Coaching Yourself out of Pain?

Coaching Yourself out of Pain?


As a physical therapist and spiritual life coach, coaching someone in pain presents some challenges. Communication becomes a critical factor as pain sensations are often tied to emotional stories and feelings of loss. Chronic pain is more about how the brain perceives the threat then the actual painful body part.

It can be difficult for someone in pain to understand that the sensations they are feeling often run deeper than touching the body. It requires a trusting partnership between coach and client.  As much as someone tells me their goal is, “To become pain free”, we must be very aware when behaviors suggest the mind has no intention to be uncomfortable during the process. That fact of life is often a trapped pattern of personal insecurity but it renders the practitioner unable to help them succeed. If ignored, that attitude can often result in opioid or alcohol abuse or the need for another intervention. As a professional, it is my responsibility to understand when lifestyle or health coaching is out of my league and either collaborate with a more qualified provider or decline the coaching job and refer them to a better solution. The worst thing someone can do is to poorly manage the cognitive piece of the issue.


The Language of Coaching A Less Painful Experience

In cases of persistent pain, my number one responsibility is to move them into a better relationship with their body, a calm mind and a supportive lifestyle. Educating them about the complexity of their experience requires us both to understand the delicate dance moves within the science of pain.  I can not just motivate them through a workout telling them to ignore the messages to the brain and denying that fact is dangerous. In addition, the coaching will not produce the outcomes all may want. In addition, if a person really believes they want a surgery or medicine, it is best to refer them to an orthopedist because chances are they will get it and be happier than working with me.

This is why everyone working in the arena of lifestyle medicine need to become very well versed in another language, the language of coaching people out of the fear of physical, emotional or spiritual pain. This fluency requires knowing how to read another person’s non verbal moves as well as listening. One needs to intimately understand what it looks and sounds like to feel threatened and mirror that image to the client.


About author
Lisa Holland

Lisa Holland

Dr. Lisa Holland, PT, DPT, WHC, C-IAYT, CBP is a recovering type A licensed health care provider who had the foresight twelve years ago to buck the system and become one of the first niche practice owners serving integrative women's health before it was cool. As a microblogger, author, podcaster, pain coach, educator and brand consultant, her company Belly Guru LLC, presently helps other entrepreneur minded women feel good while leading themselves out of a painful lifestyle. Her community, the Guru Goddess Tribe is creating the world where leading a super charged and supported Goddess lifestyle is a popular reality.To connect with Lisa visit

  • JT#1

    May 4, 2017

    Lisa, great piece! I feel that some clinicians just “get it” when it comes to helping a patient deal with their perception of pain. What do you suggest to suggest to peers that don’t seem to get it, to help them improve and understand the concept of coaching a patient out of pain?

    • Lisa#2

      June 3, 2017

      Thank You for your response and sorry for the delay. I think it is difficult to ask anyone to change their mind about their beliefs. The best thing any practitioner can do is to be effective, become the visual of what is required to change the systemic beliefs and adapt to the changes happening in the bigger picture than your own profession.

      I have been the unicorn in my town and the industry of physical therapy for over a decade and to be honest, that has helped me as a life coach for leaders all these years because I was learning the required patience, re organization of thought and needs for self care I counsel my clients on. Being amongst other practices that do not “get it” reminds us to branch out and be creative with how we work within their networks and that made me stand out. I also flipped the paradigm and became a primary care referral source which meant they could benefit from including me in their network more than I needed them in mine. That is how subtle leadership works so I would say, just focus on being that sort of leader. Be able to achieve what you need without them getting it. Make many networks outside the mainstream community you are traditionally a part of. This has been a great advantage in finding my tribe and receiving the mind support to remain in business for almost twelve years now.


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