Imagine this: you’re watching one of those intense cop shows where the officer, after a high-stakes incident, is mandated to attend therapy. The officer usually walks in, sits down reluctantly, and it’s a standoff with the therapist.

Sound familiar?

A few years ago, my life took a turn for the worst, leading me straight to a therapist’s couch. At first, I was hesitant. Was I talking about my feelings? Was I opening up to a stranger? But as it turns out, that step transformed my personal life and professional career as a coach. You see, therapy isn’t just for those on the brink. It’s for anyone looking to better themselves, gain clarity, and improve their personal and professional relationships.

And trust me, the benefits are well worth the initial discomfort.

I’ll share how therapy made me a better coach and human. From organizing my thoughts and boosting my compassion to managing control issues, therapy has been a game-changer.

Well, What Bought This On?

Well, you see, I’m breaking up with my therapist, John Gingles, after being on his couch for over five years. I’m packing up, downsizing, and moving from North Louisiana to deep South Texas for personal and financial reasons.  I will miss his wisdom and advice, but hopefully, I have gained enough from him to cope temporarily.

Five years ago, emotionally, I was in a bad spot and spiraling downwards. If I had kept going down this path, it would have most likely led to divorce and deterioration in my relationship with my two boys. And that would have been not good for all involved. Instead, I am happily married and have a better relationship with my boys. Although I’m prone to hyperbole, I can say that John saved my life.

I wouldn’t know where I would be without him, so if you’re on the fence about therapy or just plain opening up, strap in. This will be a fun ride.

The Initial Reluctance and Turning Point

Five years ago, I lost a close friend to suicide. No one saw it coming, not even his wife. This tragic event coincided with a period where everything seemed to be going south. I was irritable, taking out my frustrations on those closest to me and acting out of character.

Something had to give.

I contacted some friends and told them what was happening. The consensus? “Shane, you need to talk to someone.” These were the hardest conversations I’ve ever had, especially with my wife. Admitting I needed help felt like admitting defeat. But let me tell you, it was my best decision ever. Just don’t tell my wife and kids. 😊

I’ve been seeing my therapist once a month for the past five years, and it’s been awesome. Initially, I was skeptical. Sitting in a room, talking about my feelings, seemed pointless. But I soon realized that therapy wasn’t about airing dirty laundry; it was about gaining insight, understanding my behaviors, and learning how to cope better.

This turning point didn’t just help me personally; it impacted my professional life as a coach. Therapy has made me more self-aware and significantly improved my interactions with clients. It’s been a journey of growth, both personally and professionally, and I’m here to share how it can do the same for you.

Therapy Helped Organize My Thoughts

One of my favorite things in the world is talking. Seriously, I could talk to a brick wall if it talked back. But here’s the kicker: just because you like to talk doesn’t mean you’re good at organizing your thoughts.

And that’s where therapy helps.

In those early sessions, my therapist would ask, “How did that make you feel?” And then he’d go silent. That silence was a game-changer. It forced me to think about my response instead of blurting out the first thing that came to mind. Over time, I learned to organize my thoughts better, and this skill became invaluable in my coaching.

Clients often want to know the why behind their workouts.

Why are we doing this exercise?

Why use this particular method?

The wrong answer is, “Because I said so.” Therapy helped me articulate the reasons behind my programming. Now, I can explain the benefits and rationale behind each exercise, which allows clients to buy into the process. They’re not just doing the do; they understand the why.

Imagine telling a client, “We’re doing rest-pause sets because they help break through strength plateaus by maximizing muscle fiber recruitment.” That sounds better than “Just do it,” right? Organized thoughts make for better explanations, leading to more motivated and committed clients.

Therapy didn’t just help me talk about my feelings; it made me a better communicator overall. And in the world of personal training, that’s a game-changer.

Therapy Develops Compassion and Understanding

If there’s one thing therapy teaches you, it’s perspective. My therapist didn’t just nod along with everything I said; he called me out on my nonsense and made me see things from other people’s viewpoints. This newfound ability to understand different perspectives didn’t just stay in the therapy room; it spilled over into my coaching and family life.

As a coach, you encounter clients from all walks of life, each with unique struggles and challenges. Therapy helped me realize that everyone is fighting their own battles, some of which are invisible. This realization made me more compassionate and empathetic. I learned to listen more and judge less, creating a supportive environment where clients feel understood and valued.

This shift in approach has made a big difference. Clients feel more comfortable opening up about their struggles, which allows me to provide better support. It’s not just about sets and reps; it’s about understanding the person behind the weights. When clients feel heard and understood, they’re more likely to stay committed and make progress.

Being compassionate doesn’t mean being a pushover. It means recognizing that people have complex lives and sometimes need a bit of grace. Therapy has made me a better listener and a more supportive coach, husband, and father, fostering stronger relationships with my clients and family.

Therapy Helped Manage My Control Issues

Confession time: I’m a control freak.

