Q. Two years ago you were running a successful holistic clinic with a wait-list of clients. You sold your practice, wrote a book, Don’t Waste Pain, left Hawai‘i and took your family sailing. Now you’re back and working as a coach. What happened to Dr. Dean?

Dr. Dean: I’m still here. From my point of view, I don’t feel that I’ve experienced a huge shift or discontinuity. Coaching isn’t a new profession or major departure for me; it’s consistent with what I advocated for in Don’t Waste Pain: a deepening of the paradigm of health care and enriching the doctor/patient relationship. I had been coaching and consulting with many of my patients before I left. Now I’m just clarifying the way I want to serve.
One ancient Chinese text describes three levels of healing: The first deals with symptoms, the second helps the patient understand the nature of the illness and the third assists the patient to fulfill his or her destiny. My earlier practice focused on the first level; through coaching, I’m now working more purposefully on levels two and three. I want to be more involved with my patients and address their deeper needs. My clinic’s mission statement had read: “Our mission is to invite you into a more vivid and present dance in your life. We will laugh, cry, grow, heal and possibly share the richness of the dying process together.” I feel I’m just returning to that mission.

I’m familiar with the meaning of “doctor"? but what’s a “life coach"

Dr. Dean: Let me answer that question from two different points of view—the relative and the absolute. On the relative level, you’d hire a coach simply to change something in your life or to achieve excellence. The Dallas Cowboys’ legendary head coach, Tom Landry, put it beautifully: “A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see so you can be who you’ve always known you could be.”
Maybe some aspect of your life—relationship, career, money, spirituality, divorce, death of loved one, romance, etc.—has grown from a mere irritation to a roar of unhappiness. Or some unhelpful pattern in your life has become painfully repetitious. Or perhaps you’re having difficulty achieving something. The need to change may go even deeper than these; we just had a worldwide shock that has shaken the illusion of security for many of us. For some, the need is even more immediate: They must change or die.
Most of us have had a coach for something: football, tennis, golf, singing, whatever. It’s very unusual for someone to achieve excellence without a good coach. Probably the first people to understand the value of life coaching were peak achievers in business. Executive coaching is one form of life coaching. Successful artists and performers also have used coaching for some time; I met John Denver’s personal coach twenty-nine years ago.
But at the absolute level, going from dream to dream, from one accomplishment to the next, even fulfilling one’s greatest desire is still a limited view. As much as we “don’t want to die with our song still in us,” as Wayne Dyer put it, we also don’t want to die with out knowing the song of sacredness in our lives. We want to wake up from dreams and desires completely. While I coach on the relative level, I do so from the view of your absolute natural brilliance and connection to sacredness.

How are you different from other coaches?

Dr. Dean: Apart from training in three different coaching methods, I’ve accumulated a lot of other tools in my kit. I have taught human growth seminars for twenty-six years, both in the United States and abroad. I have been a mindfulness meditation and stress reduction instructor for thirty-one years. Working in my clinic as a holistic doctor and acupuncturist has given me a wealth of experience with how the physical body stores our deepest programs and unconscious beliefs. I use something called Neuro Emotional Technique to release these programs. I also work with nutrition, play, exercise and meditation. I have studied various schools of Qi Gong for twenty-two years. Also, as my partner and mate can attest (probably to her dismay) I have sailed out into heavy seas—literally and figuratively—again and again throughout my life. I am clear about my motivations for being a coach, and I have a profound trust in every person’s innate goodness and brilliance.

Q. Why do you call this “life doctoring?”

Dr. Dean: I have always believed we expect too little from what we call ‘health care’ and from our doctors. If you’re caring for someone’s health, you want to see that person celebrate life, not simply live without a headache.

Q. When should I hire a coach?

Dr. Dean: When you need help; when your undiscovered potential keeps you awake at night; when you’re lost in transition in relationships or business; when you keep swinging at bad pitches; when you’re scared or even scared to death; when you don’t want to die without having lived; when you’re stuck and anxious; when you’ve decided to ask for help to find happiness; when you want to get out of unhappiness; when you want to take advantage of the precious opportunity that is your life; when you’re driven to get the gold; when you need someone rooting for you on the sidelines. Perhaps you can’t get that Rolling Stones lyric, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” out of your head, and you’re ready to face your fear. There’s wisdom in wanting to go deeper. We are hard-wired to seek happiness, but we often don’t know where to look.

Q. What if I don’t know what I want?

Dr. Dean: Most people don’t come to see me because they know what they want; they come because they know what they don’t want. I believe that anxiety, stress and dissatisfaction are wisdom pounding on the door of your brilliance. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge and face the quiet despair that may haunt your life. I believe that our culture is witnessing an awakening inspired by our collective dissatisfaction with modern life, particularly with our sleepwalking through consumerism. This acknowledgement is a sort of death, because what follows it requires a profound change. It requires a rebirth. Coaching is not a casual conversation. The whisper of disease needs to have become a roar. Crises—physical, emotional, spiritual—have a way of focusing us, which is why I often work with cancer patients. Those patients didn’t come to me because they knew what they wanted; they came because they were became aware— in a sudden and terrifying way—of what they didn’t want.

