69. What Coaches Can Legally Do (Scope of Practice Part 2)

What Coaches Can Legally Do (scope of practice part 2)

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Scope of practice couldn’t be more important in coaching and advisor-type careers. Understanding what you’re actually legally allowed to do and not do is not only smart but could help prevent you from breaking the law!

This is the second part of a 2-part series on Scope of Practice. (Listen to Episode 2 of On Your Terms for part 1). In this episode, we’ll go over my best tips to help you figure out your scope of practice. I’ll teach you…

  • How to know if you’re stepping over the legal line (even though a coach or certification told you otherwise)
  • Why those in the healthcare space may want to listen extra closely
  • Why you should ignore those that say “everybody does it” when talking about skirting the legal limits of what’s allowed
  • How to make sure you’ve got what you need to feel secure in what you’re providing to your clients

If you’re asking yourself, “how do I know what I can legally do as a coach?” – this episode will help clear up your scope of practice questions. 

In this episode, you’ll hear… 

  • The two biggest systemic issues when talking about scope of practice 
  • Programs that mislead you about the actual qualifications they provide
  • Why the world of online businesses has bred a culture of “if they can do it, why can’t I?”
  • Signing a contract doesn’t get you out of the scope of practice conversation
  • The actual purpose of certifications and programs
  • “FOMO” and why you don’t need to put yourself at risk to build a successful business.
  • Why just doing something doesn’t qualify you to teach that thing
  • Q&A

If you’d like a shoutout (and a chance to win a $20 gift card), just leave a review on Apple Podcasts and send a screenshot of it to me on Instagram via DMs!

Knowing Your Scope of Practice

Operating in certain coaching or advisor-type spaces can be tricky—and you need to be especially careful to operate legally within your scope of practice. Every industry has limits for what you’re able to actually provide. 

For example, health coaches are not allowed to run labs, and some life coaches can get dangerously close to therapy territory. This is unfortunately rampant in coaching and other online businesses, and many bad actors will skirt the legal rules in order to drum up more business. 

This also includes educators in the space, leading to even more confusion and coaches themselves being educated incorrectly about what they’re allowed to do.

Get to Know Your Industry

Because every industry is different, it’s extremely important to know the legal limits of what you can do for your clients. Get an attorney who is familiar with your field—whether it be healthcare, fitness, life coaching, or anything else—so they can properly advise you and keep your business completely legal. On top of that, if you’re an educator yourself, this will make sure you don’t run into any lawsuits yourself for providing incorrect information! 

Why You Shouldn’t Conform to an Illegal Industry

While the majority of coaches and online businesses operate legally, there are many in the space who offer things outside their scope which can actually be illegal. If a health coach is running and interpreting labs (which they aren’t supposed to do), a completely legal health coach might feel disadvantaged because they’re not providing that for their clients. 

Remember, it’s never a bad thing to stay within the law! The lack of potential lawsuits is more than enough incentive to stick with what you know, provide what you’re legally allowed to, and do a great job with what is in your scope of practice.

I hope this will help you understand what scope of practice is and why it’s so important to not overstep in your business.

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Resources Discussed in This Episode

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Episode Transcript

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Sam Vander Wielen: Hey there and welcome to the On Your Terms podcast. I’m your host Sam Vander Wielen. I’m an attorney turned entrepreneur who helps online coaches and service providers legally protect and grow their businesses using my DIY legal templates and my bestselling Ultimate Bundle program.

On the show here each week I bring you fresh tips on how to legally protect your business and grow that business at the same time on your terms.

So, we have to give a shout out to Cindy Warren for leaving a review of the podcast. Cindy said I discovered this podcast a few weeks ago and I can’t stop bingeing it. Thank you so much, Cindy. I hope you like today’s episode too.

If you leave a review in Apple Podcast on my show On Your Terms, you’ll be entered to win a $20 Starbucks gift card Pumpkin Spice Latte’s on me. All you have to do is leave a review on Apple. I pick a new winner every single month, so go ahead and submit your review now.

