Coach Or Therapist? How To Choose The Service That Best Fits Your Needs With Dr. Toni Warner

Should you choose a coach or a therapist? Given the overlap between these two professions, you might get confused about which to choose for your specific needs. If you’re not sure which service is the best fit for you, just ask. Who better to ask than Dr. Toni Warner, who graces this episode with Jennifer Whitacre. Dr. Toni is the intersection between coaching and psychotherapy for many reasons. For one, she does both. She is the founder of Dr. Toni Coaches and Authentically Me Psychotherapy. Whichever service turns out to be the right one for you, Dr. Toni will help you achieve a meaningful balance in your life without sacrificing either side of the work-life equation. Don’t miss out on the gems you can take away from this conversation.

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Coach Or Therapist? How To Choose The Service That Best Fits Your Needs With Dr. Toni Warner

We’re going to talk about how do you know if you should look for a therapist or find a coach because there’s a lot of overlap in the two professions and it can be confusing. There are also a lot of distinct differences in the two professions. On the show, we have Dr. Toni Warner. She’s a mother of three and she’s a transformational life and wellness coach for busy, ambitious people who are ready to crush overwhelm, tame the anxiety, effectively manage stress, and delete burnout. She helps her clients create meaningful balance in their lives while boosting motivation and energy levels without sacrificing productivity at work or quality time with loved ones. What’s important is to have balance in our lives. Dr. Toni is the Founder of Dr. Toni Coaches. She is also the Founder of Authentically Me Psychotherapy, which are two different businesses and separate services. She even puts in her emails if you’re not sure which service does the best fit for your needs, reach out and ask. That’s what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to do that reach out and ask on the show.

Dr. Toni, it’s an honor to have you with us. I’m thrilled that you’re here and welcome to the show. I’d like to know what you have to say about yourself in your own words.

Thank you. I’m happy to be here. I appreciate you inviting me and allowing me to connect with you and everyone else that’s reading. I take this as a privilege and I’m glad to be here. Building off of what you shared, I am a mom of three. I love being a mom. I’ve always wanted to be a mom and a therapist of some sort. Coaching found me along the way. I am also a licensed clinician, which is what Authentically Me Psychotherapy is. I’ve worked in a variety of settings providing clinical services, counseling, and consulting in school settings, psychiatric hospitals, and community setting as well. I’m doing family work, work with kids and teens. My private practice focuses on adults as well as teens that are feeling a lot of stress. They’re navigating all the stressors of life and wanting to do well but having a hard time functioning in a way that works for them. They’re having a hard time feeling happy with the life that they’re trying to live, even though they’re working hard at it.

As I was building up my private practice, coaching found me and that led me to a place where I can have an even bigger impact outside of my office as well. I still maintain my private practice. I love my clients and doing therapy. I found a passion and a love for coaching. That was unexpected along my journey. There, I get to help the ambitious leaders, the busy professionals that have a lot going on. They have neglected some of that balance with personal and professional lives. They want to either up-level that or to create that because they haven’t had that in their lives. That is how you and I met. I’m excited to dive in and see how I can support with clarifying some of the differences and making that determination between which might be the best fit for someone.

What are some of the reasons that somebody might want to seek out coaching instead of psychotherapy?

I’m going to preface this with the fact that it’s helpful to get an individualized consultation with whomever it is that you’re interested in potentially working with because there are a lot of nuances. I will be speaking in generalities here and hunkering down where I can. However, even with me as a therapist, my style is different than a therapist next to me. Where there may be differences for what I provide as a therapist versus a coach, that may not be the same for someone else who’s also doing therapy and coaching. It’s nuanced and it’s not super boxy, but there are some distinct differences also, which is what you mentioned.

One of those is that therapy is a medical model. Therapy was birthed out of the medical model where there is a diagnosis, which means insurance can be built for that. It is prescribed as treatment. What’s being provided is a course of treatment depending on the symptoms that are being presented and a diagnosis is going to be a label. It is going to be provided based on the symptoms that are being presented and treatment is to follow suit. That’s why the labels create these boxes which some people find comfort in and some people find constraining.

There are a bunch of people in between that have a mixture of both. It’s comforting to know that these symptoms are like, “I have ADHD and other people have that.” There’s some connection there, but there can also be some boxes that people put themselves and were like, “I have ADHD.” Whatever that might be. There are pros and cons to having that label. I’m not a therapist that treats specifically based on the diagnosis. I am a therapist that treats based on the symptoms that I’m seeing, based on the strengths and needs of that particular individual, as well as the strengths and needs that I bring to the table as a therapist based on my experience, my expertise, and my areas of specialized training.

