Changing Directions

Learning to coach your patients about the choices they make.
 
By Kelly Skinner
Four years ago, Life University alumnus and D.C., Chris Perron, found himself reassessing life and his approach to practice. While he enjoyed caring for his patients and was passionate in his work, he was having trouble getting motivated about heading to the office each morning. 
 
After a bit of research, he decided to sign up for a life coaching course with DC Mentors group, a life coaching seminar led by DCs Sovinsky, Sea and Thackeray. As a practice, Perron discovered, Life Coaching borrows elements of sociology, psychology, career counseling and mentoring to assist others in determining and achieving goals. 
 
The end result? “It has allowed me to better meet the patients where they are at this point in time and, therefore, communicate on a level that may be more effective.” 
 
DC Mentors refers to this as “patient-centered-plus” care. “Being able to individualize each interaction due to a stronger communication skill set is where the biggest change has occurred,” he says. “The foundation for better communication begins with understanding yourself better.” 
 
Perron isn’t alone in his support and admiration of life coaching. In fact, as certified empowerment coach Jersey Wulster, D.C., sees it, the coupling of chiropractic and life coaching is a natural one. “Life coaching is a huge tool for me to use when assessing what we are and what it takes for us to be well, which is the essence of what we do as chiropractors.” 
 
Wulster, a self-described “renaissance woman” who’s always “looked for the big picture connecting the dots between mind, body and soul connections,” feels the path of life coaching was something that chose her. “As I got into chiropractic, I found that people started coming to me for far more than just the chiropractic aspect of care. I realized chiropractic is one of the few institutions where the doctors still actually touch their patients, and we’re touching them on so many levels. Suddenly my interest was piqued, I began to think, ‘How do I access myself so I’ll be able to better help my patients?’” 
 
Subsequently, Wulster attended life coaching courses. “The results were amazing in my personal life,” she says. “There were shifts within me, things opened up, and I thought, ‘I need more of this.’” 
 
Her newfound passion for coaching others further led her to earn a certification from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). She also received certification in integrative coaching at JFK University under renowned life coach Debbie Ford. 
 
Now at her practice, Jersey Chiropractic and Wellness Center, Wulster not only relates tenets of life coaching to her staff and to patients while performing adjustments, but she offers educational opportunities to anyone interested through individual coaching, team building, workshops and seminars ranging across a considerable spectrum of topics. 
 
With her arsenal of coaching skills in tow, Wulster says, “I’m able to hear people better; I access them better. In turn, they’re better able to access themselves. In this world of technology, we’re increasingly getting away from the human side, the spiritual side and things the original chiropractors taught in the beginning. So coaching is great because it’s a positive addition—both in business, and in terms of practical application with patients.” 
 
In contrast, Perron says he doesn’t try to formally coach his patients as Wulster does. “I believe my time is best spent adjusting patients and using the skills I’ve learned to influence their decisions with regard to their health. As far as my staff goes, they’re assessed prior to hiring to see if they fit the personality type best suited to enjoy and therefore excel at their jobs,” he says. “After hiring, staff are taught the same communication skills that I’ve been taught, so they can be better equipped to interact with patients on a higher level of communication, allowing them to understand where the patient is coming from. The better the doctor and staff can convey the message of chiropractic to the patient with regards to their individual needs, the better the patient will be informed and, in turn, the more successful the practice will be as a result of helping more people.” 
 
So what exactly is life coaching? According to iPEC, it’s defined as “an extraordinary and unique relationship designed to create a significant impact and sustainable results in all areas of a person’s life.” It’s different from consulting and motivational speaking, in that instead of telling a client what needs to be done, coaching is all about asking clients the right questions. Instead of focusing on mental and psychological issues based on past events, coaches “only see opportunities, not problems.” Coaches shift the focus from “why?” to “how?” With options for personal one-on-one coaching—which both Wulster and Perron currently take advantage of— life coaching options also include Internet-based learning, weekend workshops, certification courses and seminars. 
 
Life University has an established life coaching education program of its own, offering both a life coaching certificate and an associate’s in science degree in life coaching. “We’re the only school or university in the country that offers this program,” says wellness coach Melody Mayo. “There are coaching-specific schools out there, but coaching is the only thing they offer.” Mayo further explains it makes sense for the university to offer a life coaching program because, “in the same way most chiropractors believe the body is self-healing and self-regulating, when it comes to the internal and psychological processes of an individual, coaches believe every person is resourceful, creative and whole. They believe people have everything within themselves necessary to get where it is that they need to go.” 
 
Aside from the available educational programs, the university’s students, faculty, DCs and community members also have access to complimentary wellness coaching workshop classes taught by Mayo. “It’s life coaching with a wellness slant to it,” says Mayo. “If someone is interested in being coached, but not necessarily in becoming a coach, they can come to me. They can come if they want to experience coaching without committing to a coaching relationship yet, or they can come to me for a fee-based service, and we’ll work together for a series of weeks or months until they meet their goals.” 
 
Community members can also opt for life coaching workshops through the university’s newly-established coaching club. “It’s been a way to make people aware of what coaching is and to promote the program while giving students some of their practice hours,” says Mayo. The club meets every Tuesday at 5 p.m. and opens its doors to anyone interested at 5:30 p.m. in room 206 at the College of Undergraduate Studies. Donations are $1 and all profits go to charity. “You can even call in for coaching opportunities if you’re unable to make it to the 5:30 meeting,” Mayo adds. 
 
“Chiropractors have to do a lot of patient education to let patients know exactly what chiropractic is, because it’s widely misunderstood out in the real world,” says Mayo. “So, offering the program here is great because even if you have no interest in becoming a full-time coach or going through a rigorous psychology education program, you’re likely to have a better chance at getting your patients to understand more about chiropractic. In turn, you’ll understand their needs and create an open door of communication.”
 

For more information about Life University’s coaching club, call 678.653.4055 or email lifecoachingclub1@gmail.com