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The Wellness Coaching Corner
The Wellness Coaching Corner

Episode 5 · 2 months ago

Rita Thompson-Wellness Coaching for Chronic Pain and Illness

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rita Thompson shares her personal story of how her own invisible chronic illness led her to become a wellness coach for other's who experience the same challenges. In this eye opening interview, Rita let's us see the unique ways in which she coaches individuals to be able to cope and thrive with their diagnosis and beyond. Rita has also written articles for Health magazine on this topic with her own personal experiences. https://www.health.com/author/rita-maureen-thompson

To find Rita she can be reached at ritamaureenwellness@gmail.com

Enjoy this episode!

Sh Sh, maybe done. It did be minute. Maybe you do it it, maybe done. Show. Hello wellness coating corn her podcast listeners, we are back again with a guest today, whose name is Rita Thompson. Rita Thompson is a national board and Mayo Clinic Certified Health and wellness coach. After developing chronic illness in her early twenties, she changed her career paths to support the chronic illness community through coaching. She offers virtual, one on one and Group coaching in her private practice. Outside of coaching, Rita is also a pilates mat instructor and a published writer in the health and wellness space. So Welcome Rita to the wellness coaching corner podcast. Is Great to see you. Hi, Lauren. Thanks for having me so, Rita, I am very interested to dive in here and learn a little bit about how you became a wellness coach, kind of what your path to this profession looks like. Sure. Yeah, actually, before I was a health and wellness coach, I was an actor living in New York City and, like you mentioned, in my mid early twenties I developed chronic illness. So I have pots postural, orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, which is a type of Disaud Anomia, and then a few years later I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Um. So this experience of a real change in my health redirected me to life as a professional patient, as I call it, and how I can ultimately support the chronic illness community. And Health and wellness coaching was not something I was familiar with, so it was through a bit of research that I found, Um, this profession and this opportunity to support others. Wow, wow, so you were living your life in your twenties as an actor and kind of going about things in that direction. I can't imagine what it must have felt like...

...to all of a sudden realize that you have something so big to deal with all of a sudden, and how that changed things for you so drastically. So at what point then, through this process, did you start to say, I think that I want to help other people who have experienced something similar? It took me a few years, Um, mostly because I needed to get my own health in a stable enough position to be able to ask myself now what? Yeah, I had learned so much through being a patient, and especially a young woman living with invisible chronic illness um that adds a lot of other layers to life and living with illness that I felt like I was in the position to be the person that I wish I had the support of when I was first diagnosed. I okay, yeah, I always I am surprised where people have come from with being a wellness coach. I've said this on a couple of previous podcasts that almost none of us started off, you know, in college going I'm gonna become a wellness couch, which it's really sort of a new field. That is a transition field for many people from what they're doing to going, wow, I really want to have this impact on other people and I like how coaching, like how it transforms people. It's so different and so useful and I can see how, coming from where you're saying, you came from where you you wish you had some support that was would have been really nice going through this whole process of figuring out how to live with chronic pain, how that would transform you and how you want to then give that to others. So it's just amazing how how we all from some different place and land in this wellness coaching arena. I love that. I love hearing more of the back story. So if you would like to kind of input some backstory in there as well, because I'm also super intrigued about the life that you were living as an actor in New York City. So that's that's a very interesting thing that, as we got talking earlier, I did not realize it's a it's a, you know, interesting part of your past, it sounds like. So then you decide, too, to learn coaching so that you can help others. Did you then look into the Mayo Clinic First, as that was that? Your next step is going there for coaching certifications? Yes, yes, so the Mayo Clinic Program stood out to me, mostly, but because I was familiar with the Mayo Clinic and I figured it would be a credential program. Um. There are lots...

