Jim Cartwright: Holistic Life Coach
"Your life isn't about a big break. It's about taking one life-transforming step at a time." - Oprah Winfrey
Get a free 30-minute chemistry call!
(openings will begin December 4th, 2023)
Do any of these questions resonate with you?
If so, I trust my coaching sessions can be of service.
Is it time to re-imagine what is possible for you?
Is it time to look at things you’ve been putting off giving attention to?
Do you seek to have a more significant impact in the world and want to move through what is holding you back?
Are you so busy caring for others that you don’t take care of yourself?
Do you get so stressed that you no longer know why you chose to do what you are doing?
Do you seek to have deeper communication with the people in your life?
Do you seek a more positive relationship with yourself, others, and the earth?
Would you benefit from being in a space where you are fully seen and heard and where all parts of you are valued and welcome to express themselves?
Would you benefit from being in a space where you are invited to feel and learn from all of your emotions while simultaneously cultivating a contented life and expanding possibilities for joy?
Would you benefit from support for an upcoming opportunity or challenge that is bringing up fear and self-doubt for you?
Do you dream of doing things you have yet to do or are afraid to do?
Are limiting beliefs and a lack of self-confidence keeping you from pursuing your dreams?
Has anything landed in your life path that you did not plan for but feel you’d like to explore what it is here to teach you?
In addition to what you want to do with your life, might there be something that feels like it wants to come through you, and you’d like to explore what that is?
"Three simple rules in life:
1) If you do not go after what you want, you’ll never have it.
2) If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.
3) If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place."
"Many of the circumstances that seem to block us in our daily lives may only appear to do so based on assumptions we carry with us. Draw a different frame around the same set of circumstances, and new pathways come into view."
- Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
The Art of Possibility
What Does Coaching With Me Look Like?
Coaching with me is based upon the ICF (International Coaching Federation’s) client-centered and client-led model. I will be fully present with you, practice active listening, and ask thought-provoking (and sometimes challenging) questions to guide you toward your inner knowing. I partner with you while you determine what you’d like to be coached around and how you choose to move forward with your life. I can assist you in stretching to expand your comfort zone. Nothing is taboo.
While I will be offering my observations and perspectives, I respect that you are the expert on your own life. I will meet you where you are and not tell you what to do or attempt to change or “fix” you in any way. The coaching container is a safe space for disagreeing with me, as sometimes disagreement is the road to greater clarity. What is essential is that we both remain curious and open to exploring different possibilities for what you want to do with your life. Together, we can co-create a space to explore how you can thrive.
I call myself a holistic life coach to emphasize that all areas of life can be addressed in the coaching environment, including health and self-care, career and business, money and finances, family and friends, physical and emotional intimacy,-which can include directly talking about sex, spiritual development, fun and play, and creativity and self-expression. In our initial intake session, we will touch base about different areas of life, and I will periodically check in with you about how they are going for you. I have noticed in working with people that they sometimes hyperfocus on specific areas of life while neglecting others. Sometimes, this has to do with avoiding talking about difficult things. Other times, it’s simply a habit. That said, you will always be in charge of what you choose to be coached around in every session.
Traditionally, life coaching involves the client making goals and taking inspired actions toward those goals. Creating goals and moving towards them often changes how we see the world. Goals and inspired actions can involve things you want to create in the world or focus on how you want to explore your internal life. Sometimes, the most essential actions involve what you need to stop doing, including allowing yourself enough rest so that you can decide what is most important to you. Near the end of every session, I ask you if they have inspired actions you’d like to take, then check back with you in our following session to see how things went. But I’m not a coach who “holds you accountable” for your plans or assigns you homework. That would reflect a parental, power-over approach to our relationship, whereas our coaching relationship is based on equality. You always have the choice not to have inspired actions or to change your mind about what you choose to do. If the actions haven’t taken place when we check-in, we’ll explore what got in the way or what brought about a change of plan.