It drives me nuts if things aren’t going my way or I can’t control a situation. My tendency led to much stress and frustration in my personal life and coaching career. Therapy helped me see how detrimental this need for control was and taught me to let go—at least a little bit.

In therapy, I learned that trying to control everything is not only impossible but also unnecessary. My therapist helped me understand that it’s okay to set things up and then let go. This was a tough pill to swallow. As a coach, controlling every aspect of a client’s workout is easy. But you can’t control how a client will perform on any given day. They might come in tired, stressed, or simply not in the best shape to crush their workout.

Trying to force them to stick with the plan is counterproductive.

Instead, I’ve learned to set the stage: create the right environment, choose appropriate exercises, and provide guidance. Then, I step back and give clients some control over their workouts. They may pick the weight, decide on the number of sets, or choose an alternative exercise. This flexibility empowers clients and keeps them more engaged and motivated.

Instead of insisting they push through, I say, “How about we lighten the load today and focus on form?” This prevents injury and shows clients that their well-being is my top priority.

Giving up some control has been freeing. It’s taught me to trust my clients and the process. And guess what? Clients respond positively. They feel more ownership of their workouts, often leading to better results. Plus, it reduces my stress levels, making me a more relaxed and effective coach.

Exercise as Therapy: Complementing Professional Help

Exercise is my go-to stress buster. When life overwhelms me, hitting the gym and lifting weights clears my mind. It’s a powerful tool for managing mild to moderate mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and even depression. But it’s not a cure-all, especially for more serious mental health conditions.

Exercise works wonders by boosting brain health. Aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, and even dancing increase blood flow to the brain, particularly to the hippocampus, which is crucial for memory and emotion regulation​. Resistance training, too, has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms significantly​ .

But here’s the thing: as powerful as exercise is, it has limits. I’ve personally used exercise to manage anger and stress, but there were times when it wasn’t enough. Mental health issues, like deep-seated anger, often require more than exercise. They need professional intervention.

I remember a particularly tough period where, despite my regular workouts, I still felt like a simmering pot of rage. Exercise helped me manage my self-abusive behaviors but did little to address the root causes of my anger. During this time, I realized I needed more than just the gym. I needed therapy to tackle the underlying issues that exercise couldn’t touch.

Therapy provided the tools and insights to address these deeper issues. My therapist helped me understand the root causes of my anger and gave me strategies to manage it more effectively. This holistic approach—combining exercise with therapy—has been crucial for my overall well-being.

Exercise is an excellent tool for managing everyday stress and maintaining mental health, but it’s not a replacement for professional help when dealing with more serious issues. Combining both has allowed me to manage my mental health more effectively and has made me a better human.

Emotional Healing for Better Health and Fitness

Healing.

We often hear this word, especially after a tragedy or significant life event. But what does it mean to heal? According to Google Dictionary, to heal is to become sound or healthy again, alleviating distress or anguish. It’s about restoring balance to your physical and mental well-being​.

As someone who’s generally been healthy, the few times my body betrayed me were eye-openers. I remember the stress of moving, starting a new business, and dealing with naysayers questioning my motives. It all took a toll. My lower back started giving out frequently, and that’s when I realized my mental state was affecting my physical state.

This connection between mind and body is powerful.

Stress and unresolved issues can manifest physically. My repeated back issues were a clear sign that something was off. Once I began therapy to manage my stress and temper, the incidents with my back almost disappeared. When your mind is at ease, your body follows.

Healing is also about recognizing and addressing trauma. Trauma, whether big or small, leaves scars. As Gabor Maté explains, trauma isn’t just the event that inflicted the wound but what happens inside you as a result​. Whether it’s a minor setback or a significant life event, these experiences shape us. Therapy has taught me to acknowledge these scars and work through them rather than letting them fester.

By healing mentally, I’ve found that my physical health improved too. A holistic approach improves health and well-being by addressing the mind and body.

Wrapping Up

Therapy has been a game-changer for me, both personally and professionally. It has helped me organize my thoughts, develop compassion and understanding, and manage my control issues. These changes have not only made me a better person but also a better coach. By being more self-aware and empathetic, I can connect with my clients deeper, helping them achieve their goals more effectively.

Exercise remains a crucial part of my life and a valuable tool for managing everyday stress. But therapy has shown me that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. For serious mental health issues, professional help is essential. Combining the physical benefits of exercise with the emotional support of therapy has provided a holistic approach to well-being that I wish I had discovered sooner.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t be afraid to seek help. Therapy isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a step towards strength and self-improvement. Whether you’re a coach, an athlete, or someone looking to better themselves, therapy can provide the insights and tools you need to overcome your challenges.

Remember, there’s no shame in asking for help. We can’t go through life alone; sometimes, a little support is all we need to get back on track.

P.S

If you found this post helpful or have therapy experiences to share, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, and let’s start a conversation. And if you think therapy might be right for you, take that first step and reach out to a professional. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

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