so to expect our clients to be well versed enough to make a good decision on what service is best for them, is probably just not realistic. there's already some challenging line-drawing problems between therapy and coaching. So to expect a client to come to us quickly understand the distinction between those two services and choose the one that's best for them is kind of becoming decision overload. We don't want to be making more decisions in our daily lives, most of us are trying to minimize the number of decisions that we have to make in our daily life. So I don't know that it's a benefit to our clients to be having both services available for them to choose from.

The other reason I sometimes hear for wanting to do both is, well, I want to accept insurance in my state. And then I want to do the coaching across state lines because I can't practice legally in other states. And if that's the reason, I think we're starting to walk available a challenging legal and ethical line because it sounds like you're really wanting to provide the exact same service probably to the same population, you just want to call it something different so that you can do it across state lines. And that's not something that I would recommend for therapists. I think that's a recipe for getting into hot water with your licensing board, and a recipe for confusing our clients. We don't want our clients to be confused about the difference between these services. And we definitely don't want our clients to be confused about which service they were receiving.

The other concern with offering both coaching and therapy is the efficiency of your practice. And this is so important, but having two different sets of paperwork, expecting yourself mentally to be switching back and forth between coaching and therapy, to have all these different standards that can there are different standards between coaching and therapy that we need to be clear on and that we need to be clear with our clients on. And so to have those two different things becomes cumbersome for you, as a therapist, as a professional, and we want to keep our practices as simple as efficient and as streamlined as possible. And I don't think therapy and coaching and offering both of those services do that.

So the bottom line is I don't see a benefit to offering both coaching and therapy. There are a few exceptions. First of all, obviously, as you are transitioning from therapy over to coaching, yes, I think you're going to practice both for a period of time, but I would hope that your marketing is focused on one or the other. And I would hope that you're obtaining new clients and taking new clients is focused on one or the other. Also, for those that do business coaching, for example, for other therapists or something of that nature, then yes, you may have your own therapy practice. And you may have your coaching practice where you are doing some business coaching, practice building, etc. Obviously, that that's different that's not coaching and therapy in the same niche or in the same space so that you're focused on working with the same type of clients. That's two completely distinct things.

So with the few exceptions discussed, I don't typically recommend providing both coaching and therapy services in your practice. So the decision-making process that we've talked about today is really just a couple of simple question prompts. But it's a process that I really enjoy exploring with therapists because it is an important decision that really impacts the direction that we will take our practice and our business. So I would love to hear from you on this topic and hear about what's playing into your decision-making process on coaching versus therapy. So feel free to email me or start the discussion on social media.

I would love to hear about your process on this. And once again, don't forget that we do have the free downloadable PDF on our website, the link is in the show notes. And that just kind of allows you some time to walk through this process because sometimes it does take time to really ponder these questions, and start feeling good and confident with the decision and the direction that you are going to be taking in your business. So thank you again for joining us today. Make sure that you subscribe so you can join us in the future as well. And that's all for now. Bye, all.

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