That makes a lot of sense. You mentioned that as a therapist, a lot of times, you work with the diagnosis. You also mentioned the codes and insurance. You’re more likely to have that label and refer to the DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. That’s come up on the show in the past, but I would like to point it out in case we have a new audience that don’t know what that is. People seem to have a misunderstanding of the diagnosis a lot of times where they’ll get the label and people will say, “That explains it. I have ADHD.” We get that backwards because ADHD is nothing more than a label for a cluster of symptoms. It doesn’t explain anything other than naming your symptoms. It doesn’t explain how did you get it. Where did it come from? Where did it originate? Where are the roots? I see that as a huge drawback with the DSM and mental illness whenever it comes to other types of illness that the DSM might not be as confusing.

The purpose of the DSM initially was to create a means of communicating clearly amongst professionals. If one part of a medical team is treating someone and then someone else is treating that same person for something else, the label per se is a language amongst professionals to say, “This is the general symptoms that we’re managing and working with.” It was an easier, succinct, and concise way to communicate from professional to professional as they’re supporting someone. It evolved since then. That’s some of the challenges that you’re seeing. I agree that that challenge is not uncommon. You can hear that challenge for sure.

We’ll always have more to learn. We’ll always have more ways we can grow. All experts know that.CLICK TO TWEET

As a psychotherapist, which I am not, I’m curious if you find that somewhat limiting in what you can do with your clients.

I don’t accept insurance in my private practice and I don’t focus on labels. I don’t find it limiting. I’ll share with clients too, “This is the diagnosis that these symptoms fall under. We can have a conversation about that. However, I’m not treating this particular diagnosis. I’m treating the symptoms we’re seeing based on the strengths that you and I have.” In therapy, it isn’t viewed as a team or a partnership. It’s viewed as I’m the clinical expert, but I view the client as the expert of their life, and then together we’re working jointly and cohesively to support that person. Whereas in coaching, it’s tended to be seen more as a partnership as a team. There’s a little bit of a difference there. It’s intricate and nuance too though because I do not see myself as a clinician as the expert of their life. I’m not the only expert in the room. Even so, expert is such a strong word. I don’t know everything about everything. I’m a human that’s learning and growing. I always engage in continuing education. Our field is constantly evolving, bringing in new information and new research to learn.

Everything you described is the hallmark of an expert. It is a myth that the expert knows everything. That’s why people who say, “You’re the expert.” That’s a ridiculous thing to say to somebody because a true expert approaches any given situation with curiosity like a beginner. They don’t go in with this big ego going, “I know what to do before I walk in the room.”

That creates that impostor syndrome. I’m an expert. I’m supposed to know everything. That’s going to take us on a whole other tangent but it’s true. I’m supposed to know everything and since I don’t know everything, how can I be an expert or how can I be of help? That’s not true. We always have more to learn. We always have more ways we can grow in.

It’s another myth that we collectively bought into. You mentioned that as a clinician, you do not take insurance. That’s another important point that a person wants to think about when they’re choosing a therapist if they’re choosing the therapy route. Do you want to find a therapist who accepts insurance or not? Aside from the financial aspects, because it’s so much more than money. Money is the client’s reason for finding a therapist who takes insurance, but there’s so much more in the quality of service that you receive. Could you talk to that a little bit about why would you choose one therapist over the other like insurance versus not?

This is a contentious point in the field of psychotherapy. I will delicately traverse here. There are those who feel very strongly about needing to accept insurance and there are those who feel very strongly about not needing to. I would say I’m in the middle. The reason being is that when you accept insurance, generally speaking, it’s cheaper for the client and therefore it is more accessible. That means that regardless of socioeconomic status, everyone has access to a therapist if they want it. I don’t think that’s completely true because not everyone has insurance, first and foremost, but also having access to all therapist is different than having access to the therapist that’s going to be best suited to you and your needs.

That’s besides insurance. I will say I had intended to take insurance and I had a personally a hard time making the decision not to take insurance. Since then, I’m glad that I decided not to at this point in time in my life. I reserve the right to grow. If I changed my mind in the future, I changed my mind in the future. The clients that come to me are coming to me because they want to work with me. They can see what I’m specializing in. They can feel the energy and vibration that I provide based on what they’re reading about me and the consultation that I provide. They want to work with me. They’re not just looking for a therapist. Once we connect, they’re like, “You are my therapist.” That’s why they go that way.

Although they may first be wondering about the financial piece, ultimately, they’re making the decision based on the connection they think is going to best serve them. My clients tend to stay once they come in. It does depend on you and what you’re looking for. If the primary barrier is finances, then use your insurance. There are some amazing therapists that do accept insurance or provide sliding scales. I do have sliding scales slots. You can go either way but what I would say is whichever route you go, whether you’re going through your insurance or you’re not, make sure that you talk with the therapist. Try to get a free consultation first, if you can, and then it’s a good fit for you. That’s what makes the most transformational coaching or therapy. It is the goodness of fit between the people. That’s the most powerful and most important thing. If you’re feeling forced into working with a therapist because of finances that you don’t get along with, it can create more frustration than it can reduce stress, which isn’t what anyone wants.