...of other programs to consider, but just because I was familiar with the Mayo Clinic and what they are and, Um, the innate credibility that they bring, Um, that's where I decided to do my training. Okay, awesome. Now another thing is is that it seems to me like people, as they start a program like that, there comes a point when you, it resonates with you so much that there's no turning back ever, like this is part with your when you're learning from you, when you're going through a certification and you're learning the processes of coaching, that you go, oh my gosh, this is so me, this is so what I want to be and what I want to do. Did you have that feeling when you were in that program? Yes, it felt like the right place at the right time, and certainly I felt that passion with my peers like you were speaking to before that we also actively chose to become coaches. That, Um, the connection between all of us and the training program was really special. Wow, yeah, I can picture that too. It's just it's it's like we're the same types of people in so many ways. We all come from different places, and yet coaches really seem to resonate with each other in this really cool way. I've noticed too. So we are like, yeah, this is my people, you know. Yes, so then obviously you also went on to get nationally board certified, and then how did you shift into like did you already know you wanted to do coaching for people living with chronic pain and illness, or did that like, did you start this knowing that, or did you decide that after you did your certification? It was really the reason why I got my certification, the specific demographic only because I so personally relate to the need that that was always the driving force, was this particular group of folks. Okay, all right, I guess you kind of stated that before. That sounds like that was also just you never wavered. That was really just you stayed that lane because this is the you're passionate about that. And so as you started to build your business, what did that look like for you? And this is really important, I think, for other coaches to hear, because so many coaches want to build a practice with their coaching and don't really know how to start. Can you recall what that was like to start to go down that road of okay, I did what I needed to do, I got my certifications, now I need to go ahead and start getting clients in this in this field. What does that look like? It is a challenge, right. That's not a part of a lot of the program's training that we go through. Is Is the business of coaching. My motto, my focus has been to be findable and that has meant doing things like podcast interviews, Um, writing articles. I've written a bit for...

Health Magazine, Um, having an instagram presence, although I don't believe that that's enough. Also networking in my local area, almost being an advocate for my business, and sometimes that a lot of the Times that means stepping outside my comfort zone. But I believe that being findable, Um is the first step, and that means to diversify how people might find me. Okay, I like that word findable, and that's good to kind of think about that when you're trying to figure out how to market yourself. Okay, well, how would I look for somebody if I was I was needing it? And the thing is that I think is is interesting is that if somebody is is, you know, living with chronic pain and they decide they need help, how do they even know that a coach exists for that? So that that's a challenge, right, and it's sort of a challenge with all the coaching if you're an independent coach, if you're working as your own business and thing. So it sounds like you've been able to write some articles, which is huge, and I would love to be able to offer our listeners a way to to read some of those two in case they want to. So so maybe we can include some kind of a link in the show notes of how they can do that. But that's really amazing that you're able to also be a writer in this in this arena. So really, really cool. You're so diverse with your skill set and I think that's something that coaches do sort of need to be able to build their businesses. to Um is to be diverse. I did a an earlier interview with someone that said skill stacking was the term she used. So kind of stacking whatever skills you bring in and making it very unique to you. So true, so true. I love that term. Yeah, yeah, and it made me in my mind think of US Sandwich, like all these ingredients in a sandwich, like our our wellness coaching sandwich, you know, and we all have our we'll have our own one. So so when people reach out to you, when they find you, what do you think they're looking for when they work with you in regards to their chronic pain and their chronic illness that they're living with? Something that's unique to this demographic that I've found is people first meeting a lot of validation especially for women. Unfortunately, if they're dealing with an invisible chronic illness or chronic pain, a lot of times they've been in clinical settings where they weren't believed or they were challenged as this something you're really experiencing. So first a lot of validation that what they're dealing with is real, even if others can't see it. Um and secondly, they're looking for how can I build quality of life with this condition so they don't come to me for a fixed...

...necessarily or, Um, you know, a recipe for how to feel to get rid of their illness or rid of their pain. But how can they build quality of life if, given this time, right now, this is the circumstance or the condition they're dealing with? Okay, yeah, I can really see that. I mean I can imagine that if somebody goes to their physician and they are dealing with chronic pain and they're not entirely believed that it's as bad as it is, because nobody else can feel the pain that you're feeling, then they sort to think that they're just whimpy and that they're not they're just not a strong person or they're making it up or whatever, the case may be, and so I would imagine a lot of self doubt sometimes that creeps in. So when they reach you and you validate the fact that how hard it has been, how hard it must be to be living with this, that there's like the huge sigh, like I'm finally being seen and heard by somebody that believes me, that empathizes with me and all of the the beautiful part of what, well, most coaching brings to the table. I can imagine that first, maybe maybe even that first interaction is so validating. So that's right. And as soon as they can drop the need to prove what they're experiencing is real, that's when we can start to talk about lifestyle changes or habits that could potentially better their quality of life. But without that real acknowledgement Um to begin with that this is real, and I know that this is real for them, it's hard to make changes before that. Sure, yeah, I can see that. I can. I just think what you do is so important, man. So as you're beginning to work with these clients, is there any anything that really you've noticed that seems to really resonate with your particular Clientele when you're coaching them and again. You might even be able to give an anonymous example of this, because I'm curious, because of the specialization that you have with these clients, what what it looks like when they start, when things start to click for them. Something that's unique is the need for goal setting to be flexible, especially for patients who have flair based pain or illness. Their abilities are unpredictable. So somebody WHO's dealing with pots may have Um. The likelihood of passing out is one of the common symptoms. So that can come in flares and with setting goals and...

