The Clinician as Coach: Physical Therapists and Wellness Coaching
Transcripts from the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching Podcast
Brad: Welcome to the Health and Wellness Coaching podcast. My name’s Brad Cooper. I’ll be your host. In today’s episode is an interview with two physical therapists, both incredibly experienced, very gifted. They went through the wellness coach certification about four to five years ago, and they’re going to talk about the impact it’s had in their careers, in their practices, and in their lives. So if you’re a Physical Therapist or a PT Assistant, this is your episode. However, if you’re either a clinician, you’re coming at it from another clinical background like nursing or physician, counselor, etc.. Or you’re coming at it from a nonclinical background. You’re one of the folks in the audience that either you’ve been coaching and you’re looking for tips on how to grow your practice or you’re pondering coaching. Either way, you’re going to garner a lot of value out of this as well. So again, it’s obviously gonna hit home most with the PTs because it’s specific to those folks, but regardless of your background, these two gentlemen, they provide a lot of stuff for you.
So let me introduce the two of them and then we’ll jump into the interview. The first is Charlie, he’s been practicing physical therapy for 20 years, mainly in the outpatient and private practice setting. He loves being a PT, but in 2013 he was looking for something more so he went back and became a certified wellness coach through Catalyst and he opened his own practice that same year. Over the past five years, he’s grown his practice to include a mix of patient care and coaching. He currently coaches about 50 individuals and then treats patients three days a week. It’s a fee for service, so those of you thinking about the cash pay options you may want to particularly listening. Charlie specializes in coaching folks who train and compete in endurance events and has found that his wellness coaching skills are needed and utilized in that arena more than ever.
David Hensley graduated from Texas Women’s University in 1978. He initially worked in a hospital setting in Dallas and then moved to Wichita Falls, Texas in 1979. In 1981, he opened his first private practice in Wichita falls and then merged it with another private practice and eventually sold it to a national healthcare firm. Since 2007 David has worked in a nonprofit multidisciplinary outpatient clinic as a PT. Wellness coaching became an interest after he read and researched about ways to become a more effective clinician. Remember, this is a guy that had been treating patients for 35 years approximately that point. He went through the Catalyst Coaching Institute training and eventually went on to earn his NBC HWC, which is the national board exam for wellness coaches. By the way, if you have any questions about that, we did an episode on that, about three or four back and it gives you a lot of clues about how to pass the exam, how to prepare for what that looks like, those kinds of things. So if that doesn’t ring a bell, you may want to peek back at that one. Currently, David spends four days a week in the clinic and two mornings a week dedicated to coaching. In the last three years his coaching population has almost tripled after what he calls a very slow start. He finds coaching and physical therapy to have complimentary skill sets and a benefit to all of his patients. So with that, let’s jump in.
Alright guys. Well thanks for joining us today. Very excited about this one. The first question out of the gate, let me turn to Charlie first. You were both highly qualified, credentialed, respected physical therapists before you ever pursued any kind of wellness coach certification. Why’d you decide to go that route a few years ago?
Charlie: Well, for me it was really finding out that it was something that was doable. I didn’t really know much about wellness coaching. I think you introduced it to me. I saw what you were doing with Us Corporate Wellness and I’ve always enjoyed the, you know, the educating part with patients and seeing that, you know, after they’re finished with their shoulder pain, is there something else you could help them with? And there was a need for that. And so I just found out there was a way to get certified in coaching people and so I took the step.
Brad: Awesome. Awesome. David, how about you?
David: Well, it’s really similar for me. I mean several years back APTA started to encourage us to collaborate with other individuals, other organizations, for wellness and fitness and such as that. And I’ve always taken kind of a wellness approach to physical therapy and I saw a great way for us to have an adjunctive kind of piece of care to the physical therapy part and looked into wellness and it looked like just a perfect fit. And so far it has been.
Brad: Excellent. Excellent. All right, so we’ll, we’ll flip it back to David on this one. So we’ll just kind of do a tennis match here. How have you seen the profession? So as Physical Therapist, PT assistants, how have you seen the profession adopt more of the health and wellness emphasis over the past few years? And then where do you see it going forward from here?