Coaching is generally defined as a forward-moving modality, focusing on what you want to create in the future, and quite often, our sessions focus on that. I prefer to expand the definition of coaching, seeing it as an exploration that can move in multiple directions. For example, sometimes the focus might be backward by looking at your life experiences and revising the stories you tell yourself about your life. Quite often, people get stuck in a victim mindset and benefit from looking at their lives from the viewpoint of a survivor and creator. Sometimes, the focus may be upward, putting your life in a broader perspective and exploring how a spiritual practice may enhance your well-being. Sometimes, the focus might be inward, looking at precisely what thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations are coming up for you in the present tense while not needing to do anything about them except be with them. Sometimes, it might be downward, exploring the possibility that there may be aspects of your psyche influencing your life that you are not yet aware of in your conscious mind. At all times, you have the power to choose in which direction you’d like to explore.
While I am a certified coach, I am neither a cookbook coach nor tied to one particular coaching method. I draw from several sources and am open to teaching some specific modalities I’m familiar with if you feel that best serves you. This may mean that some of our sessions look more like creativity coaching, language and communication coaching, life transition coaching, spiritual coaching, etc. than they do traditional life coaching. We co-create the experience as we go.
Broadly, our journey together looks like this:
Beginning of our journey: Our journey begins with a free chemistry call to assure compatibility on both sides unless we have already connected by some other means. You will not be pressured to decide by the end of the call if you’d like to do coaching with me. If it’s a yes/yes for both of us, I’ll send a contract and ask you to take a free online personal strengths quiz.
Session # 1: Our initial session is an intake session. I’ll answer any questions you may have regarding the contract, etc., and we’ll also clarify the logistics of setting up our sessions(e.g., how often you’d like to be coached - some people prefer weekly, some bi-weekly). Our intake contains questions that touch on many areas of life and what you’d like to get out of our time together. Sometimes, the intake carries over into part of session # 2, depending on how much you have to share on day # 1.
Middle of our journey: From then on, you determine what you would like to focus on in each session, and we’ll follow my coaching model as described above. Occasionally, I will ask you to touch base around the other areas of life we are not currently focusing on to ensure we engage your whole being in our coaching relationship. Some clients enjoy beginning our sessions with a brief grounding visualization led by me in order to settle into the session. This is optional but always available based on what works best for you.
End of our journey: Either of us has the right to end our journey together at any time, but the ending will likely be determined by you and your intuition, knowing that you’ve gotten what you needed from coaching. Many coaches offer coaching packages(e.g., three months of weekly sessions, etc.). I prefer to take things one session at a time. When we wind down our time together or take a break, I hope we can have a session devoted to reviewing our work and creating a formal closure.
I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.
The only voice you are gonna hear for your whole life is your inner voice.
- Cameron Murdock
Who Do I Work With?
Many coaches choose to only work with a specific group of people(e.g., corporate executives, only men or only women, etc.). I’m happy to work with anyone I am a good fit for and who receives value from our time together. That said, four groups of people in particular who make up my specialty niches, based on my life experiences, are:
Speech therapists*, educators, and health care providers
Gay men and other members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community
People with learning differences and neurodivergent people
Older people who choose to live life to the fullest and who may see themselves as stepping into the role of elder
Please see My Story on this page for more on how these four groups of people connect to my life experiences.
* Officially, speech therapists are called speech pathologists. I have spent most of my adult life working in that profession, and as a university professor, I still do. Rather than a “pathologist“ I prefer to call myself a speech therapist, speech path, or, even better, communication therapist. Please see the Speech Path section of this website for more on that.
"In a world where scarcity and shame dominate and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there's a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But…nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing I’m standing on the outside of my life, looking in and wondering what it would be like to show up and let myself be seen.
- Brene Brown
My Story, Some of My Values and My Degrees
My life’s purpose is to serve others by assisting them in exploring possibilities and tapping into their unique strengths, creativity, and visions to create the lives they want to live while serving the greater good. Everything in my life has been preparing me to step into the place I’m at right now. I’m in my early 60s and embracing the role of queer elder and holistic life coach by drawing on years of personal experiences and learning that have prepared me to serve in a way I could not have done before. An essential aspect of this is being unattached to being right or advising others about what they should do with their lives. Instead, I focus on being fully present and sharing my perspective in a way that hopes to inspire others to see and celebrate how wonderful they already are, while drawing on inner resources they may not be fully aware of, as they choose how they want to move forward.
