The Benefits of Finding an OT with Life Coach Training

Occupational Therapy and Life Coaching

Occupational therapy and life coaching. GettyImages

In OT school, we practiced treatment techniques extensively: we measured our classmates’ joint movement; we crafted splints for one another; we designed inclusive bathrooms.

But, one thing we didn’t practice was conversation.

Knowing what treatment techniques will help a client is one thing– having conversations that invoke the motivation to carry out these treatments is another matter.

This disconnect between possessing medical knowledge and communicating well with patients has prompted some OTs to seek further certification as life coaches.

Life coaching curriculum teaches specific techniques for facilitating motivating conversation.

If you are looking for an occupational therapist to assist you with chronic pain, chronic illness, or any treatment that involves long-term changes, finding an OT with skills in coaching may be particularly beneficial.

An Overview of the Intersect and Tension Between OT and Coaching

A person who is trained as an OT and also in coaching has two primary avenues for providing care. The person will either incorporate coaching techniques into their OT practice, or they will primarily be a life coach—and while her training in OT may inform her coaching—she will not be practicing occupational therapy under her license

Incorporating coaching skills into OT practice is the most common combination of occupational therapy and coaching. There has been some formal movement within the OT world to support this integration.

Coaching has been adopted as an enablement skill by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists and identified by the Australian Association of Occupational Therapists as an emerging area of practice. The University of Southern California has a program called Lifestyle Redesign, which is a patented coaching process.

The book Coaching Conversations for Occupational Therapists is due out next year.

A smaller subset of occupational therapists has given up their occupational therapy practice to pursue coaching exclusively. This career move is often prompted by limitations of the OT license and traditional reimbursement. OTs in the U.S. are licensed by state, which restricts a therapist’s ability to work with clients from other states. In traditional reimbursement models, insurance companies function within the medical model, whereas coaching is often provided within the wellness model.

Jen Gash is an OT from the UK, who chose to focus on coaching because she saw a demand and found the work fulfilling: “When I started coaching,” said Jen, “it was the first time I really felt like an OT because I was able to understand what that person wanted from their life.”

How Might Your Conversations Be Different with an OT Coach?

In the traditional medical model, the therapist is the expert in the condition and provides instruction to the patient.

In OT school, we spoke on working beyond this model. We talked about patient-centered care, the importance of incorporating meaning into our activities, but we didn’t practice how to have those conversations.

Coaching conversations use specific techniques to create more of a partnership. The client is regarded as the expert on his or her life. The coach listens deeply and asks open questions. The client is then the primary change agent: he or she decides what course is most valuable and drives the changes needed to embark on it.

As a client, having a professional who facilitates your ownership of treatment can be helpful in any circumstance, but particularly in undertaking a medical issue that you will have to follow through with for the long term.

Why not see just a straight-up life coach?

Coaching is not a regulated industry. Anyone can call himself or herself a life coach. Neighbor Joe could easily get a business card printed. Finding a life coach who is an OT adds to the assurance that the person has been educated and licensed in understanding health conditions and human development. The life coach certification is another tool in their already extensive toolkit.

Reputable life coach training programs include the following:

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