David: Well, you know, what we, what we now call the wellness approach used to be called the holistic approach and really looking at the whole person taking, you know, mental and social factors and taking all that together just as, as kind of a part of the whole person and the impact on their lives. And as I mentioned before, I think that an older collaboration with physical therapy has been with athletic trainers and I think that wellness, wellness coaching, the skillset brings a lot to the table and physical therapy. I see as physical therapists widen their focus, so to speak, that they’re going to see the importance of wellness services and wellness coaching services. I think you’re gonna see a big part of that come into the clinic. I think that’s a great change for us.
Brad: Great Point. Great Point. Charlie, anything to add to that?
Charlie: Yeah, for me it’s locally I’ve seen a lot of my PT colleagues offering wellness type outreach, whether it’s seminars or some other, you know, wellness coaching, lectures, etc. So it seemed like in the Phoenix metro area, there’s been a bit of a, of a rise in PTs doing that. I think there’s an opportunity, I think there’s a void there that patients are looking for someone to guide them in these areas and I think PTs are in the perfect spot to take advantage of that if we act on it.
Brad: Yeah, there’s already that trusted relationship.
Charlie: Exactly. Yeah.
Brad: Okay. So, again, back to Charlie here. What are some of the ways that you’ve seen your opportunities to utilize the training you received? So you went to the wellness coach certification already highly qualified as a PT. How did you see that then enhancing what you’re offering in addition to what you mentioned earlier?
Charlie: I think during the subject of exam it was more, you know, talking with these patients, going through the medical history on the form in front of me and having some questions on there. They’re kind of probed into their health and wellness, things like sleep, nutrition, other’s distress, etc. And I’ve just taken more time when I see some yellow flags, red flags, whatever you want to call them. I see them on there and it allows me to probe a little bit. So and then getting into the coaching itself. It just once, once they verbalize that they’re struggling in these areas, it opens a door to talk about that stuff.
Charlie: So I just do the education. Obviously going through the certification and learning how to coach people on that, it’s just open that door. Once they kind of verbalize, hey, I am struggling in my, in my sleep. And I never thought of how it affected my performance.
Brad: Very good. Yeah. It’s interesting what you said about the subjective piece because I’ve seen a lot of PTs over the years that it’s almost a throwaway. Yes we do the SOAP, but the subjective is like, okay, yeah, we got through that. Now let’s get to what matters with the objective aspect of the assessment and what you’re saying is that piece actually expanded to become a more important role than ever before after going through the training.
Brad: Interesting. David, anything to add to that in terms of ways you’ve seen an opportunity to utilize the training you received as you were going through the wellness coach certification?
David: Well, you know, like I said, I’ve always kind of taken a wellness approach to the physical therapy that I do and honestly I think it has broadened my perspective on really what we do treat and really what the goal is, is to give these people a better life, you know, after shoulder surgery or knee surgery or back or whatever, stroke, whatever. Our goal is really more than just strength, range of motion, and that sort of thing. Our goal is to restore as much of that person’s life to them as we can. And so all that that encompasses, the coaching training was invaluable to making me really better and more effective as a therapist in that holistic wellness.
Brad: Love it. So we want to keep this next, the answer to this next question, anonymous, but any fun in, in keeping it anonymous, can you provide a safe one or two fun little client stories that stick out in your mind is as being particularly memorable or meaningful? David, I’ll let you kinda kick this one off.
David: Okay. Well, you know, I tell people how much fun it is to do coaching but fun sometimes is not really the best word, but it’s just, it’s just such a great thing. I have a lady in particular who is a frequent visitor and we are working with her after shoulder rehab. She came in and wanted to continue fitness and wellness and her life kind of took some hard turns and bumps and now we’re working through life after divorce and things like that. And we’ve seen her really just grow and grow and grow. She’s been a coaching client for about four months now and she’s just over the top happy and feels like she has a place to go in her life and you know, fun. Yeah. Fun. But really it’s just so rewarding to see someone figure out with your help, which direction they want to go, how they really do want to end up.
Brad: Charlie any highlights come to mind?