I grew up as a quirky, gay boy in Michigan in the 1960s-1970s. My parents loved me deeply, yet they were very conservative and conventional, so they could not fully understand me. I grew up with a sense of sense of shame about who I was. I felt that something was wrong with me, even though I could not understand what it was. As a small child, I used to worry that I was an alien. Even into my adulthood, I often felt like a soul who had gotten lost in the universe and landed on Earth by mistake. I felt I needed to earn my worth by working hard, achieving, and pleasing other people so they would love me. Well into adulthood, this was mainly pushed below the surface of consciousness and has gradually been integrated into my awareness after decades of study, coaching, therapy, and self-reflection. Throughout it all, I was a genuinely kind, loving child and young adult who had many joyful times. Yet, I was always chasing after happiness while repressing any emotion I believed to be negative.
As an adult, over a span of decades, I learned to not only accept but also celebrate both my sexuality and my quirkiness. As a young adult, I experienced more than one incident of violent sexual abuse at the hands of both men and women. This drove my sexuality underground for a time, just as the AIDS virus began to devastate the gay community. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I could start cultivating gay sexuality in a positive way. At this point, I’ve had many erotic experiences, some of the most inspiring ones in the tantric tradition. After many years of being single while yearning for a partner, I have now been with my husband Jorge for over 15 years. We have a deeply devoted, non-monogamous marriage.
Regarding my quirkiness, one of my sisters once wrote me a letter telling me she believed I was autistic as a child(note: autism doesn’t go away), and various friends have told me that they think I am neurodivergent, but they don’t know exactly how. At this point, I simply define myself as quirky. I can see I have some traits that autistic people have, but social communication and sensory issues have never been a challenge for me. Likewise, I know I have the leapy brain of an ADHDer( and can’t concentrate if I don’t dance every morning), yet being highly organized and managing time effectively are not difficult for me. Because I have not struggled in ways that many neurodivergent people I know have, at this point, I’m content identifying as a quirky, weird adult who was once a quirky, weird child. I create my own spiritual practices that involve daily chanting and singing( I probably sing as much as I talk), as well as dancing while invoking symbolic consciousness, practicing gratitude, and envisioning possibilities.
Professionally, I spent most of my life as a speech therapist. I spent ten years working in public schools and sixteen in a free community clinic, the last five of which I was the clinic director. While I was able to do both meaningful work and serve the needs of multiple people, I did it at the expense of my self-care. I was unaware of how much I was overworking to earn a sense of worth, and I got so overfocused on serving other’s needs that I often neglected my own. I realized that I was no longer fulfilled in my job, and I took the risk to walk away from it after 16 years to follow the calling to create a new chapter in my life. After leaving the clinic, I was offered the opportunity to become a professor at San Francisco State University, teaching in the same communication therapy(speech therapy)program I graduated from in the 1990s’. I continue to teach in this program, drawing on my decades of experience. Mentoring the new generation of students who will be moving the profession forward is a delight.
Before leaving my job at the free clinic, I was aware that I was becoming dissatisfied and began working with coaches. I realized I was drawn to becoming a coach, but I didn’t share that with my coaches. Around the same time, both of them asked me if I’d ever thought about becoming a coach and told me they thought I’d make a good one, and I found the Gay Coaches Alliance. I trusted that swoosh of synchronicity, enrolled in a coaching program, and obtained an ICF credential. As I embrace my role as a holistic life coach and queer elder, I also advocate for the right of all older people to live our lives to the fullest. I choose to let go of the concept of retirement. I’m here to support all people, including older people, to live each day as our best selves while offering our gifts to the world.