Q. Listen, I just want more money.

Dr. Dean: Simple: I want to help you get more money. But I also want to help you examine your desire for more money. Money is one those very loaded issues; we all carry some programming about it. It’s fascinating to read about what happens when people win the lottery. It doesn’t always get them what they think they want in life. Money does nothing to stop our sabotaging self-talk; money doesn’t teach us to be gentler or more loving with ourselves and with others. Peace and fulfillment does not magically appear because of a lucky number. Other than buying a lottery ticket, the question is: What could you do differently to have money come to you? Still, we must go deeper: We need to examine your ideas of wealth; we need to explore how you define value, not simply in the form of “money,” but wealth. The former king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, famously said that his country does keep track of its “gross national product” but its “gross national happiness.” So while I can coach you on bringing more money into your life, I can also use it as a great starting point for deeper and even more rewarding explorations.

Q. Why would I need a “death coach?”

Dr. Dean: Well, it’s not just to entertain a morbid fascination with death or because you’re a big fan of Harold and Maude. In the face of illness and dying, people get serious about what’s truly important. A terminal disease alters our reality; it brings out our fragility and authenticity and cuts through our pettiness. That depth of honesty, that recognition of priorities, allows for an experience of greater truth, discovery and sacredness. It’s an honor to be part of that.

Q. What is the “health care coach” part?

Dr. Dean: When one is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it’s a time of both great need and great opportunity. The great need exists is because there is a gap in our health care system once that diagnosis is given. While our current system may do well in prescribing chemo or radiation therapy, it’s less adept at dealing with the patient’s emotional freefall.

Awakening to your true priorities when you’ve been diagnosed with a life-changing disease— this is the great opportunity. There is a vast learning and wisdom to be gained from disease. My book Don’t Waste Pain is partly about what we can learn from pain, how it can open the heart and enrich our lives. Pain and serious disease sort out our priorities. We don’t waste time with superficialities when death is a possibility (which is all the time, of course, though we may pretend that this isn’t so). Your perspectives and priorities—as well as those of the people close to you—change quickly and dramatically; this is an auspicious time to have a coach by your side.

Q. How much does coaching cost?

That of course depends on how long we coach but generally clients pay for 10 sessions approximately, a 3 month commitment. I also do offer single session charge. Price wise this is less than psychologist per hour and slightly more than a car mechanic. I have raised my prices twice in my career so a set price here is difficult. Please call and I will quote my current price.

My initial session is complimentary to see we are a fit and the follow up session are around 50-55 minutes. Second paragraph can stay the same.

If it turns out that my coaching doesn’t suit you, I will not hold you to the three-month commitment; however, in our culture we too often expect instant results. A three-month commitment testifies to your resolve and focuses your intention. You don’t learn golf in a day; neither do you relinquish your addictions and fixations instantly, even when they are hurting you. Another analogy is deciding to become physically fit: You design a program, set short- and long-term goals, and you follow through. One of my jobs is to hold your feet to the fire you’ve set so that you accomplish what you desire.

Call me for a free half-hour discovery coaching session. This will give us a sense of whether we’re a good fit for one another.


Q. How is coaching different from psychology?

Dr. Dean: A coach starts from where you are now and takes you where you want to go. It’s solution-oriented, not problem-oriented. Coaching doesn’t focus on healing past wounds or treating mental illness. Unlike psychology, coaching is action- and “being-” oriented; it doesn’t encourage transference. Freud once said, “That man should be happy is not included in the plan of creation.” I disagree: Happiness is our natural state; if we lose sight of it, then we can learn to recover that native happiness, peace and joy.

Understanding the distinction between psychology and coaching is important enough that I’ve created this comparison chart. Certainly, seeing a psychologist may be necessary to your progress, and both a coach and a psychologist may be part of your fulfillment team. But there is a large leap between recovering from emotional wounds and loving your life. Often as we recover from these psychological wounds, we discover a “spiritual” path, but this transition can be tricky. Psychotherapist and spiritual teacher John Welwood coined the term “spiritual bypassing” for when we use spirituality to isolate ourselves from our problems and our yearning for fulfillment. Having an objective, experienced coach can help you navigate this transitional space and avoid the pitfalls along the spiritual path.

Q. Do you offer ways of coaching and training other than one-on-one?

Dr. Dean: Yes. You can find more information on my web page under Retreats, Seminars and Talks. Twice a month, I will be conducting Saturday morning Network-Meditation retreats on O‘ahu. I have led retreats of various lengths for twenty-six years, and I have every intention to continue. They will be focused here in Hawai‘i, but other opportunities on the mainland may also develop. I am available for talks, which I often give at hospitals, schools, churches and health care groups. I also continue to teach at the Kailua Shambhala Center, a community that grew from my work at my health care clinic in Kailua.

Q. How do I start?

Dr. Dean: Call (808) 388-9896 or email drdeanhawaii@mac.com for your free half-hour discovery session.