Be Your Own Coach

coaching mental health Feb 09, 2021

Most people who would benefit from therapy, don't actually go. There are a number of reasons. Unfortunately, working with a mental health professional is still stigmatized in most places. People don't understand the value of therapy or how it works. Then there is the access to care issue. Not everyone has transportation or childcare or the money to pay for therapy, even if the cost is limited to a co-pay. Most therapists are still able-bodied, straight, white, middle-class women. Happily, this is changing and there are now a growing number of therapists who are LGBTQ, male, disabled, people of color with a variety of backgrounds and life experiences, so the opportunity to work with a therapist that looks like and lives like you do, as a client, has never been better. Since "goodness of fit" or compatibility is considered to be the most important variable in a successful outcome of therapy, diversity among therapists is a welcome change in the field. 

Another reason people who need therapy don't go is that they've actually tried it and it didn't help. I was shocked to learn that more than 50% of therapy clients drop out after a single session. Maybe this is because of unrealistic expectations, maybe it's because people wait too long and by the time they get there, they are so desperate, they need a miracle and therapy just doesn't work that fast. And then there's the dirty little secret of the mental health community. Many therapists just aren't that good and in spite of a realistic and highly motivated client, they just don't have much to offer. 

And then there is the whole conventionality of the therapy experience. You have to make an appointment, drive to the mental health clinic, group practice or private office, look for parking and arrive in the waiting area. Once you've pushed the button or alerted the receptionist of your arrival, you wait. Usually not very long, because the majority of therapists are on time and their clients are booked back to back, on the hour. Out with one, in with the other, with maybe a couple of minutes in between to check for text messages and use the restroom. From both sides of the equation, it can feel like a human conveyor belt. 

And what do people do while waiting? Listen to music, scroll through their social media feed, read a paperback or kindle. Anything but look up, look around and God forbid make eye contact with another client, also waiting for a different therapist. I've observed this pattern in countless offices. People try to be invisible in the therapist's waiting room. It's even worse in the psychiatrist's office. But, wouldn't anyone else in that waiting room be there for the same reason you are? It's not like they're going to judge you. I guess it's just you don't want anyone, even another therapy client knowing you're there. One the therapist finally appears, you smile weakly and dutifully follow her to her waiting office. You might be nervous to be there, but at least there aren't any witnesses. 

But, what if there was an alternative to making the pilgrimage to your therapist's office, doing the walk of shame to the waiting room and sitting there, trying your best to be invisible until you are summoned into the inner sanctum? I mean, you could try online therapy, but you still have to deal with how you feel about spilling your guts to someone you barely know and hoping they aren't judging you and might actually have something helpful to say about it. But, you're still stuck with the same basic problem. You are dependent on someone else to figure your own shit out, and I don't know about you but that just doesn't feel so hot. 

Self-help books and personal development seminars are other alternatives. They are incredibly popular, so somebody must think they have something to offer. My personal feeling about most self-help books is that they create hope in the same way that overpriced jars of anti-aging skincare products do. They feel good as long as you're using them, but the moment you put them back on the shelf, the benefits start to evaporate. At least until the next time, you feel like ass and need a little bit of non-narcotic feel better sumpthin-sumpthin. 

And then there are the life coaches, the newest branch of the bazillion dollar industry designed to respond to the millions of women with first world problems and deflating self-esteem. Coaches have been cleaning up for the very reason why therapists are struggling. Coaching is associated with winning, status and success. Think about it. Twenty years ago, before the life coaching industry appeared on the scene, who had a coach? Professional athletes and executives. They didn't hesitate to hire one and pay big money to reach the next level in their career. 

Now, life coaches are stepping into the void created by the stigma of psychotherapy, offering people an alternative that is associated with possibility, not pathology. I'm very sure that some of the people who are hiring life coaches should be handled by a licensed therapist, but you can't make people do what they don't want to do, even if it would be better for them. Needless to say, coaches aren't turning them away either. 

You want to level up, fulfill your potential, overcome your limitations, shake off both your fear of failure and fear of success, all at once. You've tried therapy, online counseling, life coaching, and self-help. You've made some progress, plateaued, made a little more, all the while wondering, is your relative lack of progress them or you. What if it was possible to be your own support system, guide, an accountability partner and you wouldn't have to depend on anyone but yourself. Wouldn't that be ideal?

Would you even believe me if I told you that it already exists and that I could teach you how?  It's the self-coaching model that I teach all of my clients.  The goal of coaching is not for you to depend on me, but to teach you how to coach yourself.  It's not easy, but boy is it worth it. 


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