...needs to be acknowledged that their physical abilities, what they can accomplish in a day, can really vary. There's kind of this common theme of people in this community talking about like good days and then the exhausted day afterwards. So to acknowledge that those kind of highs and lows physically and ultimately, obviously we're looking for a more balanced day to day energy level, physical ability, Um, but the initial bowl setting needs to be flexible in that way. A lot of honoring of whatever they are. Of course that's part of coaching anyway. But whatever they are able to follow through with. Our experiment with needs to be given a lot of space and a lot of attention and Um really recognize how hard that is to to follow through with a goal, especially with this demographic. So identifying personal strengths is huge, and I also say holding space for what they conversations about what they used to be able to do. Not Always, but a lot of times my clients have this kind of bookmark where there was before they developed illness or pain and where they are now. And so in coaching, if somebody else is working with this demographic, you'll start to notice this kind of reference back to the before and who I was before, what I could do before, and so I think holding extra space for that kind of contrast in physical abilities and experience of being in their body is another thing that's unique to to this kind of Niche of coaching. Yes, absolutely. I was just thinking that as you said that, because I thought well, in like in almost coaching, where to say it's year around weight loss or around things of you know that that kind of a health aspect, people are oftentimes trying to get away from the past uh habits or things that they did that we're driving them to me make unhealthy choices. With your clientele. It's it's completely different. If they had a routine they really loved and appreciated and it was a part of their life for so long, then it makes sense that they miss that and they have to sort of think about it sometimes too. Just allow that space of yes, that's what I used to do and used to love, and how can I shift that and make it into, Um, what I can do now? And maybe I don't know if sometimes they can pertect, if they can get involved in some of the activities they used to when their illness really is the height that they realize, okay, this is not what I can do at the moment. But that reflection is important for them. M Hmm. And that's where the conversation around values becomes really important. So if one of my clients used to be a marathon runner, for instance, and then they developed some form of this autonomy, we would spend time looking about at why what about up running was...

...important to them, and then maybe that value takes a different form now as they are when we're working together. Um. But yeah, that conversation about really identifying what's important to you and knowing that that might take a different physical shape at this given time and their journey yeah, absolutely. Wow. I mean, we kind of just discussed a little bit and I know there's more to add in, but the what are some of the challenges that people face? And it's, you know, fairly obvious in some ways, but there might be some not obvious things that are challenges for people who are, Um, dealing with chronic pain and illness that you work with them on or work with them through life. Is a patient, as I use the term professional patient before. It's a big part of living with chronic illness and chronic pain is is how can how can they advocate for themselves as a patient? I even ran a workshop specifically on that. It's a it's a whole new skill set to develop. Um, a lot of people think, okay, I or they have the experience of I got sick, I take a medication and then I recover, and so it's a shock to people when they're diagnosed with something new and the doctors may not have all the answers. Right now there's a lot of research happening Um, with pots in disaudenomia. Unfortunately, due to long covid people sometimes developing pots. So there's been more attention on it. But when I, for example, was first diagnosed, I was handed a wikipedia print out. Oh my goodness, in terms of and that was that was the information I had access to at the time. So that can be really shocking. And learning how to move through the medical system is a whole process and I there are great doctors out there and there are some who, as I mentioned before, can lean towards being skeptical and then the appointment doesn't go too far. Okay. So, yeah, it sounds it sounds like just really dealing with all of the the newness of all of the it's almost like the business of also visiting doctors way more than you ever did in your life, possibly managing all of it and getting on a basically a new regiment or schedule. That is almost like another part time job in your life. Full time, full time. Sorry, like, Whoa, Whoa, no, now, this is not part time, this is a full time job managing. Wow, that's huge. That's huge. I can only imagine, you know, if you have a family, a career and now you have another big job of managing yeah, wow. Well, on the opposite...

