The concept of coaching, in general, refers to a form of development in which an experienced “coach” provides training and guidance to help the learner, or “coachee,” achieve their individual goals. The most common form of coaching is found in athletics, but that’s not to say that coaching can’t help people in a myriad of ways in both their personal and professional lives. That includes those who engage in life coaching for physicians.
Here's what to know about life coaching for doctors and whether it's something that could benefit white coat investors.
What Is Physician Life Coaching?
Physician life coaching involves the practice of physicians coaching typically less experienced physicians through particular aspects of their careers. The most common form of physician life coaching is to combat burnout—which can impact as many as 50% of doctors and other medical professionals. However, many doctors turn to physician life coaching to help with anything from maintaining a work-life balance and improving work efficiency to building leadership skills and everything in between.
What Does a Life Coach Do?
Quite simply, a life coach uses their years of experience to impart education, motivation, and insight to those trying to overcome the same hurdles the coach may have faced themselves at some point during their lives. Hindsight is 20/20, so coaches are put in the unique position of taking what they’ve learned from their own mistakes—or advice they may have received from their own mentors—to help the coachee realize their best selves.
But a life coach doesn’t just relay their own experiences to provide a path to success. By taking a personalized, holistic approach, coaches can actually help guide the coachee into learning new habits, changing mindsets or bad habits, and eliminating negative ways of thinking. In some instances, physician life coaches can help the learner with specific concerns, such as navigating a malpractice lawsuit, transitioning into retirement, running their own practice, or even starting a business outside of the medical field.
Is Life Coaching Legit?
As with anything else in life, basically, you get what you pay for with life coaching. That’s not to say that the best life coaches are the most expensive. (Though, for the most part, that’s not untrue.) But because life coaching is an unregulated industry, it makes it even more essential to find a coach who has been properly vetted and certified. Otherwise, you might end up with an inexperienced coach with no formal training who will be more than happy to pocket your money in exchange for the bare minimum.
Why Hire a Physician Life Coach?
To put it in the most simple terms possible: if you find yourself struggling in any aspect of your life or career, it’s highly likely that you can benefit from working with a physician life coach.
It also should hardly come as a surprise that most physician life coaches will advocate that everyone should have a coach. After all, being a doctor is one of the most stressful and demanding jobs you can have, and as a result, entering the medical field can be something akin to a newborn calf finding its legs. But whether you’re a new doctor or well into your career, physician life coaching is a rapidly expanding field that can provide guidance for medical professionals at nearly every level.
In addition to general physician life coaching, some other specific areas of expertise that can be addressed through coaching include executive coaching for doctors, leadership coaching, medical practice business coaching, career and job search coaching, financial coaching, and even onboarding coaching.
What’s the Difference Between Life Coaching and Therapy?
Now that you understand the basics of life coaching, you might be asking yourself how it's different from run-of-the-mill therapy—especially considering that depression and anxiety are common symptoms among doctors experiencing burnout.
But while coaching can help alleviate these conditions, it is not a substitute for therapy. Both coaches and therapists can help correct maladaptive thought processes and shape personal and professional growth. However, those experiencing serious mental health issues are better off in the hands of medical professionals who are trained and licensed to deal with these issues—not simply a coach who also happens to be a physician.
Unfortunately, many physicians prefer to seek a coach to help them deal with these issues instead of a therapist because of the mental health stigmas that come with therapy. In some cases, physicians may even avoid therapy due to the licensing and credentialing consequences that may arise from seeking mental health care.
What Are the Benefits of Life Coaching for Physicians?
There isn’t much data on physician life coaching since it’s a fairly new industry, but anecdotal evidence from both coaches and their clients suggests incredible life-changing breakthroughs. Many doctors who have undergone physician coaching experience a variety of positive effects such as increased motivation, comfort, and confidence.
A 2019 JAMA study about the effects of physician life coaching on burnout provides some of the best data we have on the topic.
The study, titled, “Effect of a Professional Coaching Intervention on the Well-Being and Distress of Physicians: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial,” took a group of 88 medical professionals and placed half into an experimental (or “coaching”) group who received a total of 3.5 hours of coaching over the course of six months.
The participants were allowed to select any type of specific coaching they wanted, including work-related topics (such as optimizing meaning in work, addressing workloads, and improving efficiency) to non-work-related issues (like pursuing hobbies and engaging in self-care).
By the end of the study, the group who had received coaching reported the following benefits:
- Emotional exhaustion decreased by 19.5% (increased 9.8% in the control group)
- Burnout symptoms decreased by 17.1% (increased 4.9% in the control group)
- Overall quality of life increased by 20.3% (increased 1.5% in the control group)
- Resilience increased by 4.2% (increased by 2.0% in the control group)
However, areas where coaching did not seem to help included depersonalization-related issues, overall job satisfaction, and measures of engagement and meaning at work.
Considering that the coaching group received just 3.5 hours of coaching over six months, just imagine the benefits that could come from a well-designed, regimented coaching program. Moreover, it’s highly likely that with continued coaching, the participants also would have also seen improvements in job satisfaction and meaning.
However, coaching alone won’t solve your most challenging work-related issues. Like most things in life, physician life coaching is only as good as efforts put into it; so if you want to reap the rewards and see these changes, you must also do the work.
What Physicians Should Look for in a Life Coach
To get the most out of coaching, doing your due diligence to find the right coach for your individual needs is just as important as the work you’ll put in later.
