Physician Coaching Services – FAQs

Gail Gazelle, MD, FACP, FAAHPM
Associate Scientist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Harvard Medical School

What is coaching?
What is physician coaching with Dr. Gazelle?
How can coaching help burnout?
What are some typical reasons someone might work with a physician coach?
How is physician coaching different from psychotherapy?
How does coaching over the phone compare to coaching in person?
Is what we discuss confidential?
Does coaching work for all physicians?

What is coaching?

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Coaching differs from mentoring, consulting, training, or therapy. Coaching considers you the expert of your life, and starts with the premise that you are creative, resourceful, and whole.

Coaching is a life-changing process that helps you discover and articulate your goals, identify barriers that get in your way, and define strategies and plans to rapidly move forward. Coaching challenges you to stretch in new ways and holds you accountable for doing the things you say you want to do.

What is physician coaching with Dr. Gazelle?

Physician coaching is a means of helping physicians and physician leaders find ways to achieve greater professional and personal success and fulfillment. Some seek coaching purely for professional goals; others want to look at both work and other aspects of their life that may have been long neglected. Coaching begins with a “discovery session” where I learn more about you as a unique person: your values, what is working well in your life, what you want to be different, and, if relevant, your life outside of work. I help clarify what you want to work on. Together we establish specific coaching goals. We then have phone, Skype, or in-person coaching sessions 2 or 3 times a month, typically for 45 minutes per session. My rates are similar to what other coaches charge.

As a highly-trained and certified coach, I use evidence-based techniques to enhance the skills, resources, and strengths you already have, and co-create an individualized accountability plan that works best for you. Coaching requires a commitment on your part to make changes. Given my belief in the power of humor, though, you will also find that coaching will be enjoyable.

I make no judgments about you or your behavior. I become your advocate and champion. My only goal is to help you move forward in the areas YOU have identified as important. You and your life are the sole focus of our work and I become completely invested in helping you rapidly take steps to reach your goals.

How can coaching help burnout?

What are some typical reasons someone might work with a physician coach?

There is something at stake in your life (a challenge, stretch goal, opportunity), and it is urgent, compelling, exciting, or all of the above. Or, you simply feel stuck and want help moving forward. Examples include:

  • strengthening leadership skills
  • improving your ability to manage workplace conflict
  • increasing efficiency and productivity
  • improving empathy and patient satisfaction scores
  • developing more satisfying professional and/or personal relationships
  • managing the overwhelmed created by the many competing demands
  • advancing or changing your career and determining the best next steps
  • getting assistance with negotiating terms of employment
  • developing clarity around major decisions
  • improving your work-life balance
  • enhancing your emotional awareness and intelligence
  • developing skills to manage stress and increase calm

How is coaching different from psychotherapy?

Physician coaching is very different from psychotherapy. Psychotherapy looks at the past and the “why” of behavior. Psychological issues may also come up in coaching, but coaching is less about the “why” and more about the simple reality of who you are today and who you want to be in the future. Coaching requires motivation to change; it is often said that psychotherapy is for people who need to change while coaching is for people who want to change.

In addition, coaching is all about moving forward and achieving results. The pace of change is much faster than in psychotherapy. Coaching with me, you will find yourself growing and changing within the first few sessions. Coaching is a model that considers people naturally resourceful and whole. It is a model of health and wellness, not one of pathology.

*Please note that Dr. Gazelle is not a mental health professional. For physicians suffering from mental health illnesses or substance abuse, you must get care from an appropriately trained professional. Dr. Gazelle can provide coaching as an adjunct to care you are getting but can only provide coaching if you are getting the expertise of a trained mental health provider at the same time.

How does coaching over the phone compare to coaching in person?

Coaching works equally well whether in person or over the phone. Dr. Gazelle coaches physicians and physician leaders from all over the country. Given that one of our biggest challenges is living in a negative time zone, even physicians in close proximity to Dr. Gazelle’s office often prefer getting coached by phone. You can save time by being coached in your office or conference room at work, or from home.

Some physicians are reticent to get coaching from someone at their home institution or city and prefer an expert in another city. Many physicians find that coaching by phone gives them more freedom to be fully honest about their life and what is going on. Others prefer the direct contact of meeting in person. It’s completely up to individual preference.

Is what we discuss confidential?

Completely. Confidentiality is critical for you to have trust in me as your coach. What we discuss is entirely confidential. I will never mention your name, anything that could identify you, or anything you have discussed. You deserve to have a place where you can feel safe saying anything you want. I hold your confidentiality in the highest regard.

Does coaching work for all physicians?

If you are motivated to make changes in your life, then physician coaching will work for you. Coaching is not like taking a course; you don’t just show up, do your homework, and get credit. You have to want to change and be ready to do so. I am also an expert in helping build motivation and I have many evidence-based strategies for doing so.

Coaching also takes time. It’s like going to the gym. Going once or twice will not lead to progress. Coaching typically requires at least six months to achieve sustainable change.

As your physician coach, I am results oriented and am fully committed to helping you achieve your goals. For coaching to be successful, youneed to be willing to look inward, face what may sometimes be difficult truths, be willing to stretch yourself into new ways of living, and be honest in sharing what you are experiencing. As your coach I also hold you accountable in the service of helping you reach your goals. You and I will co-create an accountability structure that is individualized for you.

In summary, as long as you want to change, you can.