I am so excited to dive into today’s episode. This is a follow up episode. I would say you know I forget what college classes were. They were like 101 was the first one. Wasn’t like 102 the second one? I think so. So, if you want the 101 version of Scope of Practice, go back and listen to episode two of my podcast way back in the day. But go back and listen to episode two of On Your Terms, because that is where I gave you the basics of Scope of Practice, and that is the place you’re going to start because today’s conversation is going to be confusing if you haven’t listened to that. Then I want you to come back and listen to this.

If you’ve been hanging around and listening about Scope of Practice stuff before, this episode is going to be super helpful because we talk about you know, what, not only what coaches can and can’t do, but I talk about like whether state law controls or whether like private programs can give you more scope of practice.

We really dove deep today on like what the purpose is of a coach and focusing on what we can do and where, where I think some of this fear around scope of practice really comes through and how I recommend shifting through it to actually create a successful business instead. At the end, I did a little wrap up Q&A session because people submitted great questions about scope of practice on Instagram and in my client community. And so, I’m really excited to share those with you at the end.

If you like this episode, I hope you’ll share it with a friend. And other than that, I hope you’re off on a walk or cooking dinner, or cozying up. This is a good one. So, settle in and I’ll see you on the other side.

So, as I was thinking about chatting with you all about scope of practice today, I was thinking really this is part of a larger conversation where there are some systemic issues that I see at play. I mean, probably many, but the two big ones, at least that come to mind for me on this topic are that there’s a systemic problem of, you know, our system like the government of different states of like the health care system, all these different systems not defining different roles like with like staying with the times right in today’s society.

So, you know, we – a state might define what a doctor, a lawyer, and accountant can do, but they haven’t caught up yet to define what like coaches can do and stuff like that, right. So, we have that systemic issue, and even like the idea that so many people are looking for this kind of help, because the more traditional roles aren’t helping a lot of people, right, or they’re not accessible.

Then we have this other systemic issue in my mind that now we’ve created this new world of like of coaching all these online programs, online courses, all that kind of stuff, and they’re not regulated either. And, you know, programs have a vested interest in getting people to purchase their program. Obviously, you know this already. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

But I at least have not heard this conversation, you know, being had about how there’s a systemic problem of programs misleading or obfuscating the truth or, you know, judging. I’ve seen like a real spectrum of this right where they don’t fully, truly advertise what you can and can’t do with this degree and or this certification or like once you take this program or complete this course.

And some of them make like kind of grandiose statements about like you’ll be able to do X, Y and Z. And meanwhile, it’s completely outside of your scope of practice. Now, of course, they’re banking on the fact that scope of practice is not clearly defined by all of these states, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a Wild Wild West.

And I talked about that a ton in episode two about how, you know, of my podcast about how online business sometimes is mistakenly thought to be the Wild Wild West, but it’s not really because there are laws and there are laws that will apply to us. There are laws that govern what you can and can’t do. And just because the state doesn’t have a law saying what a money coach or a health coach or a career coach can do, it doesn’t mean it’s a free for all and you can do whatever you want.

So, hopefully you’ve heard me say this already that you know if you haven’t yet, go back and listen to episode two before you listen to this episode. It’s kind of foundational Scope of Practice episode. It’s where you’re going to hear me talk about what scope of practice is, kind of how to figure out what yours is, some of the basic do’s and don’ts of like what coaches definitely can’t do. All that kind of stuff I cover in episode two and I don’t want to rehash it all today.

Really, my goal was today to dive into a couple of like I would say, like additional scope of practice tips, like Linux level scope of practice tips, but I also asked the audience what questions that they all have about scope of practice. So, I’m going to answer all of those in a little Q&A session at the end, so hang with me.

The other thing that I think you know is lending itself to a very messy scope of practice situation in online business is that we also see other people’s bad behavior all the time and we make the mistake of thinking that because we see other people doing things then that must mean that we can do it too. And so, you know, I think it’s unusual in that respective like online businesses can see each other. You know, like we can tell what our other people are up to in our industry.

And so, that’s created this culture of like, well, she’s doing it, well, he’s doing it, they’re doing it. And I hear that a lot, right. I almost feel like it’s just like middle school type behavior where we have people coming and being like mom, why can’t I go to the mall like Michelle can go to the mall. So, that’s what is happening in my mind when I’m hearing everybody say this, I’m like it doesn’t make it okay, right? Just because this other person is doing something.