In physician coaching, experience is key. And not just relevant professional work experience—though, that also helps—but the coach's experience with coaching. Since physician coaching can be a lucrative industry, plenty of coaches come and go. So, it’s crucial to find a coach with a minimum of a few years of experience and at least 100 previous clients.
It’s also essential to select a coach that fits the particular focus you need to work on and match yourself accordingly. For example, if you’re dealing with burnout, you certainly will not get much out of a physician coach who specializes in finances or leadership skills. If you’re unsure, simply open up a dialogue to ask the coach what type of clients they work with and what issues they typically advise.
However, you’ll want to watch out for physicians who are new to life coaching and may attempt to fit all of their clients into the same mold—for instance, providing coaching on anything from burnout to finances. Eventually, if these coaches stick with it long enough, they may find their niche and not have to take on any client they can get. But is that the person you want advising your career? Everyone has to start somewhere, but not at your expense.
Other things to look out for are whether the coach is a good fit personality-wise, their availability, cost of services, and if they’ve been certified in their particular area of expertise. We’ll get to these topics shortly.
Should a Physician Life Coach Be Certified?
As we previously mentioned, coaching is an unregulated industry. Since there are no legal requirements that a life coach must adhere to when running their business, one thing to look out for is whether they’ve been certified.
Life coaching certifications can likewise run the gamut of legitimate to, well, less so. At the very least, it demonstrates that the coach is serious enough about their business to seek out additional credentials. Of course, any physician life coach can tell you that their program is the best, but there’s no better metric than whether the coach has taken the time to get certified.
If you’re a physician who’s feeling burned out, The White Coat Investor can help. With our Burnout Proof MD program, we can assist you in getting back to the place, mentally and physically, that will allow you to be at your best and to make sure you continue forward with your financial plan. End the struggle and remember why you wanted to be a doctor with Burnout Proof MD.
How Much Does Life Coaching Cost for Doctors?
This will not come as a huge surprise, but physician life coaching does not come cheap. After all, these are medical professionals, whether currently practicing or retired, and they’re certainly not going to offer their services for free.
Though the actual costs can vary wildly, the coaching sessions mentioned in the above study cost approximately $1,400 per person for 3.5 hours of one-on-one coaching, or about $400 per hour. But that was also from a few years ago and generally on the low end of the spectrum of what you can expect a coaching program to cost.
Many options are in the four-figure range, but those will only buy you limited coaching sessions lasting a few months. For ongoing help, you’re going to spend a lot more. Some physicians pay as much as $60,000 a year for their life coaches, while some coaching programs charge anywhere from $150,000 to as much as $1 million per year for their services.
If you’re just starting out and those numbers seem a little rich for your blood, there are other options if you’re feeling backed into a corner and need guidance. Though most physicians prefer to be coached by someone who has been in their shoes, a non-physician life coach might only set you back anywhere from $200-$1,000 per month. Likewise, group coaching programs can also help keep down the costs.
Another option is to dip your toe in by checking out an introductory discovery session, which many coaches offer free of charge, to see if the program is right for you.
Is Life Coaching Worth the Money?
Though we’ve established that life coaching is a costly investment, it’s also one that should provide exponential returns. Even with a program that only lasts for a few months, the costs are still fairly reasonable when considering the value received.
For example, when you consider a doctor who is burned out to the point of being ready to quit, just imagine how a life coach can help them recover and steer them back down that career path for another decade or two. The difference could be millions of dollars for an investment of just a few thousand. And while it’s impossible to guess an exact return on investment, it’s not hard to see how it can positively impact your bottom line in the long run.
Those who take advantage of coaching programs will likely tell you that their physician life coaches are their most expensive professional advisors. However, even if you end up paying your coach more than your physician, attorney, accountant, financial advisor, and therapist combined, the value to be gained is second to nothing.
Where to Find a Life Coach
If you’re sold on coaching and ready to take the next steps to a healthier, more adjusted medical career, the good news is that you don’t have to look further than The White Coat Investor to get started. We recognize the need to have trusted coaching resources, and we can connect you with a number of our credible physician life coaching partners.
We also offer a variety of programs—including private coaching, group coaching, and online courses—depending on your needs and budget. Our Burnout Proof MD program, in particular, is designed to be a six-month support system for a small community of physicians who can benefit from semi-private coaching. Enrollees have access to six months of weekly two-hour live coaching sessions with a small group of physicians along with three private coaching sessions with coaches who will ensure that you’re on the right track.
Not Ready for a Life Coach, But Looking for Other Resources?
We get it. Life coaching is a big commitment, both financially and from personal time constraints (most programs last anywhere from 10 weeks to six months). Of course, you’re also embarking on a commitment to change your life, but even if you’re not ready to take that step, there are other resources you can seek out in the meantime.
The White Coat Investor offers several books and online courses that can help steer you in the right direction until you’re ready to take that big step.
- Stop Physician Burnout
- The Burnout Fix
- Mayo Clinic Strategies to Reduce Burnout
- The DNA of Physician Leadership
- Financial Wellness and Burnout Prevention for Medical Professionals
- The Ideal Physician Job Search Formula
- One Minute Mindfulness Online Training for Physicians
Perhaps, giving a book or online course a try will give you the courage to take on a physician life coaching program of your own. And if all goes well, maybe someday you’ll even be on the other side of the clipboard yourself.
The White Coat Investor is filled with posts like this, whether it’s increasing your financial literacy, showing you the best strategies on your path to financial success, or discussing the topic of mental wellness. To discover just how much The White Coat Investor can help you in your financial journey, start here to read some of our most popular posts and to see everything else WCI has to offer. And make sure to sign up for our newsletters to keep up with our newest content.