Charlie: A shoulder patient who is going through a divorce. And it was cool because she’s been with me now for five years and so we finished the shoulder therapy and I was just about to open my own practice and offer the wellness coaching. So I just asked her, hey, you know, would you be, I hate to use the word Guinea pig, but would you be a client of mine and let me help you? And I think I just recently finished a certification so we started together five years ago. She’s diabetic, but now she’s got that under control. She’s run and she actually has gone and got, it’s awesome, she’s lost some weight, got through the divorce, has got a solid job. So she’s offering, she’s a mental health therapist and she thought, hey, it’d be something I can, another little nugget I can offer my clients.
Brad: We get emails, I got one probably two weeks ago that was intriguing to me along the lines of what you guys are talking about because you’re talking about some deep stuff there. I mean that’s not just, oh yeah, we worked with this and that. I mean that’s both of you shared stuff that they are going through that was leading to other things and we get emails telling us that, you know what, I could probably benefit from counseling but I’m just not ready for that yet, or I’m not ready to take that step. And a coach, a coach is not quite so intimidating. It’s not quite so overwhelming. So I feel like that’s a good place to start and they may end up going through counseling because we’re not counselors as coaches, we know that, but we can certainly help people in the initial stages with that.
So it’s interesting that both of you kind of mentioned things along those lines. So let’s take a little slight turn here. As far as your practice, where do you see your opportunities, and Charlie, I’ll start with you on this. Where do you see future opportunities in your practice to expand what you’re doing or to build on what you’re doing with the tools or the marketing or any aspect of the wellness coaching piece that you see opening up some doors for you or, or being something you’re going to do in the future with your practice?
Charlie: So a chunk of my business is I do some coaching on the endurance exerciser, so Mary comes to me and is training for, wants to train for a half marathon and she’s kind of new to running let’s say. And so what I’ve found is when I sit down with these folks, a lot of times they’ve kinda got their running, they’ve been doing some running and they feel like they got that under control, but it’s, you know, it’s the sleep part of it. It’s the how do I do I eat when I’m training for half marathon, how do I manage my time? And so I find that there’s an opportunity for me to kind of, not just that beginner runner necessarily, but someone who is going to do an endurance event that, like David mentioned, the holistic part of that. And so I think there’s an opportunity to continue to tap into that market and a lot of it includes, you know, going to the public was some lectures. In fact, I’m giving one tonight and maybe even some social media outreach to really to this services out there. If you’re going to be coached in an endurance event, I want someone that’s going to address all the areas.
David: Mine, you know, I envy you, Charlie, you’re working with athletes. Mine is simply, life skills management. I work with, you couldn’t group my clients in a group. I mean, it’s such a wide ranging from a young, a young girl who’s having some issues that she’s coming in with her mom and she’s having issues in high school and, and things there. And teaching them or helping them realize how they can get through and how they can manage. It’s the older people who have their finances squared away and their kids are grown and they look ahead at their life and wonder what’s next and helping people really honestly, helping people finish well is a big part of my clientele. Nobody wants to go out on the downslide. Everybody wants to go out up. Right. And so it’s just, it’s just sorting through life, you know, life is unpredictable and just helping people develop strategies to make their lives really what they want their lives to be. Since I’m one of those people, I’m 65 in my 40th year of PT practice and, and yeah, and for me, I’m hoping I can continue to do this. I mean when will we be too old or when will having a better life ever go out of style? I don’t see that going away or anything like that. I see that only becoming a bigger part.
Brad: I don’t know what percent, but we have a lot of physical therapists go through our program. You both know that there were several in the room when when you were going through the certification with Catalyst, but the feedback we’re getting from people that call us prior to registration is they’re looking for something for the end of their career. They’re, they’re kind of looking for a new way to wrap it up or something where maybe they’ve been doing manual therapy or inpatient where it’s requiring a lot of physical load or their hands are starting to break down, those kinds of things and they’re looking for something that they can still use, their skills, their background, their history, all of those aspects in a slightly different way. And so I’m intrigued by, by what you said there. That’s interesting.
Brad: So let’s, let’s jump over. We’ll start with Charlie here, but what advice would you give the new clinician on the other end of the spectrum of what I just said, is we’ve got people that are one to three years out of school. They find out about us, see an article in PT magazine or whatever, and they contact us and say, you know, this sounds like it’s me. I’d kinda like to look into this. What advice would you have for that person? So both of you are very, very experienced physical therapists. Think back David, 37 years, Charlie 20 some years and think through, what advice would you give that person who is relatively fresh out of school? Is this something? What would be the benefit of pursuing it? Let me make it simple.