And so, it’s created this culture of like regurgitating really bad myths and people taking really big risks, but you don’t know that it’s actually a risk, right. Like they might just be doing something that is totally outside their scope of practice and they’re just taking on a huge legal risk.

When you see somebody else doing something, it doesn’t make it okay, it makes it them taking on a risk. That’s what it is. That’s all it is. You can just like see it for what it is, right. And then doing it will not help you in getting out of trouble.

So, let’s say you see somebody doing something that you think is outside the scope of practice, so that you’ve heard is outside the scope of practice for whatever you do, and you’d start doing it and you’re the one that gets in trouble for it, the fact that they were doing it will not help you. It’s kind of like if you’ve ever gotten pulled over for speeding, but you’re like on a highway and you feel like everybody else, like everybody else was going the same speed as you. And you’re like, how did I get pulled over, right. If you got pulled over and you told the cop like but everybody else was speeding tooth, that doesn’t make you not speeding so you still get a ticket, and they just pull one person over.

It’s very similar when it comes to lawsuits, right. Super frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, but that is kind of the way it is. So, this conversation was kind of kicked off by, well, for one because episode two of my podcast, even though it’s one of the earliest obviously, with being number two is a super, super popular one. Because it’s just something I get a lot of questions about and I don’t feel like people always explain this very well, scope of practice, that is. So, that was one. I wanted to have like a follow up to this.

Two is that I actually had a customer post a question in our Facebook community that you get access to when you’re in the Ultimate Bundle, and I thought it was a really good question. But she was saying like why – I just paid for this like expensive, you know, kind of health coaching program, why did they tell me I’m allowed to do labs for example like order and then interpret lab if that’s not something I can legally do. Like isn’t there some accountability on their part that they shouldn’t be able to say this, you know, and all that kind of stuff?

So, it sparked this really interesting conversation in the group. And I also thought a little bit about you know how to be a better consumer for some of these programs, and I’ll try to share some of those tips today too.

So first and foremost, like scope of practice, does not just apply to those of you who are in the health and Wellness field. I think that that’s a mistake a lot of people make is that they think this is just like a doctor like health coach thing, right. Like you have to say, I’m not a doctor blah blah. No.

Like scope also applies to you if you talk about anything related to mental health, if you talk about anything related to money, probably career stuff, you know, relationships. Because essentially, all of these things are or could be connected to a licensed profession. So, like in career coaching for example, stuff might be coming up that borders on therapy or it could or definitely for those of you who or myself, care coaches and mindset coaches, definitely, right.

If you’re a money coach, you are talking about finances and budgeting or investments or any of these things that is heavily regulated, right. That is a heavily regulated area. Maybe money coach isn’t defined, but financial advisor, financial planner, CPA, they definitely are, right.

So, you know if you’re a personal trainer, you might be talking about nutrition and movement and like stuff that would border on physical therapy, and like these other things, they’re all – everybody in the coaching space essentially falls under some sort of scope of practice.

So first and foremost, I just don’t want you to tune me out if you’re like, oh, I don’t do health stuff, then this still applies to you, right. That’s first and foremost. The other thing that we have to like clear the air about here is that you also don’t get out of scope of practice issues just by having people sign legal contracts. So, a lot of people think like the point of getting a contract is that you have a contract that says, like I know that Michelle is not my doctor. Therefore, you know, I can go and do whatever I want. I can give out medical advice or these things that might be a little edgy, borderline, but don’t worry, my client signed a contract.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works either. And if you’re one of my customers, you’ve heard me yap about this a lot. And in that like things have to be consistent. So, we have to do what we say, say what we mean, blah blah blah, right. And we have to make sure that if we are, for example, sending out a contract that says I understand that you are not my doctor, lawyer, accountant, financial advisor, therapist, nutritionist, RD, whatever, you then cannot do the things that only that person scope could do.