I hope all of the audience read what she said right there. If you’re working with a therapist and it’s not a good therapist-client match, which I am guilty of in the past. I can say from my life experience that it did set me back because I didn’t speak up. I didn’t say anything, especially in my twenties. I would just pick a therapist, go start seeing a therapist, and didn’t give enough thought to this. I didn’t even know that this was a conversation I should have with myself. These are some important points to think about whenever we’re choosing a therapist. I also love the idea of seeing if you can get a free consultation if money is an issue because a lot of therapists will offer that. A lot of coaches will offer that. It’s so worth it. A lot of times, there’s a minimal fee and I’ve also seen therapists or coaches who will charge a fee for the consultation.

If you sign up for sessions, then you get your money back from the consultation, which is a give and take because they’ll reduce your first session or what have you. There are a lot of different ways to look at this. It’s important to shop around when people endure trauma that gets imprinted in the nervous system. Very rarely are we by our self when trauma happens. There are usually other people around. Healing happens in relationships too, which is why that therapist-client connection is important if you want to get better. These are important points to talk about. Thank you so much for bringing this up. What else have we not talked about or covered yet on considerations when choosing a therapist?

Coach Or Therapist: Having access to a therapist is different from having access to the therapist that’s going to be best suited to your needs.

I also was in position when I was younger, where I had to see a therapist and just saw the therapist that was available to me. I wouldn’t say something negative came out of it but it wasn’t helpful either. Maybe you don’t know everything about therapists, most people don’t, but you still get to express your thoughts and feelings. If you’re with a therapist and you’re not sure about the fit, you’re curious about it, saying that, don’t worry about offending the therapist. I tell this to my clients. This is coming from me. I can’t speak for all therapists, but I saw it with some of my clients. I say, “If there’s something that feels off, or I’m misunderstanding something, or there’s some miscommunication if you feel there’s some verge that’s coming up for you, let me know. Never worry about offending me because I’m here to support you.”

If the offense were to come out of it that had nothing to do with me but was coming from that person, that’s rich information right there for us to dive into about some ways where that may come up in other relationships. Regardless if it’s never brought up and never gets tended to. What might happen is I’m feeling a mismatch or you’re not challenging me. If you’re not bringing it up, then they don’t know and they can’t respond, which means you won’t know. You won’t get that answer. You won’t know if it’s the fit or there’s something happening in your mind that needs to be discussed. If you had discussed it, you’re like, “I feel a lot better now that I got to say that and I didn’t feel like I had to hold it in.”

That’s a perfect example of what Brené Brown means when she talks about vulnerability. Speaking up and telling what you’re experiencing or what’s going through your mind at that time are those little moments of vulnerability that can have a huge impact on your overall life. It’s wonderful information. What about coaching? How does coaching fit into this whole discussion? What are the similarities and differences? Why might we choose one over another?

Coaching tends to focus on the how and therapy tends to focus on the why. Here I am speaking in generalities because all therapist’s styles are a little bit different. In therapy, we might be focusing more on the roots of what has led to some of these challenges that you’re seeing happen in your life. Maybe their relationship patterns that have been toxic or whatever the case may be. We might be focusing more on the root so that we can help make the shifts in the here and now that increase your quality of life. Whereas coaching, we might be focusing more on action steps that are going to help you move forward and get out of that stuckness of those patterns that are being created.

I personally marry both, the why and the how, into therapy and coaching, but I’m heavier on the why in therapy. Although I never dig into why that’s not impacting someone in the here and now. If it’s not impacting you now, we don’t need to go back and try to relive it. That’s not the purpose. It’s not to go back and dig things up. If something is impacting you here now, so it’s impacting your ability to enjoy your life or to function well, it’s impacting your wellness and your health, then that’s where we’re going to want to dig. Oftentimes, it traces back to roots and then we can uncover there. It’s releasing, freeing, clarifying, and it makes so much more sense.

When I move forward, I can understand when these old patterns are coming up for me. That’s some of the why and I can choose to re-orient in a more intentional way. That’s still some of what I’m going to do in coaching, but I’m not going to be as intentional about tracing back to the roots. It’s more like what we call psychodynamic in the therapy realm. I’m not necessarily going that route on purpose, but if we’re headed that way, we’re headed that way. What I will say is if I’m noticing with a coaching client that there’s a lot of trauma that needs to be processed at a deeper level, then I’m going to recommend that they see a therapist. I can’t be someone’s therapist and their coach. It’s not ethical and it breaches a lot of therapeutic boundaries.