Charlie: Yeah. I think if you mentioned that if they have an interest and they feel like they enjoy that part of that patient relationship, they’re going to dig a little bit deeper and they’re gonna, you know, gonna help them on a different level after their back pain is better then I say go for it. I think it is a way to separate yourself a bit. I think there’s patients out there, John, who’s being pulled in many directions from a ton of different healthcare providers. If we’re all competing for that same patient, then what skills can I offer this person that maybe someone else doesn’t. And so I know there’s a lot of new clinicians. I’ve looked for the specialties in ortho specialty or the sports specialty, but wellness coaching fits right into that and it can be, it can be an avenue to separate yourself.
Brad: How would you compare the benefits of getting your OCS compared to with your benefits of pursuing your CWC?
Charlie: I think it’s a great question. I would say that, you know, it’s a bit of a different pathway. I mean the training was way different. I mean the training which I appreciated with the wellness coaching was very hands on and when I went and did it, there was practice and practical part to it. With the board specialty it’s just an exam, right? You studied like crazy. You take the exam. I mean they’re both very beneficial and they have been, but when I have that patient that says, oh, I didn’t know you could help me with this, I didn’t know you really talked to me about stress. They kind of perk up a bit versus like, hey, I’m very knowledgeable on the orthopedic part of PT, but I also know I can offer this now. So I think it was just a different avenue completely and the training was just a bit a bit different and more the practical,
Brad: NBHWC exam that’s put on by the national board of medical examiners is probably very similar to the OCS exam. So that preparation at that level, not for the basic CWC certification, but that level is probably pretty similar. David, coming back to you, what uh, what would you say for the new clinician, somebody who’s just out of school one to three years, is this something worth doing at that point or do they need to put their focus elsewhere?
David: Well, I mean, my advice is very simple. Do it now. I wish I had done it 20 or 30 years ago. The thing about it is that the skill sets of physical therapy and wellness coaching are so complimentary to each other. They dovetail just hand in glove. It’s just a beautiful partnership. We work so hard in physical therapy to narrow down our focus and treat specifically and wellness coaching opens up people’s perspectives, opens up their lives, and I would tell them, pursue the education to its greatest degree in wellness coaching because anybody can hang up a shingle that says wellness, but to set yourself apart, to really have something that’s really truly valuable, I think that educational component is critical. Get the highest level you can get. The process is just so, so valuable.
Brad: For the clinician who is on the back half of their career or maybe they are starting to wind down. I mentioned that we get that question a lot. We have a lot of folks attending with that goal in mind. But Charlie, what would you say to the person that says, you know, what, I’m kind of winding things down. Is it worth the extra effort and time and frankly costs to pursue something like this? Or what would be your general thought for where you see that?
Charlie: Yeah. I think when I did it and I started to coach more, it felt like a second career almost. And so my advice would be that if not that, you don’t like the PT stuff, but it was beyond just when you’ve been doing it 20, 30 plus years, you’ve seen most things in the clinic. I felt like after I started coaching that it was like this whole new set of patients and situations came up and so it was, it was almost like I said it almost like a second career. I recently had a phone call, a couple phone calls with a gentleman who was a PT I think on the, you know, 30 plus years who was looking at doing it. And was like, hey, is this something I really should do? And I just encouraged him to kind of ask them some questions and sounds like he finally decided to do it and he’s going to help out his church and offer some coaching through his church. And he went and got certified. And so just a cool story how you know, someone who’s been doing it a long time and it’s kind of been sharing that, yeah, you know what? I think there’s something else out there I want to do.
David: For me, it’s a matter of staying engaged and staying relevant. We get into this to have a positive impact on people’s lives and as you say, you know, my physical capacities are diminished, at 65 years old and the clinic still holds challenges but this is a way for me to maybe step to the side a little bit. Retirement for me does not look like a rocking chair. So I want to stay with physical therapy, but I want to stay relevant and engaged in the clinic where I work and with the people with whom I work and the clients with whom I work. And this is just a way, and the second career is a great picture.
