You Decided to Try a Coach—Now What?

Posted on February 19, 2024 by VITAL WorkLife

One method of helping physicians cope with stress, avoid burnout and help them become the best practitioners they can be is coaching. Yet, while many people have heard the term, not everyone is clear about what coaching is.

According to the International Coaching Federation, coaching involves “partnering in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires a person to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.”


The Client in Charge 

In the coaching process, clients are driving the process. They outline to the coach what they want to work on to be successful in any area that’s important to them. As the ICF explains, the coach’s role is to help by asking powerful questions “not to get an answer you desire, but to encourage you in meaningful exploration that can help you reach a new level of depth and performance.”

Comparisons can be helpful in explaining what coaching is and is not. Therapy is focused on the client’s psychological and emotional health, aiming at addressing underlying barriers to optimal living by healing pain, trauma, dysfunction or conflict. “By contrast,” says the ICF, “coaching focuses on facilitating individuals or groups to draw upon their own experiences and capabilities to set and reach their own objectives. The coach is the expert in the coaching process, but the person is the expert on your life journey.”

Peers Helping Peers

For physicians, having a coach who is also a physician comes with important advantages. The coach understands the motivations and values that brought the client into medicine and has experienced the pressurized conditions under which the client works; that saves time and builds empathy from the beginning.

Physician peer coaches are a key part of reducing stigma that still surrounds the idea of a physician seeking help for their well-being. Peer coaches are versatile, supporting physicians in the fight against stress and burnout while also helping optimize performance. Coaching is becoming more and more important in the fight against physician stress and burnout. For a deeper dive into the value of coaching, read our long form article here.

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