So, if you say I understand you’re not my lawyer, you then can’t give advice that only a lawyer would give. And I just can’t tell you how many times I have people contact me and they, you know, like a business coach and they’ll be like hey, these topics come up in my groups all the time, here’s what I tell them, but don’t worry, I tell them I’m not a lawyer. It’s like no, no, we just have to say I’m not a lawyer. You have to ask a lawyer, right. We can’t, you can’t give lawyerly advice, and then say I’m not a lawyer. That’s – it just kind of cancels each other out. You know what I mean?

So, the goal here is learning what is within your scope and only doing those things. It’s not learning your scope, having people sign contracts that say that they understand your scope, but then doing things outside of it. That’s really not the point.

Now, when it comes to those of you who are in the health and wellness field, a part of this conversation came up like I said from a customer is really good, you know, post in the community about lab work. And she wanted to know about being able to order labs even if she ordered labs through another provider, about interpreting those labs, about sitting down and going over those labs, all of that is very heavily off limits for health coaches.

Health coaches cannot interpret labs, read Labs, order labs, give feedback based on blood work, anything like that, right. That is all considered medical advice. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re a health coach that went to like a three-month program, you sat for a board, you got certified, you took an extra level of something, there is no way in America right now that it’s legal for you to be ordering or interpreting lab work, recommending supplements, or anything like that. That is for sure.

And if you want somebody to give you an official opinion and like look at what you’re doing in your business and say it’s okay or not okay, I would definitely recommend reaching out to a local to you health care attorney. I always recommend here in the health and wellness fields, work with an attorney who’s familiar with the health and wellness stuff. Because health and wellness stuff is heavily regulated and goes to licensure which just, you know, regular attorneys aren’t always familiar with.

So, that’s what I would do if I were you and you’re not sure whether or not what you’re doing is okay, you don’t have to take my word for it. But part of the problem that I’m seeing is that I see some programs – and this by the way, I should add this caveat in the beginning. There are many, many programs who do this really well and like are really honest and truthful and upfront and are teaching you what your actual scope is and like teaching you how to create a business within it and all of that. I’m not talking about those. Like usual, the bad actors, you know, get more attention.

But there are some programs that I’ve seen that almost act as if you take their program or complete their course that you have access to some additional scope like benefits, right. Like if you take our course, you’ll be able to interpret lab work. And something I was thinking about the other day as I was starting to check out a bunch of different programs and going on people websites, I was thinking you know it’s so interesting that scope of practice is not governed by private programs.

So, programs, taking somebody’s program like a company’s program to become a health coach or to become a money coach or any other kind of coach, that is not what gives you additional powers. That is not going to expand your scope. So, as a coach, there’s no program that you can take that will expand your scope of practice.

What a program will do for you as a coach is make you more marketable for the job market, right. So, some health coaches or any other kind of coach that wants to go get a job at a private company, getting some sort of additional certification or education is going to be helpful for that. It’s going to give you tons of education and knowledge.

Like I’m not doubting or downplaying at all what you personally gain from this, like from taking programs, right. There’s – there are many, many reasons to take programs. So, the job market thing could be one. For your own personal education, that can be another. Learning some new skill or area, that’s another one. Insurance could be another one. So, like health care, some health insurance providers are covering coaching sessions, so that could be one, right.

So, there are many different reasons, but one of the things that I was seeing that was like kind of getting confused and I think not being completely clear and forthright was the fact that taking – like if you’re a health coach now, taking some sort of program that gives you a certificate doesn’t expand your scope of practice for what you can do as a health coach with your own business, right. You’re still a health coach. And health coaching is unregulated.

And – well, I even hate saying that health coaching is unregulated because it’s not directly regulated. It’s probably the better way for me to say it, because there aren’t states that are saying this is what a health coach can do, and this is what they can’t do. But there are, in every state, rules about what the licensed professions can and can’t do. And you can’t do anything if you’re not that. You can’t do anything that they can do if you’re not that, right.

So, that’s what I want you to keep in mind when you’re looking at additional programs and adding to your – to the letters that come after your name. I want you to think more about your reason for taking it, but it shouldn’t be to expand your scope unless it’s something that goes and gives you a license of some sort for a different scope level, right.

So, like if you’re a money coach and you want to become a certified financial planner and you go through the steps that you need to for that, that gives you a different scope. But like if you’re a money coach and you’re taking like another money coach’s program, that doesn’t give you additional scope.