Some Of My Guiding Values Include:
Communication and connection
Compassion and kindness
Creativity and curiosity
Courage and vulnerability
Degrees and Credentials Include:
International Coaching Federation (ICF) ACC Coaching Credential
Master of Science (MS) Degree in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences
Master of Creative Writing Degree (MFA) in Poetry Writing
Bachelor of Arts Degree (BA) in English Literature
Sound, Voice, and Music Healing Certificate
Aside from my official degrees and certifications, I’m dedicated to lifelong learning and am a passionate, largely self-directed student. Some methods and pieces of training I’ve studied that inform my practice but have not received official certifications from include the Conscious Leadership Group (CLG), Internal Family Systems (IFS), the Empathy Academy, Depth-Psychology and many different trauma-informed practices(e.g., Resmaa Menakem, Deb Dana, Amanda Blake, Peter Levine, Lissa Rankin, etc.).
"We don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we are."
- Amanda Blake
Some Communities I'm Connected To
Queer SLHS Support Group
I am the creator and co-facilitate of this group for SLHS (Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences) students, alums, and faculty at San Francisco State Univerity.
The Queer Kidlit Group
A group for queer writers and illustrators who create literature for children, teens, and young adults.
International Coaching Federation (ICF- San Francisco Chapter)
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and California Speech-Langauge-Hearing Association (CSHA)
If you would like to connect with this group, feel free to reach out to George
The Radical Faeries
It may well be that the impossible at a given moment can become possible only by being stated at a time when it is impossible.
- Leszek Kolaloaski
What is Coaching?
How is it Different From Therapy, Consulting, and Counseling?
What is Coaching?
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and creative potential.” Coaching is a client-led, collaborative process rather than one in which the coach advises the client and directs them on what to do. It is assumed that the client can function in daily life and is looking to improve the quality of their life, work towards unmet goals, etc.
Coaching is not just about getting desired results, nor does it guarantee results. Coaching is about inspiring people’s maximum potential. The coach holds space, asks powerful questions, and shares perspectives and challenges to assist clients with moving from where they are now to where they want to be.
Please note that coaching is an unregulated industry. Anyone can call themselves a coach without any credential, certification, or training whatsoever. I’ve been alive long enough to remember when many people called themselves consultants. Now, many people call themselves coaches. There are specific kinds of coaches (business coaches, time management coaches, etc.) who often do give advice, much like a consultant might. This is distinct from what I do. See the section, What Does Coaching Look Like with Me?, for more specifics on how I coach.
Coaching vs. Therapy
It’s important to distinguish between these two. While coaching is unregulated and can be offered by anyone, becoming a psychotherapist takes many years of school and supervised training. While people can go to therapists and coaches simultaneously (and I’ve had several clients who did), coaching should NOT be used as a substitute for therapy. If you have difficulty getting through the day or struggle with chronic depression or suicidal thoughts, coaching is NOT the appropriate modality for working on that. Coaching is for people who feel they can function in daily life but yearn to live more optimal lives. Coaching is often trauma-informed, and many people who go to coaches have experienced trauma, but a coach cannot take the place of a trauma therapist. Coaching focuses more on visioning what we want to create with our lives than it does on healing deep wounds from the past. One analogy for this is that a coach is more like an athletic trainer, while a therapist is more like a medical doctor specializing in sports medicine who deals with injuries. Both draw from a similar body of knowledge, but the trainer works on the assumption that the person can engage in the training.
Coaching vs. Consulting
Coaching is more likely to be confused with consulting than therapy, especially since many people who call themselves coaches are actually doing consulting.
Consultants tell their clients what to do, make recommendations, give them solutions, and sometimes even do their clients' work for them (e.g., organize their schedules, set up data collection sheets, etc.). They are the authority and the doer rather than the listener. While this can be useful or necessary, coaching is different. Coaching is a power-with rather than a power-over/advise-giving profession that presumes that clients can develop their own solutions.
Coaching vs. Counseling
Counseling is sometimes used as a synonym for therapy (e.g., “you need to go to counseling”). Yet, as a professional term, counseling specifically refers to giving assistance and guidance around social and psychological difficulties related to a specific area of life (e.g., grief counselor, school counselor, etc.). I teach a counseling class at San Francisco State, which are specific to counseling people with communication disabilities and their families. Coaching is broader than counseling as it can focus on any area of life.
"We're all unreliable narrators of our own lives, but we can learn to edit the stories that keep us stuck."
