Am I a Personal Trainer and a Therapist?

How often have you sat in the chair at the hairdressers or barbers and spilled the tea on what’s happening in all aspects of your life?

Written by
Jo Robinson
Published on
March 8, 2022

How often have you sat in the chair at the hairdressers or barbers and spilled the tea on what’s happening in all aspects of your life? And on the flip side, how many times have you – as a wellness professional – had clients sharing details of what goes on in their life outside of your sessions? My guess is that you’ve probably lost count.

When I started training clients, it didn’t take long for me to know them far beyond simply their names and which movements and exercises were their strengths. Within a matter of sessions I knew that Sophie was regularly late because she was frequently up all night working on an important deal. I understood that at certain times of the month Hayley struggled with ovulation pains so sessions around that time needed to be slower paced. I knew that Millie had recently gone through a break-up and was coming to group classes more frequently as a way of distraction.

In the short bursts of time that I spend with clients, I get to know them as human beings rather than merely their first names and their goals and drivers for training with me. The trust that is built in our client-professional relationship is unspoken; we both know that they’re sharing things they might not necessarily share with those closest to them, which is testament to the strength of our relationship.

But why, after knowing these people sometimes for just a matter of weeks, do they choose to open up about things they might not discuss with anyone else?

Similar to a hairdresser, a wellness professional – be it a Personal Trainer, a Physio or Nutritionist – is someone removed from a clients’ friends, family and colleagues, meaning the time spent with them is seen as a complete detachment, with the space it creates giving the freedom to open up and talk about things that may otherwise be suppressed.

Harry Johnson, a Strength & Performance Personal Trainer and one of Until’s Founder Members, agrees that it stems from having built such an intimate relationship, making it incredibly easy for them to open up. ‘I wouldn’t say that I feel like a therapist necessarily, but coaches provide a very safe space for their – sometimes vulnerable – clients which allows for them to talk in a very comfortable manner. And it’s very much an environmental thing, as most clients are rarely the same when you see them outside of the gym. Most of the time they just want someone to open up to, so whilst it’s great to listen and connect, it’s not great to advise. At the end of the day they are a client and I’m not actually a therapist.

Often, it’s simply a case of someone wanting to talk and be listened to, without necessarily wishing for any advice in return. The space to be heard is a magical gift wellness professionals can give to people, so it’s a real privilege that people trust us enough to share so many details of their lives. And whilst we can listen, we’re not authorised to give advice if it falls outside of our areas of study. 

So if you’re a wellness professional whose clients are turning to you for things out of your scope of learnings, what are your options? Harry advises to always step back and consider the options before responding. ‘It’s important to reflect on the bonds we have with clients and work out if they simply need a friendly face to talk to, or if we need to refer them to a specialist.  Sometimes it’s good to confidentially chat about things with a professional versed in counselling or therapy to get their advice on the matter, and sometimes it’s best to directly connect clients with someone better placed to help them. I once had a client going through a breakdown and depression, and as much as I cared, I knew she needed someone in a specialised role to help her.’

This example is one of the fundamental reasons behind the vision for Until, to create a space where leading professionals of all areas of wellness can come together and better serve their clients. Our Personal Trainer members have direct access to some of London’s best Psychotherapists and Life Coaches, meaning they’re able to partner with those who have the relevant expertise, and work alongside them to offer their clients the best service possible, all under one roof.

In an industry where qualifications can be handed out online with minimal study and knowledge required, there is power in not only becoming a leading professional in your field and having a world-class space to meet your clients, but also finding others with different areas of expertise who can support your business and clients’ needs.

If you’re one of these leading professionals, come and meet your peers who are changing the game at Until.

Any client names in this piece have been changed to protect client privacy.