If you’re a health coach and you’re taking like a health program of some sort to teach you about stuff, that doesn’t give you. If you go to school and become an RD, that changes your scope. That’s different, right. It’s just this private kind of individual programs, courses, things like that.

You know, personally, what I would recommend that you do is I would ask them about like how does it affect my scope? And I would ask them for what they’re relying on, what information, what legal principle, what state law, whatever they’re relying on that tells you that you do get this expanded scope.

You could even have your – you could consult your own health care attorney. I mean you really do have to take this stuff into your own hands to say like is this, you know, what am I going to get out of this. So, you could consult your own health care attorney to say hey, look, I’m a coach of this kind, I’m going to go take this program, this is what I want to be able to do, like I want to be able to order lab work, will this program allow me to do it? And you can let them tell you, right.

So, that’s always an option. But I think it’s just important to keep in mind for the most part, I mean, I’m sure that we can think of like some example where some certification program does actually help you with your scope. But the one – the kind of basic ones that I’m thinking of and then I’m seeing, they don’t, right.

I also think though that like I always – I was telling the team this the other day like I always feel so torn talking about scope because when we talk about scope of practice, the focus is always on what you can’t do. And instead, I think – first of all, we have to have a conversation about what the purpose is of a coach.

So, I think we should revisit that. And then I think we need to shift into talking about what you can do because I just think it’s not worth your time. I think it’s important to know what you can’t do so that you don’t accidentally do it. But I kind of want you to like learn that and quickly shift into like okay, now I’m going to build this thing. Like this should not be a thing. This is not a roadblock. This is not something that should slow you down and we’re going to talk a little bit about maybe why that this is all coming up.

So, what then is the purpose of a coach? Let’s revisit it, right. The purpose of a coach of any different variety is to provide guidance. This is my own definition by the way, guidance, support, encouragement, education, accountability. I think accountability is huge.

I always like to use the visual analogy that like if you were somebody who guided people through the woods, right. If you’re a coach, what a coach does is guide someone. You maybe hold the person’s hand, your client’s hand, and you hold the flashlight that illuminates the path ahead of them. And when you hold up this flashlight, there’s probably many, many different paths that they could take, right. And as you’re walking along through the woods, they’re probably asking you questions, they’re asking for insight, and you’re using, you know motivational interviewing and all this kind of stuff to talk with them to get them to realize the answers within themselves.

So, you’re continuing to hold their hand and continuing to hold that flashlight, but they’re telling you which path essentially they want to go down, right, with some of your education and guidance. They might say, what do you know about path A, and what do you know about Path B? And you teach them about path A and you teach them about path B. But as a coach, they decide whether or not they want path A or B, right. You don’t tell them.

A consultant, the difference really to me between a coaching consultant is that a consultant gets paid usually a high, you know, number to tell people what to do because the idea is that they’re the expert, you like bring them in, you consult, you get paid a lot, and that’s that.

When I was a health coach, for example, this like one of the biggest candy companies in the world, paid for me to come in and give them advice. They were kind of developing this like wellness, you know, line of products, they wanted someone to just come in and be like what do you think about this. And I just straight up told them what I thought, right, and that I got paid for that. There wasn’t like a right or wrong answer. Literally, just paying for my thoughts. That’s a consultant, you know, and they’re way fancier at a higher level consultants on that.

But a coach is there to support somebody and guide them through that woods journey, right. As you’re guiding them through the woods, stuff is coming up, they’re tired, they want to sit down, they don’t know where to go. It’s bringing up childhood stuff. They don’t – you know, they have a weird relationship with money. Stuff is coming up as you’re walking along.

And I think sometimes in this conversation about scope of practice and really in us focusing on what we can and can’t do, we sometimes lose the idea of what really a coach is even supposed to be doing in the first place. You’re not here to tell people what to do. You’re supporting them in the how, and you’re supporting them in this stuff that comes up along the way, right.