- Lori Gottlieb
"During my time working with Jim, my life has literally transformed. I left a job that was no longer aligned, transitioned out of a relationship, and moved cities. I'm starting to build the life I truly desire. With Jim's guidance, I feel like I am aligning myself with what is really meant for me…and it feels so, so good.
Jim’s intuitive and patient guidance was a welcomed and steady presence during these big life transitions. He is such a skilled coach and a great person to have in your corner!"
- George Ramsay, Breathwork Facilitator
"Over the past several weeks, I have worked with Jim, discovering a new path for me now that I’m retired. With his guidance, I was able to come to the realization that I still could be a nurse but in a different capacity that will be meaningful to me. He invited me to explore ways to visualize myself in this new role to become comfortable as I move forward.
Jim was able to provide compassionate support for me as I made this discovery. He acknowledged my values and the need to set boundaries for myself with this new endeavor. Because he is an active listener and intuitive by nature, his input was not only relevant but specific to me."
- Ann Baechler, RN, MSN, PHN
"I have gained a better understanding of who I am and feel more comfortable navigating life within myself. Being able to identify, acknowledge, understand, and communicate with the different parts of myself and how they influence my subconscious was significant, a real "ah-ha" moment! I've never been able to grasp why I do what I do or how to listen to myself holistically until my time with Jim. This type of transformation could not have happened without the judgment-free and compassionate environment created by Jim."
- Kathryn Williams, CSCD, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist
"Coaching with Jim helped me move forward with my business. I always felt listened to and never judged. By asking questions, Jim brought out insights I didn’t know I had until I heard myself say them. His coaching allowed me to think differently throughout the week as I was always moving towards a goal. Occasionally, I would show up not knowing what I wanted to talk about. Even then, I always got value out of our time together and felt better after every session. I gained confidence through the work we did together. Now, if I start to feel discouraged, I can catch myself, shift my mindset on my own, and keep on moving forward."
- Monique Rutherford, Founder of After School Play in Clay Ceramic Arts
"Since I began working with Jim, I’ve noticed that I have less anxiety. My doctor has commented on the noticeable difference. I now catch myself more quickly when I’m telling myself negative stories, and I ask myself, “How could I look at things differently?”
In the past, I have focused only on taking care of others. Now, through coaching, not only am I supporting others, but I’m becoming more committed to taking care of myself, especially by engaging in my art; I sew wearable art. I’ve also gotten better at asking for and allowing other people to support me. Before, my inner child frequently took over and told me I didn’t deserve support. Now, I’m quicker to remember that I am deserving of all support (including from myself) and all good things that come my way."
- Jack Davis, Visual Artist
"Coaching with Jim helps me clarify what's going on with me and what I feel inspired to do. I often don't realize how powerful my inner language is, nor how strongly I feel about something until I speak my internal language out loud within the safe space of coaching. Sometimes, tears come. Jim asks me questions that help me look at things differently or choose to go in a different direction. Jim's insights, which spontaneously arise in the context of our conversations, are often valuable to me, and I pause to write them down. Often, Jim will notice something I say and reflect it back to me. Only when he does this do I see how powerful my insights are, and I write those down, too. Jim is a skillful coach who knows how to be fully present and connect with people on a deep level."
- Anita L. Kozan, Ph.D., CCC
Kozan Clinic for Voice, Speech, and Spirit, LLC
Speech and Language Pathologist
User of Somatic Voicework™
Specialist in Singing and Speaking Voice for the Transgender/Gender NonBinary/Cisgender Community
"Working with Jim has been such a blessing! I have worked with other coaches and spiritual people on my journey. Jim’s gift of hearing through what I was saying to find the truth of my words provided healing in a way that was unexpected. What I appreciated most about working with Jim was his ability to see me as the person I wanted to step into. He provided clarity in his perspective and helped me build my confidence to step into my own power as a coach & spiritual mentor. Thoughtfulness and sensitivity are a few of Jim’s strengths. I felt special in his presence, as if each session was specifically designed just for me! I’m so thankful for my experience with Jim. It’s an investment that will be having lasting effects."
- Michele Ogston, Relationship Coach