Brad: You’ve each touched on these slightly, but I want to develop this out a little bit more for the clinician who is looking for opportunities. And I’ll start with David. Any suggestions or concepts or ideas of how the wellness coach certification could help somebody either in their marketing trying to differentiate themselves from other PTs in the market for referral sources? And then on the resume side also, how does that enhance, or how do you see that enhancing their resume as they’re looking to move up through their career?
David: Well, I think the focus going forward with healthcare is going to be more on the health part and less on the care part. Insurers drive a lot of that certainly, but I think that we can drive our part really very well. I think that as you become more proficient in what you do, more confident, more mature in what you do, you bring that added skillset to the table. It gives you opportunities to be in more places. And that’s one thing I would recommend right from day one is be visible. The market where I am, we had our demographic all wrong and we didn’t know where to go to market it and for the first year, so it kinda just kind of limped along. Then we hit a nerve with the, 60 year olds and up and the nerve we hit was, don’t you want to be able to play with your grandchildren for as long as you want to play with your grandchildren? And we put that out on a television commercial, a 15 second spot actually. And in the last year our numbers are just in, we’ve tripled our case load on the wellness coaching side, in one year. So marketing, really mainly know your demographic, know your audience, and then be visible to that audience. I love Charlie giving lectures. It certainly has opened up our lecturer and our public speaking opportunities here. We’ve had to be out in the community.
Charlie: I’m going to add. Yeah, it is the visibility. I think it’s really helped to give an occasional talk and the simple step too of just when you have a client who feels like he has enjoyed your service and benefited, you asked them, hey, if you know of anybody else that needs this word of mouth is very powerful. So I’ll get that. Client says, hey, you know what, my husband could use some of this stuff, too. He’s trying to get exercise. Then I have had a lot of that. Usually that, let’s be honest, ladies are the ones that seek out better than guys do. Right? So there’s been a lot of my spouse needs help too so, but go easy on him, you know, go easy on him. So no, I think it is word of mouth. And then the occasional lecture in the Phoenix metro area, there’s a ton of, there’s a ton of stuff. There was, there’s chiropractic care, they are offering wellness, there’s massage therapists, there’s PTs, there’s, you know, there’s a lot of people competing.
Brad: When you think about the individual clinician trying to build their resume, one of the things I think about that a lot of folks probably don’t tune into is a lot of the skills you’ll learn as a wellness coach are incredibly applicable to management. So all these books and classes you take on management and how to work with people and support them and grow them. A lot of management is helping people become their best self within an employment type situation. As a wellness coach, you’re learning how to help people become their best self in life, in whatever it is that they’re pursuing out there from athletics to parenting to potentially careers. I just want to throw that out as an example of something that as you’re building your resume, not just having three more letters after your name on your resume, but also if it’s a goal to get into a management role, wow, you’re probably going to be a natural fit for that because you’ve been practicing helping people become the best version of themselves already. Any other examples of things like that that you think might apply? And I’ll just wide open to either one of you that want to jump in. In terms of building your resume, mid career, anything that you see out there where the CWC wellness coach certification might be helpful?
Charlie: I went and spoke to a PT school and I think it was helpful. I mean, I think there’s five of them in the Phoenix metro area. I think I’ve been to a couple of them, you can put public speaking on, you can put the examples of where you spoke on your resume and find some opportunities, you know, I think look for ways you can share. I’m glad there’s lots of groups out there. They’re looking for someone to come in and share something, whether it’s a weight loss support group or a stress management group or you can even create your own group. Tou know, find out, you know, the other day I was thinking about or a realtor’s office, I got a client who owns a real estate office and there was probably 15 real estate agents in there. And what a great opportunity to go in there and do a weight loss challenge.
David: Well I just think that you can, you can leverage, the wellness coaching skills pretty much in any realm you want to. I mean we have found banks as very fertile ground for talking to their management teams and people management and taking care of themselves. We’ve gone to several different nonprofits and a nonprofit management organization, a local foundation talking to their executive boards just on how to make the most of your assets and how to, you know, how to leverage what you have to the benefit of the people you serve into the benefit of your own organization.