And so, when we take that approach and we remember really what the purpose is of a coach, we can kind of stop talking about like can I do labs, can I like look at people’s 401K plans if I’m not a financial planner like because we’re not supposed to be telling them what to do, right. We’re teaching them the basics, we might be teaching them general information, and we’re also empowering them to become individualized, and to self-actualize to do things on their own. Because the whole point would be to not need you forever, right, to give them the skills instead so that they can continue on, and do this stuff on their own.

So, with that, I also think that it’s helpful that we focus on what we can do instead, right. I see that like there’s this fear of having to do it all, having to provide it all, you have to provide every service. So, you know, if you’re a health coach, you’ve got to order labs because if you don’t order labs, then they’re not going to go to you.

And sometimes that comes from the place of like I was saying earlier, like seeing people who are doing this incorrectly, you know wrong. And then you think like oh, she’s ordering labs. So, if I don’t order labs, then this person is not going to work with me. Or it just comes from this internal fear that like what we do is not enough. We’re not going to be enough for people, you know.

I just see so often like we cheapen ourselves down into like how – in how – we don’t see how helpful we are. I see this all the time when customers have asked me these questions and I see them getting really nervous about it. I’m like, do you not think that what you do already is super helpful because what you do already is so helpful, right.

And I want you to really sit with that and work on that piece of this that you are so valuable. You have so much to offer, and it is safe for you to create a business that is safe, that protects you. You don’t need to put yourself at risk in order to build a successful business.

I hope that I’m an example of this, right. Like I tried to be and you know, I often tell customers and stuff when we have different like popups, trainings and things like that inside the Bundle, I’m always saying, you know, when I started my business I was so nervous to not offer legal services because first of all I knew that’s what people traditionally thought of as, you know, a lawyer doing, but people would contact me for this all the time. People would be like, hey, I know you sell legal templates, but can you register my trademark? Hey, I know you do this but can you like form my LLC?

And for me, in my scope of practice and where I’m licensed in many different states as an attorney, you couldn’t do like legal consulting or legal education and say, hey, I’m not your lawyer and provide services at the same time. I went all the way up the chain, cleared this with everyone, and I got the same response every time. I was like I couldn’t have – I couldn’t advertise those services on the same website, you know, like it was all very clear to me.

And yet, when I started my business and I only sold legal templates, it was so hard for me to not be distracted, tempted by all of the people who are asking me for legal services. And in the beginning I would think is it not enough, you know, what I’m doing? Is it – is –they’re just going to leave me and go to someone else.

And then the worst thing happened that you probably see all the time. I saw other people replicating my style of business. And what do you know, they would offer services too. Maybe it’s okay where they are, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not. But it definitely brought up that fear of like oh, no, now they’re doing the templates and they’re offering services, so I’m going to be totally left behind.

For me, at the end of the day, I chose safety. I chose certainty and safety for – and also just what worked for me and my license and where I was located, and what I was willing to take on. And that’s what I was willing to do, I was willing to just stick to my guns, sell my products, and not offer any services, not providing any legal advice, not be anybody’s attorney. And as I often joke with the team, I think it worked out okay. I think we are doing alright over here.

So, I hope to be an example just in the sense of like it’s okay for you to be same. You don’t have to put yourself in an uncomfortable illegal position in order to have a business. And so often this also comes from like you being such an expert at what you do, and you are probably or you could be over complicating like the kind of advice and information that’s really necessary to truly help somebody.

Because what I find is that like the more and more expert you become at something, the more you start seeing the matrix, right, you start seeing like oh my gosh, but if we do this then this and then that, but they also need to know about this, but what about these three things, but she needs to also know about that, right. That’s because you’re the expert, you know what to know.

But often, you know, when people come to you, they often are starting at the basement, right? They’re starting at that foundation where they need the basics. And if you gave them everything, it’s actually probably pretty overwhelming. So, you know, you might think you need to order labs and then you get a client that it’s like they’re not even drinking water every day, right. It’s like let’s start with that. I don’t know.

So, part of me thinks that we over complicate this as the expert and thinking that we need to be everything and do everything in order to attract people but it’s just not the case in practice.

Now, the other thing before we get into the Q&A is just that I see also this high emphasis on teaching people something that you’ve learned for yourself, like something that you’ve overcome, or you’ve accomplished.

