I remember the exact moment I wanted to become a therapist. I was sitting in front of my own therapist, contemplating what I wanted to do with my life because trying to sell screenplays in Hollywood was starting to feel inauthentic. It was almost as if I was chasing something that was made of plastic. The bottom line? My work wasn’t making me happy anymore.
In fact, I know now that it had stopped making me happy years before that moment in front of my therapist, but I just didn’t know I had any other options. I had gone to film school, finally had representation, and had even sold a couple projects. But at the end of the day, what I was doing left me feeling powerless.
I remember my therapist listening to me express my doubts, and then asking me a deceptively simple question: “So if you don’t want to make movies anymore, what do you want to do?”
It felt like an impossible question at the time: I had no idea! So I found myself staring at his brightly colored socks, and then looked up at him. Moments later, these words came out of my mouth: “I want to do what you’re doing."
My therapist looked at me like I was about to rob him. Quickly, I reacted, “Well, if I can’t move people by the masses, I would like to do it one person at a time. And I’ve always been interested in psychology. It was my favorite class in school."
But I didn't get the comforting response I wanted. “Then do it,” he said casually. I explained to him that I was a C student and I just couldn't go back to school, that I would feel like the kid that got left behind. He focused on the logistical aspect of my anxiety, and explained that you only need a Master's degree to be a therapist, which you can get in less than two years. Still, I was nervous.
Plus, what he didn’t tell me was that I after I graduated, I would need 3,000 training hours (individual sessions, couples, family, and children), to become licensed. I found this out the hard way: it cost me $60,000 and six years to become a licensed marriage family therapist in the state of California.
And those 3,000 training hours? Well, I worked at non-profits and charter schools as a counselor. Really, I did anything I could do to get those hours, and it was a long, strenuous climb to say the least. And when I was finished, I felt like Will Smith in a post-apocalypse war movie where I was the last man on earth. Not because I was a hero. I felt alone in my journey and didn’t know what to do next.
So I started to work at various treatment centers all over Los Angeles. I quickly learned that there was no room for poetry in my practice. You were trained to treat clients by the books. I remember I was let go once for bringing in movies to do “cinema therapy” for a group I was running. So I stayed in a safe-zone: I woke up every morning, put on my shirt and tie, and drove to work with a latte and a blank stare. The pay was safe, I had health benefits, but I quickly became a zombie.
Meanwhile, I started documenting the journey in writing on a little blog I called The Angry Therapist. This was the secret little space where I could color outside the lines. This is where I could talk about “my f*cking feelings” and maybe even help some people along the way. It became the little alien I had hidden in my closet, and I couldn’t wait to come home and play with him.
To my surprise, the blog — my place for poetry — was resonating with others, and proving to be an investment for my business. As it started growing, people started wanting sessions. I helped people online from all around the world. I become fascinated and obsessed by the Internet and using it as a conduit to reach lives. At my day job, I felt like Clark Kent. The Internet gave me a cape. As I life-coached more and more people online, I learned many things, which I'll list below. (Note: I say "life coach" because in the world of life coaching, there is no board.)
1. Most people don’t need a clinical diagnosis.
They just want to go from baseline-functioning to flourishing. They don’t want to talk about their childhood. They want to talk about their relationships and careers and how to maneuver life at their greatest potential.
2. Your potency lives in creating your own unique ideas, concepts, and different pathways toward your goals.
This means you can be creative. Life coaching can be an art. You can do sessions in coffee shops, on walks, hikes, and of course, online
3. You can use social media as therapeutic tool.
In short, social media can help you form communities and tribes and reach a greater audience.
4. You don’t need an office.
I’ve had a practice for six years and I never had an office. I still don’t.
5. Self-help is changing.
The search engine generation wants to know who their coach is. And since therapists were trained to practice transparency, they are gravitating toward the life coach.
6. A life coach can also be a yoga instructor, nutritionist, CrossFit Coach, and web guy.
Although you do need some training, you don’t need to go to therapy school to help others with their journey. There are many online life coaching courses you can take. Google them and find out the best one that works for you.
What you DO need is your story, a passion to help others, the ability to provide a safe space, and the courage to be authentically and uniquely you.
I don’t regret my journey becoming a licensed marriage family therapist. Had it not been for that journey, I wouldn’t be on my present path — teaching others to become less afraid of becoming catalysts for change in the lives of others in a way that is honest to them. And hey, I now even have my own life coaching academy called The Catalyst Course.
John Kim will be streaming a FREE LIVE WEBINAR on how to be a life coach and create your own online life coaching business. Everything you've ever wanted to know about life coaching.
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