It’s up to them if they would want to continue working with the therapist and me. I would never force anyone to do anything but I would not be able to provide deep processing therapy within the coaching realm. However, as a therapist, you can pull some coaching in. You can pull some coaching aspects into the realm and be very action and goal-oriented, have assignments and tasks that are outside of the therapy office that someone can incorporate into their life. In fact, that’s how you get faster results. Not that faster is always better. I don’t want to be misleading there. Certainly, when you take things outside of either therapy office or the coaching session, and you start applying it in your life, that’s where you’re going to get the momentum.

Could you speak a little bit more about the ethics of each one? You mentioned that it’s not ethical to be both somebody’s coach and therapist.

There’s a lot of training that goes into becoming a therapist like extensive training, years of experience, clinical licensure. In order to uphold that licensure, you are overseen by a credentialing body and you are expected, required, legally obligated to follow all of those expectations. You may have heard of HIPAA. That’s something that we need to follow in therapy. We need to keep all of your information private and confidential. We can’t blur boundaries. We can’t have what we call a dual relationship. If someone is your therapist, they are legally only and ever able to be your therapist. Different from state-to-state, there are sometimes years put on that. Maybe five years post-therapy than that dual relationship expires or whatever.

That depends on state-to-state so I can’t go into those specifics, but generally speaking, once a therapist, always your therapist. You can’t have a different relationship outside of the therapy relationship because there is that expert status assigned to a therapist that has this inherent sense of authority in a relationship. That authority can be misused. We want to protect people from ever being in a position where they’re feeling influenced by the authority of a therapist in a negative or unhealthy way. That’s a lot of what the governing body wants to make sure does not happen.

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As a therapist, you’re able to work with people in all different places of life. Many of whom are in crisis mode sometimes and not always in a place where they can practice their autonomy the way I would expect a coach and client to be able to do. That means that the liability is bigger because the challenges that can be presented by clients were also bigger. We need to make sure that we are careful and diligent about how we are treating our clients so that they stay safe, their information stays private, and they’re getting the care that they need.

You also mentioned that coaching can help faster but then you said faster is not always better. I’ve studied Peter Levine’s word. I’m one class away from finishing because of COVID. I still got my advanced too, but it’s huge to focus on titration, which is slowing things down. Can you speak a little bit as to why faster is not always better and why you might want to slow it down a little bit when you’re working with somebody?

It’s not necessarily that coaching can be faster but when you’re taking things outside of the session or realm, whether it’s therapy or coaching, that helps make it faster. What makes the difference, whether it’s therapy or coaching, is repetition because that’s how our brains learn. Whatever we’re going to repeat on a consistent basis, our brains are going to want to do that more efficiently. Therefore, they’re going to make it easier for us to go to that behavior or that thought process. That takes time. You can’t rush that. The only way that you can make that “faster” is if you are repeating and practicing it more and more.

A lot of people view therapy as only happening in the session. If you are only practicing new thought or talking about the things that are coming up for you that you want to shift behaviors, in session, say once a week, and you’re not carrying that over to incorporate in different practices throughout the week in your day-to-day life, then it is going to take longer because you’re retraining at a slower pace. With coaching, at least my tendency is to provide actionable steps not just during the session but in between sessions. I can provide pre-recorded modules that have pieces in there to walk through steps.

I have in-between spot coaching sessions. I have all these other layers that I don’t necessarily have the opportunity to provide in therapy that helps hold the person accountable to practice in between sessions. Whereas in therapy, we talk about assignments if applicable, depending on the person and supporting them with carrying that through. The accountability piece with how I operate is not as high between sessions with therapy as it is with coaching. Therefore, it can go faster because the practice is happening more regularly due to heightened accountability.

Could you give an example or a few general parameters about why somebody might want to take the slower route versus the faster route? There are important considerations on, do you want to slow this down? Do you want to practice on your own in between? Do you need only to work with the therapist during the sessions?

If we’re not in a place where we feel safe with our emotions, if we’re not in a place where we feel safe physically or we are able to engage with our own thoughts or feelings without feeling unsafe, then we’re not in a place yet to do that in-between stuff on our own. Therefore, it makes sense to wait until your therapy session. You have that person that supports you and that you trust to be there with you and to support you in a way that feels safe. That means you got to take it slower because you need to feel safe in order to make that progress. If you’re not feeling safe, you can wind up heightening your symptoms. If emotion is flooding you and it’s something that’s challenging for you or perhaps feeling disassociated, anything that’s not feeling safe for you, it makes sense to not do things between sessions on your own and to do it in session with your therapist. If you’re not feeling safe with yourself, therapy is the route to go.