And I just wanted to share that like that – the fact that you might have done something so like you paid off $100,000 in debt so now you teach people how to pay off debt or like you had Hashimoto’s and you cured yourself with some protocol, that doesn’t make it so that you can prescriptively teach that method or approach to other people.

So, you can share it as motivation, share it as an example. You know in marketing or in copywriting, we would call this your hero story, your hero journey. And so, it’s really important to relate to other people that like you’ve been in a similar spot, and you’ve overcome it. But we can’t say like I did these three things and that’s how I paid off my debt. Therefore, you do these three things, and that’s how you’ll pay off your debt because then you’re telling people what to do.

We can share them as examples. We just want to be careful in general that we’re not making promises either intentionally or unintentionally, that if you follow the same path as me, you’ll have the same result as me, you know. So, we start to drift into some like misleading advertising, like false promises kind of stuff that is a little concerning to me when I see that in like people’s marketing. But I also just don’t want people to think that, you know, because you’ve been through something, that that somehow changes your scope to be able to teach people either. So, our scope still applies, right.

Okay. Let’s get into all the cues that were submitted because people had really great questions and I want to go over all of your scope and practice questions. So, let’s dive into a fun little Q&A session.

All right, first up. Beth said as a nurse health coach, I have my nursing license wrapped up into my business. I’m a license in 33-ish states and a territory with my individual licenses and my compact license. Do I need to have a completely different contract for clients in license states and clients in non-license states or can I put a clause into my primary contract letting them know which it is?

That is a great question. And what I would generally say their, Beth, is that you would absolutely want different separate and distinct contracts with each one of these different clients. And I don’t know what the nursing scope of practice is, if it’s similar to an attorney where like I can’t be both.

But that’s something that I would maybe look into, especially based on like how you mark stuff, how it’s on your website, stuff like that, because that’s where I understand that it gets confusing. If like on your site you say I’m a lawyer, I’m a nurse. I’m a doctor or whatever, but like I can only be your nurse, lawyer, doctor if you’re in this state. So, it might be something to look into in terms of separating them if you need to, or if that’s even possible. But at the very least, yes, I would absolutely use separate contracts.

Okay. Laura said, right now I’ve been doing health coaching for five years and now I’m studying to become a board-certified nutritionist. There are different scopes of practices for different states. How do I be compliant with them all or would I just keep it local to my state?

So that’s a very good question, Laura. So essentially the way that I always think about scope of practice is that it matters where you’re located, but it also matters what state your client’s located in, because you’re entering into a contractual relationship in that state. So, the way that I think about it is like, well, you know, you might be okay in your state, but if in their state it’s not, then you’ve essentially done like the unauthorized practice of, you know, an RD or something in that state.

So, what I typically suggest to people is that you create a business that’s okay across the board, where you know, whatever a board-certified nutritionists can do at like the bare minimum in any given state. If you want to have a virtual practice, now, I mean you obviously are free to say like I’m a virtual nutritionist that only works in these five states or something if you have like a, you know, robust client book or something like that.

Like that’s fine by me, but I would say overall what I typically say is so that you don’t have to be bouncing around deciding like which state is this person in, what’s their states law, especially because it keeps changing, I would create a business across the board that’s okay to work with people.

Liz said, I’d love for you to talk about scope of practice for health coaches. There are no clear answers. So, Liz, you’re right, I hope we’ve talked about it a lot in this episode, so you’ll have to let me know if this was helpful to you. But you’re right on the one hand that there aren’t clear answers in the sense that your state is not going to tell you what you can and can’t do, but your state kind of is telling you what you can and can’t do by defining the scope of practice of the professions that are around you. So, your state definitely defines what a doctor can do, what a therapist can do, what an RD could do, you know, something like that, physical therapist, it kind of depends on what you do.

And I would suggest that looking at that so that you make sure that what you’re doing in your practice isn’t anything that only they can do. And that’s where you can get yourself into a little bit of trouble.

Okay. We had another anonymous submission that somebody said big heal – I’ve been on a big healing journey, and I have a big story. I want to teach what I’ve done through Instagram, workshops, and retreats, but I have no certification. So, I touched on this briefly but, you know, that – you being through something as more of a marketing thing, I think so.