...side of that spectrum of challenges, what does success look like when you are coaching people living with chronic illness and pain. I'd say does the client understand their health better and feel like they have the means to know when I'm going to flare? What can I do when I have a flare? So just having a sense of autonomy around their condition. Um. A lot of that is some health literacy, understanding the condition to begin without. Does the body work what's happening Um is largely a part of the journey that people have when they're working with me, and also just really understanding how lifestyle adjustments can help um conditions and Um. Even though some people have the same diagnosis, what is what style adjustments for them that will be helpful will be different. So, just like the rest of Health and wellness coaching, it's very individualized and Um specifically, these clients want to feel and need to feel empowered in in gaining back ownership of their health, even with this diagnosis. Okay, yeah, it sounds like when a person is learning how to live with something that they never have before. Simply having a sense of autonomy is maybe the biggest part of seeing what's possible so that they ended up feeling like this is happening to me and it is happening to them, but that they realize what could I how can I manage this in the best way possible? So I have some options and choices there for myself and I can feel like I'm working through those. And so, therefore, working with a code gives them that time and space, and validation too, to figure that out. I imagine it's so stressful in the beginning that it's hard to see the options. It's hard to see what's available to you at first, but to then be able to do that kind of opens things up to a point where it becomes more manageable. Hopefully that's right. Okay, wow, I just I'm thinking about this in such a way of I can't imagine not working with the coach because, you know, we hold this belief that that the client is the expert in their own life. We hold this non judgment approach and I can see how this works so beautifully with your clientele. It's really important. How would you like to see the future of this kind of coaching evolve for clients who are living with chron pain and chronic illness? If you could sort of map out...

...this this uh, this way that you know a person gets diagnosed and the ideal situation would look like this. What would that look like? It's slowly happening, but I'd love for more visibility and the clinical setting of just what health and Wellness coaching is. Um. There are some major hospitals, such as the Mayo Clinic Um mass general, that have in staff health and wellness coaches. Um. But I think that that kind of flow for the patient from clinician to a referral to a health and wellness coach, just like they want a nutritionist or anything like that. Um. I'd love to see that become more common and I also think I'm working on it. I have a networking with some functional medicine doctors who seem to really understand the benefit U of health and wellness coach and it takes time to kind of maybe get all clinicians to understand what it is first of all and how it can help. But that's part of my mission as a coach as well. Is What is what is the flow for patients to access a health and wellness coach? Yes, I can see that there's a process that would involve some uh, you know, education for for doctors to know where does coaching fit in into their world and how can you, and then I can see maybe you're advocating for the reasons why this is an important part of the patient process and maybe early in their intervention as well, so that right away it becomes a part of their regiment. And I do think that for many different avenues with coaching, this is important and necessary and emerging. You know, we know that there's codes into place recently for coaching and that's a good sign right that that we this is this is this is on the verge of hopefully being a huge part of our health care system in general and the benefits of that. So is there anything that I haven't asked you that would be an important thing for people to know about working with your specific client? Tell as you know, that you can think of as from the coaching perspective or from the patient and client perspective that you would want people to know that we just haven't discussed yet. Is there anything that that could be helpful or useful? I want to add that another common and unique thing to this community is a shift in their support system. So so when there is a significant change in physical ability, oftentimes the...

...landscape of friendships, of support from family members that shifts a lot, based on a million things, oftentimes to do with the other individuals, but there's a lot of feelings of abandonment commonly. Some some friend, for example, was quite close and then Um, maybe it's just like death and in some ways is where people react so drastically one way the other. They kind of flocked to or go away from and sometimes that can be really shocking as to who does what Um for the patient. So I'd say again that's a before and after kind of bookmark to anticipate that commonly these folks are rebuilding who can support them, and not only who, but how, so they might be more reliant on certain people than they were before, and that redefining those relationships is a common necessary any topic to discuss? Sure, wow, yeah, just even the the analogy of when, when death happens, people that you didn't think we're going to be so supportive of you are supportive and people who thought would be the most supportive aren't, and you know they don't mean to. It's like our people have this innate response that you don't sometimes know what's going to happen in those extreme situations, so it can really shift and change your support system. Sounds like which which once you identify what's going on and you start to see it and you start to allow for the people who want to help you to be there and maybe not condemn those who are not because they are just uncomfortable with the new situation, that things kind of get a new layout in your life with supports, and that can be really different. Yeah, so also in the introductory uh we mentioned that you are a met pilates instructor as well. How does that play into your practice? Is this something that you do to manage your own wellness or is this something that you also offer to clients? Great Question. So I began doing pilate as I was also a dancer, so there's a lot of kind of crossover with training in ballet and plates. So that's how I initially found pilates and I was actually in the middle of my certification when I became ill. So my why associated with pilates changed quite a bit. Um, I personally have found pilates to be very helpful in when I was reconditioning Um from the kind of the initial onset of my plots. Um It's flat to the ground. So for folks who are prone to passing out or getting very dizzy. It's a safe way to recondition, as there's nowhere to fall. Um. So for me...