If you’re not feeling safe, as far as suicide or anything of that concern, crisis is where you would need to be. That’s a higher level of care, which means you have people that are with you all of the time to make sure that you are physically safe. You’re not in a place where you can practice that on your own. Therefore, you can’t rush that because it’s going to take time for your mind and your body to learn what and how to feel safe again. As you said, that happens within the context of relationships. You need that context in that relationship. You want that to gradually be nurtured in a safe way because that is gaining that experience that you need to learn. I can feel safe in a relationship. We cannot rush that. It’s not possible. It’s too important. If you’re not feeling safe with yourself, you are too important to try to rush that. If you were to ask anyone that works with me, I say all the time there was no light switch for any of this stuff.

There’s a time and a place to want to move forward in an expedited route. There are a time and a place to take that slow and gradual route but never is there a light switch. Sometimes we want that like, “I want it to go away. I want it to stop. I want it to be better. I want it to be fixed.” That’s not how it works. If it did, if you got everything all at once, it wouldn’t mean as much to you anyway. I know that’s hard to hear if you’re in a difficult place. I can say that from experience because I’ve had my own challenges with mental health, with depression, bulimia, and anxiety. I know when you’re in the midst of it, you don’t want to hear like, “This too shall pass. You’re not alone.” You don’t want to hear that, yet there’s a part of you that can find comfort.

If you’re able to plug into that little party that can find this comfort, “I’m strong. If I’m feeling I can’t be strong, it’s okay to lean on someone else, reach out, ask for help.” It’s okay if it takes some time because this support that I need is so meaningful, powerful, and worth it. If I could switch it off, I wouldn’t need that support. I don’t need the relationship. It’s trying to cut the relationships out of the picture. We don’t want that. Even if you feel in the moment you do, in the long run, our life is made up of all these connections and beautiful experiences with ourselves and with one another. We want to do what we can to nurture those and to make those have opportunities of joy and pleasure.

Coach Or Therapist: Coaching tends to focus on the how and therapy tends to focus on the why.

I love how you described that. I say the same thing that you have to do it slowly. I call it Pavloving ourselves. We have to Pavlov ourselves and he didn’t just get the food, the bell, and the saliva. That didn’t happen once. It wasn’t the flip of a switch. That took time to get it there. A lot of my audience have heard me in past episodes talking about the neuroplasticity of the brain. That’s what you’re talking about. If you want that neuroplasticity and those new neural connections to stick, you have to choose them and practice them.

It becomes part of your procedural memory. I don’t know that a lot of therapists go into explanations. I’ve never had a therapist ever talk to me about the difference between explicit and procedural memory. I learned that when I started taking classes to become trauma-informed. I’m like, “Why didn’t anybody ever tell me this?” It was life-changing when it became part of my conscious awareness, the difference between the implicit mind and the explicit mind, procedural memory and explicit memory, and how all that works.

You said something that is important because you were at a place to hear it, and maybe many years ago, you weren’t. Even if someone had told you, it may not have had that same level of impact. Maybe it would have been nice or helpful but it may not have had that same level of impact as it did for you in those moments. That speaks to the question you asked too of when is it good to go fast? When is it going to slow down? You’re in different places throughout your life. When you’re going to receive the experience or the information that it’s going to hit you differently at different points in time, that’s another reason why it can’t be rushed. I do psycho-education for both coaching and therapy clients based on brain science and all of those pieces. I’m careful not to give too much all at once because if they’re not ready to hear all of it, it’s going to overwhelm them. If they’re feeling more overwhelmed, they’re going to pull back. That’s going to make it more difficult for us to move forward. I’m very careful about when and how much information I’m giving at any given time to any particular person.

I am guilty. My name’s Jennifer and I’m an oversharer. That should be my support group. I overshare information. I do everything you said not to do. I’m so guilty of that.

Information is great. There’s a lot of it. That can speak to some of that impostor syndrome of we all want more information. Sometimes we find comfort in more information but also sometimes we rely too much on it. Being in the moment and then the experience, it can be enough. That doesn’t mean that information isn’t awesome. It’s great to have information but we’re not always going to be ready for all of it. Therefore, we’re not going to process all of it all the time either.

Toni, what are some parameters or some signs in a person’s life that they might be ready for coaching, which is a little bit faster or a different approach where they have more homework in between sessions or more accountability in between?

I would say that the highly motivated would be a great candidate for my coaching. Highly motivated, meaning I want to do the work. I want and ready for this shift. I’m welcoming it in, even though it might feel scary. Of course, it will because all new things feel scary to some extent but I’m ready and I’m wanting.

The hell yes versus I want to try it.

