Jeff Guenther on Nov 17, 2019
This week, while chatting with my friend Gina about her transition from therapist to coach, I really started to wonder whether or not I should stop being a licensed therapist and become a coach. I’d be interested if you shared my thoughts while listening to this week’s podcast episode of Say More About That. Gina and I break down the pros and cons of being a coach, instead of a therapist, and how she made the transition. Click play below or listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
Even though you’ll see below that there are many compelling reasons to bail on being a licensed therapist, there is still one major thing that’s holding me up. I’ll get to that at the end of the article. I also go into it on the podcast.
I can’t stand diagnosing my clients. I’ve always felt funny about doing it. It’s just not my style. Sure, it can sorta help, sometimes. And occasionally a client is interested in a diagnosis. But I mainly have to do it for insurance companies and I just don’t like coming up with a diagnosis that’ll follow my clients around forever. If I was a coach, I could throw my DSM out the window.
The DSM doesn’t evolve fast enough. And it has an embarrassing and disgusting history of pathologizing human behavior that never should have been pathologized in the first place. For example, homosexuality should never have been a mental illness in the DSM. Fuck that book.
When people are in therapy, they often go because they are feeling unwell. As therapists, a lot of the time, we focus on client’s unhealthy habits and mental state. If I was a coach, I think I’d have more freedom to step outside of the stigma that’s attached to mental health. I’ll probably always keep trying to change it from the inside, but still, it sounds liberating to just step out of it.
As a licensed therapist, I can only provide online counseling in the state in which I’m licensed. If I was a coach, I could provide services to everyone and anyone all over the world. That sounds pretty sweet if you ask me.
While a part of me feels safe and protected inside my state licensing requirements, I do wonder what it would be like to break out of it. I have a fear that I’ll do something that could get me in trouble. And my state board has the worst investigation process. It’s just hell for therapists to go through. And I could also go to trainings when I feel like it instead of dealing with the urgency of getting all my required classes in.
While I can’t do anything about this now, it would have been a whole lot cheaper to get credentialed as a coach instead of as a therapist. Master degrees typically cost a ton of money. Becoming a coach is much more reasonable.
No matter how much I ask insurance companies to pay me, ultimately they get to determine my hourly rate. That sucks. Sure, I could only see clients that pay out of pocket. But clients still have an expectation of what it would cost to go to therapy and I need to stay in that range. If I was a coach, I could charge a lot more because the range can be anywhere from $100 to $500 per session. And I could come up with cool packaged deals that are bundled with a handful of sessions. Or even create a subscription service for clients.
I’m pretty authentic in my blogs and podcast, but I am constantly editing things out that could somehow be interpreted as not okay to say as a licensed mental health professional. If I was a coach I would feel so liberated in this area. Don’t get me wrong, I would still protect client confidentiality. I just wouldn’t feel as hyper-protective of everything I put out there.
This may just be a “me” thing, but I don’t like how some clients can start feeling dependent on their therapists sometimes. I talk about this with my clients when I think it’s coming up for them. But I get the feeling that being a coach and operating from a place where I empower clients and see them as capable and resourceful to begin with would fit my philosophy better.
I don’t know about you, but I have amazing advice that I never give to my clients. If I was a coach, I would be more upfront with advice. I would give advice and encouragement that was action oriented and change focused. It would be so fun!
I can’t be too spiritual or “out there” as a therapist. I feel like I need to be real analytical and clinical. I could probably do a better job of weaving in my metaphysical knowledge in session, but I think I would really let loose as a coach and that would be really fulfilling.
I worked so incredibly hard for my degree. I was a really average student as a kid. And then in high school I totally bombed. I developed horrible learning habits, poor reading comprehension and a strong distaste for academia in general. I barely got through high school and I stumbled into community college as a last ditch effort to get my life on track. Community college was so hard. I had to figure out how to develop study habits, which I never had in high school. I got okay grades and was able to transfer into Cal State San Diego. In San Diego, I was studying human development and it was the first thing that actually interested me. I started getting amazing grades and my sense or worth skyrocketed. I got into my dream grad school at the University of Southern California and had never felt as accomplished in my life as when I was given my graduate degree in marriage and family therapy. Once I got licensed as a therapist, I felt like my academic journey was complete. Being a licensed therapist means so much to me and I don’t think I could give it up that easily.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.