Expand Your Skills and Business Through Coaching And Consulting

By Juan Michelle Martin, PT, DPT

It is often assumed that in the clinical world of health care and, more specifically, physical therapy that direct, in-person patient care is the most effective method of delivering care.

However, things are changing! Now, more than ever, we see that non-clinic-based entities and positions are available to physical therapists and can have a significantly positive impact on our profession, patients, and outreach. This article examines the role of coaching—the process of training someone to do a job or improve upon a specific skill set—and the similar but separate role of consulting—the act of giving expert advice, mostly in a professional field.1

The Need for Innovation

The pandemic caused many businesses to close while others that were slightly more resourceful or resilient were able to pivot and capitalize on other avenues to serve their clients. It is easy to see the role that technology has played in these pivots and the revision of businesses. But, while some may call the use of technology innovative, as someone who has coached clinicians and practice owners in the realm of telehealth for at least three years, this change has been long overdue. The incorporation of telehealth allows clinicians to reach a greater variety of clients and serve them in many different ways. As the pandemic unfolded, telehealth and the implementation of virtual technologies became critical tools in initiating and continuing care for patients. In addition, telehealth has been proven to be beneficial from an outcomes perspective, and is well received by clients.

So, how does one go from a clinical practice to being a coach? The answer lies in realizing that coaching is nothing new, but rather an essential part of elevating your professional journey. Your coaching may make the difference between a client maintaining status quo or catapulting your client or your practice to a new level.

The Path to Coaching

Within my practice, I have been able to leverage skills that I was utilizing to bring immense value to my clients to now benefit others. As a clinician, I started utilizing telehealth seven years ago, purely by happenstance, as a way to connect with my clients, ensure compliance, and build rapport. Patients appreciated it and, when I decided to launch my practice, I knew that I wanted it to be part of my business model. I started my practice as a hybrid of in-home and virtual sessions—which was met either with wonder or disdain by other clinicians. Those expressing the latter were often saying “that can’t be done!” or “that’s not sustainable!” That fueled my fire, and my coaching career was born. Thinking outside the box and challenging the norms of clinical practice may very well be the thing that keeps your business going and growing.

Daniel Goleman describes coaching as a particular leadership style and, more specifically, one of the six primary types of leadership as detailed in his many works on the subject. Goleman stated that this particular leadership style “focuses on developing people for the future by joining individual goals with the long-term goals of an organization’s success.”2 Thinking of coaching in terms of sports, we think of someone who is able to identify strengths and weaknesses, improve the latter, and utilize the former for the benefit of the team, sport, or goal. As a result, recipients of coaching need to be motivated and goal oriented.3

Could Others Benefit from Your Know-How?

Coaching has been shown to impact clinicians and practices in quite a few ways. First, it allows those being coached to gain clarity. What is the goal of business? Where are they as a clinician or a practice owner? Are they in a stage of growth, developing as a new clinic or practitioner? Maybe they are at a junction where hiring new staff or some other measure of expansion is inevitable.

Second, coaching can unveil new possibilities and potential in business. The adoption of nontraditional clinic offerings, including virtual offerings, can drive an increase in wellness visits. Currently, outcome- and client-specific coaching practices are succeeding even though five years ago many clinicians never would have assumed that to be possible. Coaching helps therapists recognize that a practice that might have survived before as a one-dimensional entity may not be solvent much longer unless it evolves and accommodates the needs of those it serves.

Third and most important, it provides accountability so that tasks are completed and an individual or a practice can advance toward specific goals. Accountability encourages the execution process, which is what really allows us to excel and see the desired results. This works the same way when coaching patients, whether it be for an athletic event or activity, health, or overall wellness. Coaching allows the recipient to see the “big picture” or a clearer path to a goal.

If we shift our perspective from coaching to consulting, we see more of a specialized role regarding direction toward a specific data point with actionable steps and strategy. This title is typically thought to be relegated to experts. As a clinician with a given breadth of experience, you can lend that expertise to other practices that may be in need. Whether it be clinical and related to a specific niche or non-clinical and related to metrics, growth, or even insurance policy, many clinicians have the ability to utilize such knowledge and expertise as a way to create new non-clinical practices. And while clinical practice is here to stay, we are seeing the need and desire for more options regarding preventative care, concierge models (read Karen Litzy’s article, “The “Concierge” PT Model” on page X of this issue), memberships, and wellness programming. Developing your consulting skills provides another area of business growth.

Ultimately, coaching and consulting is a great opportunity for clinicians to advance their professional skill set, either as the recipient and the provider. It is a way for clinicians, as they advance, to elevate the profession while allowing themselves to continue growing. It is ultimately one of the many shifts I believe we will see in our profession in coming years with many clinicians even seeking coaching from experts outside of the profession in order to better understand and target their preferred populations.


1Forbes Coaches Council. Key Differences Between Coaching And Consulting (And How To Decide What Your Business Needs). https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/06/14/key-differences-between-coaching-and-consulting-and-how-to-decide-what-your-business-needs/?sh=51f330693d71. Published June 14, 2018.

2Goleman, D. Secrets to Their Success: Discover How to be Successful. http://secretstotheirsuccess.com/leadership-styles/daniel-golemans-coaching-leadership-style/.

3Goleman, D. March- April 2000. Leadership That Gets Results. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2000/03/leadership-that-gets-results. Published March-April 2000.

Juan Michelle Martin, PT, DPT

Juan Michelle Martin, PT, DPT, is a pelvic floor physical therapist and consultant. She is the owner of JMM Health Solutions, a pelvic practice located in Duluth, Georgia, as well as the creator of the Zero to Telehealth coaching program and co-founder of The Black Female Foundation, a coaching practice geared toward helping female, minority entrepreneurs in the first 5 years of business to move beyond limitations and excel in their craft. She can be reached at info@jmmhealthsolutions.com and @thepelvicperspective on Instagram.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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