I’m careful even to say that because if you want to try it and the hesitancy is that fear, that’s also normal, so get on the phone and not necessarily that it has to be me. If you feel a connection with me, but if you feel a connection with a different coach, reach out and say, “I’m wanting to but I’m feeling scared and this is why.” That’s a great way to begin and get an idea of, “Will this coach be able to support me with my fears.” By the end of that call, you will most likely have a little bit more clarity of, “I’m still feeling a little bit fearful, but I feel a connection with this coach. I believe we’re on the same page and I want this particular goal. This more balance in my life. It matters to me.”

We’re always boosting motivation at the beginning of my coaching program. We want to build that up and increase that momentum at the beginning of the coaching so that we can maintain that momentum and be able to plug into it when we need to throughout the duration of our coaching time together. For therapy, you don’t have to be as highly motivated. Not that you don’t do therapy because you are. I have plenty of clients that are highly motivated and still do therapy, but they know that they were wanting to process some things. They experienced some challenges and trauma in their backline and they want to process it. Some people prefer therapy because they know it better. They’re not familiar with coaching and it’s comfortable for them. They don’t usually want to go there.

If you’re not feeling safe with yourself, therapy is the route to go. If you’re highly motivated, go for coaching. CLICK TO TWEET

There’s still a lot of misconceptions about coaching and I admit I had them myself. My first few experiences, one in particular, with a coach that was very protocol-driven. The first time you come in, this is what we’re going to do. The next time, this is what we’re going to do. That was my introduction to coaching but I don’t need steps 1, 2, and 3. I’m ready to jump in to step four. That didn’t matter. I felt like there was an agenda being pushed on me. After I learned about the coaching program, I ended up not going with it because it felt like in position and not what I was looking for. Those are important considerations because I can see where that structured coaching could work for some people and not for others. At the same time, I looked back at my misconceptions about coaching. That’s one of the reasons I chose to call myself a strategist and not a coach because I didn’t want that stigma following me around. It’s not about the label. It’s about the person. A strategist is what I am.

Whatever fits for you. I can plead guilty there. I definitely had some aversions to coaching initially that I worked through myself. That came from my therapy background and some of the misconceptions that are presented. I put the onus on myself that I needed to do the research in order to shift my perspective and be open to learning new things about coaching. I’m glad I did. I’ve met some amazing people in the process that I wouldn’t have otherwise met if I hadn’t allowed myself to welcome coaching into my life as well.

Do you have a coach?

I have a therapist. I don’t have a coach. I have invested in coaches. They’ve been awesome and all very different. Some are more protocol-driven, as you said and some less so. I’ve learned from my experience in each of those kinds of investments that I made. I used three different coaches at this point, all incredibly different. I learned what feels good to me and what doesn’t, which has helped me be a better coach and create different programs. I do have different options to help meet people where they’re at. I do have expectations and I want my clients to have expectations too because I want to hold my clients accountable for their process so they can get the outcome that they desire. I expect myself to be held accountable on my end so that I’m following through with what I need to follow through. I’m not missing pieces of the puzzle. I’m not allowing myself to go off on a tangent, and not serving them right back at the goal.

If I don’t have some strategy or outline that I’m following, it feels chaotic. That’s not who I am and that’s not how I want to operate. I do have a strategy on brain science. I followed that research in neuroscience. I also incorporate different pieces of spirituality and a variety of psychology and things like that. All the different pieces of my personal and professional background I bring to the table in my coaching business, as well as some in my therapy business. There are some clients that are more spiritually led and spiritually based that I’ll bring spiritual pieces in. I’m very much so and more cautious about that in the therapy realm. Disclosure is different in therapy than it is in coaching. In coaching, there tends to be a lot more self-disclosure whereas, in therapy, you need to be diligent and careful. Some people don’t disclose it all. There’s no self-disclosure in therapy at all. There are definitely more strict and stringent boundaries in the therapy realm.

The self-disclosure piece can be tricky because without there being any self-disclosure at all, it can feel like there’s no connection with the person you’re talking to. It can feel cold like the therapist is like, “What do you think about that? How do you feel about that?” On the other end of the spectrum, if there’s too much disclosure, it can almost be this weird transference where you have this needy coach who’s almost needing to overshare. It’s important to find that balance because not everybody’s perfect. Therapists, coaches, strategists, we’re all human too and we’re all going through our process. Nobody’s perfect. That relational aspect is so important. One other thing, there are so many different labels in the coaching world. There’s life coaching, business coaching, wellness coaching, and my title is empowerment strategists. How can a person look at all of the different types of coaching that are out there, maybe sift through it and discern? It can almost be like going to a nursery for the first time and you don’t know anything about plants. They’re all these plants around you. I have no idea which one works.

