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What I'm reading: Why clients chose life coaches over therapists.

Sitting in his Capitol Hill apartment, Russ Welti knew the answer to his problem. Still, he felt

stuck, as a familiar sensation weighed on him.


Even in adolescence, he had faced depression. Now at 63, he was retired and taking care of

aging parents, facing mobility issues that limited his ability to exercise, and enduring the short, dark days of Seattle winter.


He was on medication and had spent years in and out of talk therapy. Still, this time, he

was unsure how to break the spell.


A mailer from a local nonprofit kept appearing in his mailbox.


It advertised a program aptly titled “Do More, Feel Better,” a research project from the

University of Washington that trains coaches across Washington state to help adults 60

and older break through their depression.


“I was reluctant to do it but I kept seeing it for like six months,” he said.


Researchers were searching for volunteers to join as test subjects. One group would

receive traditional psychotherapy from a mental health counselor. The other group

would get connected to a trained coach and meet with them over Zoom or a phone call

for nine weeks as part of a depression intervention.


“I’m sitting there [thinking] I don’t want to do that, but the name ‘Do More, Feel Better’

was calling me,” Welti said.


These coaches would be peers — older adults from senior centers around Washington

state who would undergo their own curriculum to then help participants manage their

depression...


Welti said he first went into the coaching sessions a little skeptical. As he put it, he

already expected doing more activities like cleaning his house and cooking more would

make him feel better based on his experience in therapy.


But what he didn’t expect was the connection with his coach.


“I wasn’t expecting the level of energy and focus that she applied. It was a lot more than

any shrink or therapist,” Welti said with a laugh, reflecting on times he’s paid $120 an

hour but didn’t feel they were fully present.


“She was on my ass! She was really attentive, and she heard every word.”

Esmy Jimenez

Seattle Times staff reporter

 

Article like this always intrigue me. The author says, "But what he didn’t expect was the connection with his coach," and many therapists will take that and say "see, what matters is your unique relationship with the client."


I think that's the wrong lesson.


Welti himself says, "I wasn’t expecting the level of energy and focus that she applied. It was a lot more than any shrink or therapist...She was on my ass!"


It reminds me of the times I've spoken with a doctor. At times I've spoken with doctors who seem very nice, and a little chatty and I wonder, when are you going to solve my problem? Are you going to prescribe me an antibiotic? A steroid? Something else? When are we going to get down to the work so I don't feel so bad any more?


Other times I've had doctors who are less empathic, but take my problem very seriously. I feel less emotionally safe with this providers, but I also have more confidence in their ability to help me.

 

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