...it began as a part of what I call my whole life or my old physical abilities, and actually beautifully Um wove its way back into my life as I am now. And Yeah, I teach group classes locally as well as teaching one on one. Virtually. Sometimes there's crossover with clients, sometimes not, Um, but I just love pilots. I think it's accessible for anybody and Um, yeah, I'm grateful it's a part of my life and and has found its way to be relevant in all of the different stages of my health. Absolutely definitely. Yeah, we even just talked before we started recording the podcast that you have introduced yoga back into your life and use the word grounding, that it's a grounding thing for you to have back in your life and that, of course, is a nice match with Pilates, Matt, even though they're separate and different, I do know that it seems a lot of plates and yoga come together and give a nice balance with with physical activity. That's right. Yeah, physical activity is a big part of Um, my health and staying well, both physically staying conditioned and then Um mentally, emotionally, the whole gamut. And I like to offer myself a bit of a menu in terms of what the exercise of the movement practice will be that day, because I also have flare based health issues. So I move every day, but I offer myself a menu of isn't Yoga, is a pilates, is Zoomba if I'm feeling great, Um and I've always liked to have those few options for myself just because of flares and staying committed to the goal of moving every day, but allowing a lot of flexibility in terms of what that looks like. Yeah, yeah, definitely. So what I love about what you're saying to is that you really are able to practice what you offer to your clients. You know, you really live and walk. You walk the walk, you talk the talk. You know it's it's very interwoven into your personal life. So you can also speak to your clients from a very, you know, empathetic and sympathetic way because you live this every day as well, and I think that's really powerful for clients to know that you know when you and this is kind of going a little bit back because because this podcast is for coaches to really hone in on, you know, what their specialties are and what they can offer in coaching, is that it's so profound when you so believe who the people you are coaching and why they're there to to see you, when it's very much a part of your own life too, the passion is just so strong it's just, you know, it's so...

...gosh, it's like I'm deep digging for this word that I can't find. But I just think it's so important that, as coaches, that we really believe in what we're doing, because then it's like the possibilities are absolutely limitless. And this is just really an important part of this field because as you enter into the wellness coaching field, it can be hard to decide sometimes what you want to do. Now you really knew from the very beginning. You decided this is the kind of coach you wanted to be. Some people do the other way around. You know, they start coaching, they go to a program they don't really know what kind of coach they want to be yet. So I just really want to show, as people are listening to this, that when you come from a place of like I really am passionate about this topic. It is a very, very strong way to live your career and to live your your truth. There if people want to connect with you on this topic that are listening, how might they find you? And I will add this information into the show notes, but just to like kind of let people know where they look for you. Sure. So, my website is Rita Marine wellness dot com and I am on Instagram at Rita more and wellness. Okay, all right, excellent, because one thing that this podcast hopes to do is to also connect people with others who it's almost like a mentorship. You know, we all sort of need each other to guide each other through this process and it's so nice when you're not recreating something that you know, someone else can be like, Oh, I've I've, I've been there, I've started a business. I have started a business in this particular way or Um, you know, in this particular niche of of the One most coaching industry, and so I think it's nice for us to collaborate with each other and, I'll just help each other grow a little bit more. So with that, I am so grateful that you came to speak with us today on this and I really appreciate your your time and energy with us and I hope that we can even revisit this again sometime because I think it's important um to even dig a little deeper into the coaching practices that people are utilizing with Um, with each topic that they work in, and so maybe at some time we can even go go further into that. And for all of our listeners, feel free to reach out to Rita and and ask our questions and get involved. Bye, everybody. Thank you. Shake it, do...

...it. It would do mine. Maybe you do it it, maybe they do it. Man, it is.

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