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that as far as looking at the labels and discerning from there because you can choose your label in coaching. Anyone can create any label and choose whatever label works for them. I would encourage that consultation and to read about the person. I have an About Me section on my website. Read about the person and see if there’s a connection. Bringing yourself back to that connection. I don’t think the term matters. The connection matters so much more, especially with coaching. In therapy, there are limited licensures. To be honest, if you’re not a therapist, most people don’t know what my LCSW stands for unless they are familiar with the lingo of the clinical realm.

They go based on what we talked about like the insurance piece, the specialty, or the vibe that they get when they talk with me. I would say focus on the connection and what feels good to you. When you look into this person’s eyes, do you feel supported? Do you feel comforted? Do you feel judged? What do you feel? That matters and people forget how they feel matters. I’m not saying give your feelings the driver’s seat and let them take over. That’s not what I’m suggesting, but I am suggesting that you acknowledge how you feel. You recognize and you allow it to be a part of your decision-making process.

I’ve talked a lot about that in the past episodes about how our feelings, especially sensation and emotion in the body are our GPS system. If we know what those signals mean whenever they come up, that’s an important aspect too. One thing I recommend to my clients based upon everything you were saying like reading websites and all of that. As you’re shopping around and you go to somebody’s website, so many of us have little video clips. Watch those video clips, get a feel for the person, get a feel for their baseline, how they talk, how they speak, how they move. If you can’t sit through a 2 or 3-minute video on somebody’s website because you’re annoyed or it’s too much, do you want to go into a coaching program where you’re going to be sitting in an office or possibly in the COVID era on Zoom calls? Do you work online on this type of conference with clients?

I do. Everything is online right now. Generally speaking, my coaching sessions are virtual anyway. At this time, everything including my private practice is virtual office time providing telehealth.

Coach Or Therapist: Acknowledge how you feel and you allow it to be a part of your decision-making process.

Are there any considerations that somebody would want to think about before signing up with a therapist or a coach in an online session versus an in-person session? Does that matter one way or another?

Let me give a little caveat that I did personally have a bit of resistance switching from in-person therapy sessions to online therapy sessions. However, once the transition was made, I want to say after the first five weeks, myself and all my clients have gotten used to it to where it’s going to feel a big transition go back to in-person. We’re not doing that at this time, but I say that because there’s a bias of what you’re used to. Sometimes, you want to do what’s comfortable because it’s what you’re used to. That doesn’t necessarily mean that another way can’t serve you. I cannot say that my clients have been less served because we’re online. I don’t think it’s true.

They continue to make great progress and have powerful sessions. If you have a very strong preference, go for that preference. COVID is still happening and a lot of therapists, especially private practice, are opting to do telehealth to preserve the health of the masses. In the office, people are in and out and there are often waiting rooms. There’s a lot of sharing that’s going around, people of all different ages. To err on the side of caution, that’s what a lot of therapists are doing. Generally speaking, outside of COVID times, the typical has been in-person. I would have said that that would have been my preference at that time.

That’s a hard one to answer. If you have a strong preference, respect that and talk about that on the consultation call. I’ve had people reach out to me and say, “I want to schedule a session.” I always say, “We need to have a consultation call first because I want to assess for goodness of fit and see if I’m a good fit for you, as much as I want you to assess for goodness of fit to see if I’m a good fit for you.” That consultation call gives us that chance to do that without high pressure. If you’re open to doing that, I do recommend it, especially if they’re offering that.

A lot of us have been surprised at how successful we can translate things online, whereas before, we thought this would never work online. COVID has shown us that some of our assumptions were just assumptions. Another question, when you and I chatted, you mentioned that you can be more creative with your coaching. Do you mind giving us a few examples of what does that creativity look like in your coaching that you wouldn’t see in your therapy?

I spoke a little bit to that and I can be able to provide different kinds of support between sessions. I can do a spot coaching session if they’re having a hard time, they can email me and I’ll respond. If it’s something we need to get on the phone for fifteen minutes, we can schedule a fifteen-minute phone call. I also provide recordings that they can access whenever and wherever they need to that supports them. When there is a recurrent theme that I see a need coming up or even for a particular person, I can create a video and offer that for them to be able to utilize at any point too. There’s such a variety of things that I can introduce not just during our sessions, but between our sessions that allow me to be of further support. I am not able to do that as much in therapy. We can’t communicate via email in order to comply with HIPAA and to ensure that every possible shred of any privacy or personal information could not possibly get out to anyone. I do not communicate any personal information with therapy clients via email.

