FAQ’s (that people often email me about)

I’m an OT, surely I can already coach?

Yes and no. Occupational Therapy is so broad and actually we all have quite different training, depending on where, when and how you trained, so our skills are very different.  Some undergraduate programs now include some basic coaching skills as do some masters programs, but most don’t and its unlikely that supervised coaching practice will be included.

When I sat on my first coach training weekend, I thought “pfff, this is just OT – these coaches need to learn from us!” but then I watched the coach working with someone on my course and thought….”oh actually, that’s really different…this coaching thing is not what I do”

Whilst much of the philosophy of coaching seems similar to OT such as an innate belief in people’s ability to change, empowerment etc, coaching in it’s purist form is very different to OT.  If you have never seem someone being coached, there are lots of videos online…some are awful, some are ok…but take a look.  In pure coaching there is no advice giving, it’s usually just conversation based, its non-medical (people are viewed as creative, resourceful and whole).  As OT’s we have to shut down our solution generator! Co-active, non-directive coaching is the most client-centred way of working I have ever seen.

My general advice is to 1) have some coaching yourself and see how different (or similar) it is to OT 2) if you want to call yourself a professional coach, you need some further training, preferably accredited. If you want to be an OT who uses coaching skills, then short courses may suffice and our eCourse is a cheap and easy place to start. 3) buy the OTCoaching book here, which gives the long answer and some fabulous examples of coaching in OT in action. You will be inspired, I guarantee!

The Coaching Network has some useful definitions and talks about the differences between coaching, mentoring, counselling, traditional therapies etc (…but of course, it doesn’t mention OT (lol)

Is your coaching skills online course accredited? Are CEU’s available?                                          

Professional coach training is a lengthy process and can be very costly, running into thousands of pounds. This eCourse is designed to introduce OTs to the world coaching, teach them some basic coaching skills they can apply in practice as an OT and to help them decide if a more rigorous coach training is for them. It is a low-cost way of exploring coaching for OTs. I developed the eCourse from the face to face workshop I have been running with OTs for over 10 years, for people who can’t come in person, or for those who want to take it at their own pace.

It’s not accredited externally. You get a completion certificate (for the online course 16 hours CPD) attendance certificate (for the in person workshop 8 hours CPD. The more costly accredited programs often require a minimum of 60 hours coaching, plus the learning time and coursework. They last anything from 6 months to several years.

I’m thinking about training as a coach, what should I do?

There are literally hundreds of organisations offering coach training. It can be a minefield.  The Coaching Network offer some good advice and pointers at this website: http://new.coachingnetwork.org.uk/information-portal/training-and-accreditation/

My advice for OTs thinking about coach training is to first experience coaching for yourself – get yourself some coaching. This will help you to really understand the difference between OT and coaching (and the similarity) and also give you the opportunity to explore what sort of coach training you need – do you need a one day workshop, post-grad cert or a PHd! I do recommend courses that include coaching practice with a partner or in a triad, if you want to coach well, but as I say, our eCourse is an easy, low cost way of exploring coaching before you commit to a more significant course of study.

This webpage has some helpful advice on what to consider when looking at coach training courses and it also has good information about accreditation and the regulation of coaching: http://new.coachingnetwork.org.uk/Docs/what_training_do_i_need.pdf

I’m thinking about doing my own thing/becoming an independent OT. What should I do first?

Big question.  Doing your own thing can mean so many different things in OT. First, you must spend time examining why you want to change.  There is a danger that the grass is greener, which it sometimes is and sometimes isn’t.  And there are many different types of new grass…being a sole trader/private OT, setting up a formal OT business/Ltd company, setting up a social enterprise/charity, creating a role emerging OT job in an existing organisation.  There are many options and my advice is to start really examining your interests, values, strengths, challenges, desires, resources etc. before you make any big decisions.  Having a few sessions with a coach can really help and some people end up deciding to just re-craft/tweaking their existing job, rather than making a big change.

I also highly recommend trying things out in a small way, first.  Work with a few people at the evening/weekends if you want to do direct client therapy.  Test out a new way of working by running a short term project or series of workshops in the evenings/weekend or if you can reduce your work hours, that’s ideal.  Clearly, be careful of your contractual obligations, but many people do private work in addition to their day job. Analyse carefully what worked, what didn’t. Make sure you add up all the time you really spent, including notes and research to make sure you have charged properly.  Did you enjoy working this way? Can you see yourself doing this all the time? Would you miss your team or the social side of your current job?  How would you manage if the work was not predictable and the income was subject to periods of “famine and feast”?

Don’t start paying out for expensive websites, logos, stationary – all that can wait and you can also do it for free using free website builders such as Weebly or Wix. You can get stuff done very cheaply such as logo’s on Fivver or Five Squids…. do it all free or very cheap at the start…trust me, you will want to change it all.

If you decide that working independently is for you, there are some workshops/resources which might help. The College of OT Specialist Section Independent Practice have many resources which might help including a regular start up day called “Look before you leap”.  They also outline some ways that OTs work independently, but it’s not the only things we can do outside of regular settings. 

I am really at my wits end, so stressed out and want to leave OT. Do you have any advice?

Yes, I have lots and I have been there. There is no simple answer. We are an amazing profession and  OT seem to succumb to stress, overwhelm and burnout. We tend to take on too much, have very high standards and don’t give up in the face of a difficult situation – we usually find a way forward for our clients/patients.  We are the “go to” people in the office, hospital, organisation and that means we have to be very boundaried and protect our space, time and energy. We are caring people and that don’t often switch off. And we are often working in settings which restrict our practice and don’t allow us to really be Occupational Therapists.  Some people aren’t bothered by all this and seem to ride the storms that come along. Others, like me, find themselves disillusioned, stressed and need a change somehow. (And as for the Imposter Syndrome…well it seem rife in OT and if you don’t know what it is, watch this video)

I started OTCoach because of this very problem – I saw wonderful OTs, creative, resourceful OTs who were so professional and doing such hard jobs, becoming stressed and bullied and wanting to leave the profession.  I feel strongly that coaching is a great way to support OTs in this position – it gives them headspace that supervision doesn’t; it’s gives them space to ponder who they are and what is important to them; it helps them shift perspective and find positive ways forward.  I truly wish that all OTs had access to coaching somehow.  (I also know that coaching will help our profession branch out and reach its bigger potential…but that’s another story!)

So, here are some top resources/tips to help:

  • Start keeping a daily journal. Free writing, preferably every day, is a profoundly powerful practice and has supported me so much over the years
  • Be your own OT : walk your talk. I have written about this here and here (look for my article on self-care), so take a look and spend some time OTing yourself
  • Develop a local peer group of OTs (or other fab people) and meet with them for a good ol’ fashioned chat and cuppa. Share stuff, support others – it’s what humans are good at! It doesn’t need to be a big affair and could also be a virtual meet up
  • Have a look at some of these, which are my favourite books “Loving what is” by Byron Katie, “Steering by Starlight” Martha Beck and “Find your power” Dr Chris Johnstone (good bloke). This could be a very long list….but that will do

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