Transition from Licensed Professional to Coach Legally

Nurses, Therapists, Doctors, and other professionals with state-specific licenses are rapidly expanding into the world of coaching. Why? To serve a broader audience and make use of their general knowledge on specific topics, in a way that can serve millions of individuals online. 

Professionals like these with state-specific licenses have long been limited in the ways in which they can serve individuals, families, and others in need of their services due to licensing limitations. They cannot serve those outside their state, and must follow very strict licensing requirements and regulations in order to maintain their licenses and remain in good standing with the licensing board. While I 100% agree with these regulations, and believe that practicing medicine, law, or other professional service MUST be limited to the state(s) in which the professional is licensed in, many professionals are realizing much of their education and knowledge can be used in other educational ways, in order to teach a broader audience, without providing medical treatment. 

With the expansion of online coaching in the past 5-10 years, and the HUGE increase in virtual services given the 2020 landscape, many licensed professionals are looking to expand their reach into coaching. Unlike counseling or the medical field, the coaching industry is largely unregulated, does not require any formal education, licensing, or certification (though they are definitely encouraged) and does not limit individuals by state or country. Plus, many therapists, nurses, and doctors are realizing they are extremely qualified to coach individuals, and are seeing it as an opportunity to serve more clients, and use their extensive knowledge to provide education and accountability to a wider group of people. 

…Is this legal? 

Technically, yes. BUT – only if done in a specific way, and while following specific guidelines. There are a few important legal considerations to keep in mind when starting a coaching business: 

  1. You’re starting a NEW business – not ADDING to your current one

Try not to think of it as ADDING coaching to your current medical or counseling practice, but rather look at it as starting a brand new business, completely unrelated to your other career. Coaching is absolutely not the same as (nor a substitute for) therapy, counseling, medical treatment, or an in-person (or virtual) personal appointment with a doctor or nurse, and must operate as a completely different service, from a completely separate business. 

  1. Coaching vs. Counseling or Medical Treatment

Before beginning a coaching business, familiarize yourself with the general differences between coaching and providing therapy or any other medical treatment. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” In other words, as a coach, you’re working with objectively healthy individuals, inspiring them to work toward a goal — whether that be in health, wellness, relationships, business, or general personal development. Note that “inspiring” is far different from “treating,” “diagnosing,” or otherwise working closely with a patient as you might do as a doctor or therapist. As a coach, the goal is to provide “EASI” to your clients: Education, Accountability, Support, and Information. Your job is to give your clients the information they need to succeed, as well as the support and accountability to get there; however, you are ultimately allowing them to choose how closely they follow your guidance and support. 

  1. REALLY Hone your Services as a Coach 

As a licensed professional moving into a new world of coaching, you may suddenly feel free of your licensing regulations, and free to start helping clients all over the world using the skills and education you possess due to your status as a licensed professional. 

BUT. 

It’s not as simple as just changing the name of your services to “coaching,” and selling your coaching packages by focusing on the fact that you are a doctor, nurse, or counselor. I encourage you to really take to heart the fact that you are starting a NEW business. Yes, you are still the same person with the same education, skills, and experiences, and yes, you can mention your status as a licensed professional in your coaching services. However, you should not USE your professional stature as the sole or primary reason a coaching client should work with you. Instead, focus on figuring out exactly what problem you solve, and how you will solve it through coaching, rather than medical treatment. 

If this concept is puzzling, or you really aren’t sure what you’d like to offer, you may want to work with a coach here! Here are many coaches who have dedicated their businesses to working with licensed professionals that want to start a coaching business and/or offer an online course. It’s worth the time and effort here to really get this right. Clarity here will help you solidify the difference between your professional services and coaching services, which will help you stay out of trouble legally (which is where I come in!) 

  1. Your Documents REALLY Matter in your Coaching Business 

Once you have the basics down, and you’re ready to open your coaching business, the last thing you need in place is your COACHING legal documents. [Click HERE to go straight to the Bundle for Therapists Offering Coaching Services]

…and before you ask this question (because I know it’s going through your head!) No – you cannot repurpose your private practice contracts or intake forms and also use them for coaching, and NO you cannot google “coaching agreement” and copy/paste something you find online. Here’s why: 

Your coaching business is SEPARATE from your private practice. International coaching is MUCH different from the services you offer in your private practice. Because of this, your private practice documents have no business being anywhere near your coaching business. You are offering a completely different service with different legal issues, requirements, and necessary protections. The documents you need for your 1:1 client work and/or your online course will look nothing like your private practice documents. 

Here is a quick rundown of what you’ll need: 

FOR YOUR WEBSITE: 

  1. Privacy Policy – this will be similar to what is on your private practice website; however, since your coaching business will be virtual, it is an international business. You can conduct business anywhere and take on clients from anywhere (WOOHOO!) which is wonderful; however, you also must be compliant with international data privacy laws. 
  2. Website Disclaimer – this is the document that will clarify to your visitors that your coaching website content is NOT to be taken as personal advice, medical advice, or a substitute for counseling or an appointment with a medical provider. This will also look similar to what is on your private practice website; however, it will be tailored to coaching rather than therapy or medical treatment. 
  3. Website Terms & Conditions – these are the ground rules for your coaching website. This is where you will outline to your website traffic what they can and cannot do on your website, as well as where you will help protect your business from legal liability for content on your website. 

FOR YOUR COACHING SERVICES: 

  1. Client Agreement – this is the document your one to one clients will sign prior to working with you. This document is VITAL, especially as a licensed professional. THIS is where you will outline all the disclaimers, limitations, and other important legal information that addresses your status as a licensed professional, and further clarifies that coaching with you is NOT a substitute for medical or counseling services. This document is your chance to provide your coaching client with all of the information they need in order to make an informed decision about whether to purchase a coaching package or other resource from you. You will also use it to outline and limit your liabilities, and confirm their voluntary decision to purchase coaching services from you. 
  2. Terms of Use – if you’re planning to launch an online course, membership site, or other digital product, the document you need is called Terms of Use. Unlike the client agreement, this document does NOT require a signature from your client. Instead, they will agree to these terms upon completing their purchase on your sales page. 

**Note this is DIFFERENT from your website terms & conditions.” SO often I see business owners and coaches using their website terms & conditions where their Terms of Use needs to be. The problem with that, is that all of your course customers will agree to your website terms & conditions…which don’t say anything about your online course or product specifically, and does not help you at all from a legal perspective with respect to your course and liability for your digital products. 

Need these templates? As an expert in this field, I’ve taken the guesswork out of your coaching legal documents, and have drafted a legal bundle specifically for YOU – a licensed professional offering coaching services. 

CHECK IT OUT HERE! 

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