It’s just scheduling, canceling, sending a document that doesn’t have personal information, or whatever the case is via email, but that in-between support is not the same. Because my coaching often comes in packages, there are some exceptions where that’s different, which means you’re not paying piecemeal. You’re getting this package of wraparound support. It’s like having me in your pocket whereas in therapy, you’re paying per hour or per whatever the session is. In between time, we’d have to book another session or something, if you need support in between there, or I’d refer you to a crisis unit if you’re in crisis and things like that. The dynamics and legality are different, therefore, my ability to offer a variety of support during in-between sessions is different. It’s different for a good reason. I don’t think this is a bad thing and I’m glad that you’re highlighting some of these pieces so that people can hear. This isn’t about good or bad, right or wrong. This is about feeling out what feels good for you. What feels good for you is going to be different than what feels good for the next person and that’s okay.

I do want to point out that that’s another thing that I hear a lot about coaches is coaches have packages. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a therapist that has packages. That’s just my personal experience. A lot of times, when you sign up for coaching, you’re working with somebody for 1, 3, or 6 months at a time. You know you’re going into it that, “I’ve got three months before I decide, do I want to do this again or what my progress is?” In therapy, there’s not necessarily that beginning and end parameter because you don’t know. In either situation, you don’t know how you’re going to progress. I also think there’s a different state of mind going into the two different ones. Toni, this information is fantastic. Thank you for sharing your brilliance with us. This is wonderful. I imagine that some of the audiences out there are going to want to look you up. They’re going to want to find you online. For the audience, how can they find you online?

Simply reach out to me and email me. I like to hear from people. I like to be able to respond. I do personally respond to all my emails and that email is [email protected]. You can click on my website and schedule a free consult with me if you have questions or anything like that. On that site, there is an area that says Therapy or Coaching. If you’re wanting to read a little bit more or digging a little bit more, you can check that out and you can see if there’s any more information that you’d like to have answered there about the difference between therapy or coaching, which will might be good for you.

Thank you so much. Toni, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show with us. It has been an honor. This information is going to be invaluable to people. Thank you for sharing.

Reserve your right to grow. You don’t need to be perfect. Be okay about continuously evolving.CLICK TO TWEET

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. I certainly do hope that this information is helpful. Please feel free to reach out and ask me any questions. If I can answer them, I will. If I can’t, I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

Toni, before we finally sign off, do you have any final tips or bits of wisdom to leave with our readers?

I’ve said that I reserved my right to grow and that has been a powerful motto that I’ve created and going for myself to lean into. It’s important right now, given all the divisive times that are happening for everyone and the pressure that we put on ourselves, we put on other people, to know everything, do everything right, or being feared of being judged. That’s amping up our anxiety or stress level. It came from all these pieces that would lead someone to do therapy or coaching. What I want to say to you is to reserve your rights to grow. You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to know everything. You don’t need to do everything on your own. Reserve your right to grow that right now you know enough and in the next moment, you’ll learn something else, and you’ll continuously grow and evolve and let that be okay. It’s very freeing.

Thank you again, Toni. It’s been an honor to have you on the show. For all our readers, if you have questions, Toni’s email was [email protected]. You can always reach out to me at [email protected]. I have the same response Toni has. If I can’t answer your question, I will do what I can to point you in the right direction or help you find an answer. If you found value out of this episode which I can’t imagine that you didn’t, there’s so much good stuff on how to make a decision on what’s right for me, or if you know somebody who’s struggling and doesn’t know which route to take, please share this episode and please subscribe. There are a lot of people out there who could be helped by this and this is important information. Please spread the word and I hope to see you all again.

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About Dr. Toni Warner

Dr. Toni Warner, LCSW, MSW, MeD, is a mother of three, a transformational life & wellness coach for the busy ambitious who’re ready to crush overwhelm, tame the anxiety, effectively manage stress and delete burnout. She helps her clients to create meaningful balance in their lives while boosting motivation and energy levels, without sacrificing productivity at work or quality time with loved ones.

Dr. Toni is the founder of Dr. Toni Coaches, LLC, a coaching, educating and consulting business. It’s mission is to inspire and enact meaningful change in the world by helping heart-centered impact makers and busy leaders to create work, life & relationship balance, allowing them to more deeply and meaningfully live, love, connect and share their gifts, enhancing their lives and the lives of others.

Dr. Toni is also the founder of Authentically Me Psychotherapy, LLC, where she supports high achieving and creative individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, burn out and disconnection, to get in touch with their core selves so they can live more fully and authentically aligned lives.

Dr. Toni has been in the helping professions field for over a decade and is trained in a variety of tools and techniques, such as brainspotting, Life Coaching, CBT, trauma-informed approaches, and others.

***Please note that coaching and therapy are not one and the same; they are separate services and the above mentioned are separate business entities. If you are unsure which service best fits your needs, simply reach out and ask.

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