It’s more something that you should rightfully share with people about how and what you’ve done. We just have to be careful not to make the leap that like because you did something, you now know how to treat other people. Everybody is so individual, everybody’s journey is so individual and what you did might not work for them and we don’t know their full history, whether it’s their financial history, health history, legal history, like any of that stuff, right.

So, it’s really important that we don’t think that, you know, our own journey becomes somehow an expansion of scope. It’s more something that we integrate into our marketing.

Lauren said I want to use board certified behavioral analysts for credibility, but I worry about the board guidelines. So, this would be another case where I would be curious like what this school is saying. Like are they pointing to any kind of thing that says like I don’t – I know that they’ll tell you like we’re accredited through this organization. I don’t mean that. I mean like what law are they pointing to that expands your scope of practice.

So, I’m not sure with this one, Lauren, in particular if you have like another degree, or if you’re a therapist who’s like added this on or something like that. But if it’s a private program, typically speaking, this don’t expand our scope. Obviously, this is dependent. It’s going to expand your skills and your knowledge level and all of that, which is all wonderful, but it doesn’t expand the scope, typically speaking. Obviously, I don’t know exactly, you know, what you’ve taken and how your licensed and all of that, but I have to keep it pretty general.

All right. Last but not least. Sofia said, how do health coach certification programs get away with selling programs promising different scopes for coaches? I think that you know, some don’t, by the way. So, there are a lot of programs out there. I get asked to go speak and many of them. Many of them are wonderful and they like – they’re really – that’s the reason why they’ll bring somebody like me in.

You know, I just thought of this, but it might be a good idea if like when you’re trying to join a program, say, like, hey, do you have any sort of legal education or support in this program about not only how to start our businesses, but about what we’re legally able to do? Some people have told me that they’ve asked for that kind of training in some of their programs and they’ve said no, and sometimes I wonder if that’s why, right. I don’t know, but that’s possible.

I can’t tell you the motivations behind different programs unfortunately, but what I can tell you is that I would do your own due diligence before you join something. I would remember that private programs don’t expand your scope without any sort of other additional licensure that we like, state recognized, not recognized through a private like certification company or something like that.

And I would ask a lot of questions. I would look for that. I would see if they have legal support in the program. I think that would be really interesting, and something that you could recommend. And you could always consult with your own attorney so you could see like is this going to support me, right.

But I think that they are, you know, the ones who are doing this badly are probably taking advantage of the lack of awareness and people who have a really good intention and like really high hopes of starting their own business and doing their own thing and, you know, going out on their own, helping others. So, I think people come at it from a really good place and unfortunately, and you know, in this world, that can be taken advantage of in many, many different industries.

And so, we have to be savvy consumers, and that’s a lot of what I try to do here is that, you know, when I’m not talking about like straight up legal stuff, I try to help you all kind of navigate the consumer by end of this of like how do we find a good business coach, how do we find a good program, how do you find a good course, you know. So, I’m hoping that you’ve gotten some of that out of the podcast.

Well, that wraps up our Q&A portion. I so appreciate the questions that were submitted. I love doing this. You have to let me know if you want me to do Q&As in the future. If this episode was helpful, I hope you’ll send it to a friend. Just go ahead and text it to them real quick. Post it wherever you need to. I really appreciate it and I thank you so much for listening and I can’t wait to chat with you next week.

Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast.

You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @SamVanderWielen and send me a DM to say hi.

Just remember that although I am an attorney, I am not your attorney, and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services, but I think I offer some pretty good information.



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  1. Hey Sam, I’d give your podcast five stars. Awesome information. I have a financial planning practice which I operate through my own registered investment advisor registered in the State of Texas. Personally, I am a Chartered Financial Consultant. I have contracts for one-on-one advisory and money management services. But I’d like to create a contract for money coaching done through a subscription. Is one of your templates adaptable for that type of contract? Thank you for all the great information 👍👍

    1. Hey Van! Oh my goodness – thank you so much! I so appreciate you listening. My contract templates are perfect for money coaching services. We have lots of money coaches in our community! We’d love to have you, too. I hope you have a great holiday season. Best, Sam

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