Brad: We’ve had a lot of folks out there who are other clinicians. We have physicians, nurses, counselors, athletic trainers, you name it, they’re there and they’re wanting to know does this apply to me? You interact with a lot of those folks. So the part A of the question, what advice, and I’ll start with David. What advice would you have for the other clinicians that may not be PT specific, the way we’ve been taking most of this conversation, but that you see a benefit for them in a clinical role or a related clinical role?
David: Well, the way I see it, there’s not a downside to adding the wellness coaching skillset to your repertoire. Nobody builds a house with just a hammer. Nobody does any job with just one tool. You expand your toolbox by having the wellness coaching aptitudes in your toolbox and it just makes you, it makes you a more complete person, more complete clinician, no matter what your role is. I mean even if you were just on the technical level having wellness skills in your toolbox it makes you a better member of your organization. Everybody benefits.
Charlie: Yeah. Yeah. I just think if you’re a practitioner that has someone coming in and sitting in front of you and you’re engaging with them, it’s a slam dunk. I mean, I think it’s something you should do because like David said, it’s just another skill set.
Brad: Any advice for those, and I’ll start with Charlie, any advice for those folks who don’t come from a clinical background, have no plans to pursue that route, but this kindna sounds interesting because you’re, you’re doing this both within a clinical setting and it sounds like both of you are doing it slightly outside that and you’re interacting with other coaches too, so just any parting thoughts for that group, Charlie?
Charlie: Yeah, I’ve had, I’ve had clients who have, after we’ve been coaching and working together for a bit, have said, hey, you know, this is something I think I may want to do myself. And usually my response to that is, that’s awesome. Think about where your niche would be or think about, focus in a bit and think about it. How would you use that and who would you go after? You know, whether it is the busy mom or the, you know, the CEO or somewhere try to define what you’re going to do with it.
David: It’s the wellness message. I mean, take a little time and reflect on who you really want to be. You know, what’s your ideal vision of who you want to be, the life you want to lead and see if you’re inclined to be an engagement kind of person. Not everybody is, but engaging people in their lives and having a positive impact on those lives can be extraordinarily rewarding. I mean, wellness coaching has changed me and the way I approach people and made me a much more complete therapist, coach, and a person as well. So I would say, take a little bit of time, do some self reflection.
Brad: Any final words of wisdom to the person that’s considering this or they’re coaching and they went that extra boost on how to go next level. So Charlie, just any final thoughts that I didn’t ask the right question to give you the opportunity to mention?
Charlie: When I started I thought to myself, well I’m going to do, and I think this is a tip you’d given me, is ask some people, you know, ask some of your patients ask some of your friends, hey, if I was going to start doing some of this coaching and here’s how, here’s what it would look like, would you be interested in this? Almost like a miniature focus group I guess. And I just asked a few people and the response was good. Hey, yeah, I know I would pay a fee to have you coach me in these areas. And so it just was like kind of good evidence to keep pushing me that direction when I got some response back on that. As a person, would you pay for this to be coached?
Brad: Love it, love it. Will probably be among our most popular podcasts we’ve done to date. So thanks for taking the time. Really appreciate it and keep up the great work.
What, what a gift from those two! 61 years of clinical practice as physical therapists, nine years of wellness coaching practice as part of that. Just some great insights. Everything from the early and late career aspects, how to grow your practice, the benefits of integrating the wellness coaching, but beyond just the coaching piece, the management side, the leadership, the frankly family interactions, those kinds of things. Some of the things to consider before you even start, just loaded up.
Again, there are some additional resources, especially for the physical therapist, PT assistants and frankly any clinician you could translate this very easily. There’s a special document on the catalyst coaching websites. That’s CatalystCoachingInstitute.com. Just look for the special reports and there’s one specific to physical therapists for those who happen to come from that background, and again, it’s probably applicable to just about anybody in the clinical side.
Thanks for joining us. Really excited about this. The feedback we’re getting is, it’s just so encouraging. If you don’t mind sharing it, if this is something that’s helpful to you, sharing it with other people that are thinking about being a wellness coach or are currently coaching and what I want to do a better job. There’s just such a sea of podcasts that, well, we need your help to get the news out, so thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you joining us and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of the Catalyst Health and Wellness Coaching Podcast.
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