Orthodontist-turned-life coach Dr. RJ Jackson discusses his coaching philosophy, how he measures success and the importance of investing in the next generation of leaders.

Russ Prince: You’re currently an orthodontist and also a teen life coach. Tell us how your experience in orthodontics led you to this new path in working with teens. 
Dr. RJ Jackson: When I first opened my practice, a parent of a child whom I had just put braces on asked if I could please remove them. At first, I was confused by this, but then I learned that she was struggling with an eating disorder, and her therapist had requested the braces come off. Nine months went by, and the child’s mother reached back out to me to let me know that, while she was still in therapy, it wasn’t really working. 

After another six months and another therapist, the child was still not improving, and her parents reached back out to me. They knew I had mentored teenagers and taught middle school and high school at my church. After our first conversation, I knew right away that the child needed a life coach, and it reminded me of my own experience with a life coach back in dental school. I shared this with her mother, and together we searched for a life coach to connect her with but came up short—at that time, there were simply no life coaches out there specifically serving teenagers. 

At that moment, I felt called to help however I could. So, I went through a life coaching program, and one month after completing the certification, I was able to transform her life and free her from her struggle with body image issues and eating disorders. From there, I knew I was onto something: I began coaching several of my patients. Then decided to become a full-time life coach. 

Prince: Can you tell us a little more about your teen life coaching program? 
Dr. RJ: I see my program as being very similar to sports coaching and training. I have video module trainings where I teach teenagers about the basics of their minds and their emotions and how those things impact their overall behavior and the actions they take. I want them to learn things about themselves that they probably have never thought about before. 

I also do group coaching where several teenagers come together to discuss specific issues they are going through and help each other work through. It is a great format for coaching teenagers. When I first started, I did a lot of one-on-ones, and it felt more like therapy. They wanted to vent and talk about their problems, but that’s not how you get a person to make a transformation. In a group format, they can see their peers taking action. When teens are hesitant to do something, seeing their peers doing it makes them more likely to want to do it too.

About six years ago, I added another component where I give parents their own training and coaching in a group setting. Since we added parental training, the transformations have been amazing because parents are also making a shift in their parenting, which really helps with their child’s overall transformation. 

Prince: It’s so great that you’re working with the next generation of leaders. What do you see as success in your program?

Dr. RJ: In our program, it is the parents who identify the success. We are a results-based program. This means that when a parent makes an investment, they are investing in their child’s positive change. 

Unlike therapy where you pay per time, we are incentivized to get a result. At the start of the program, parents fill out a form that identifies the desired result. For example, one parent may say: “I will know that this is a success when my child comes down for dinner and doesn’t stay in her room every single night.” Another parent might say: “I will know this has been successful when my child makes straight As.” The parents are the first ones to recognize progress, so they send in progress reports once a month letting us know what they are seeing. Once the child reaches the desired outcome, we know we have reached success. 

Prince: How does your program build the next generation of leaders?
Dr. RJ: Life happens in the mind. When we see all the problems that adults struggle with—depression, unfulfillment, unhappiness, broken relationships—we know that a lot of that is in our control. Despite the amount of people who are unhappy in life and who are living life without excitement, for most people, trauma doesn’t happen every day. Most people do not experience consistent trauma over a lifetime, yet so many people live as if that’s happening every day. 

My goal with this next generation is to make sure they are fully equipped to manage their thinking and emotions so they can maximize their full potential. I want them to be emotionally and mentally mature so that they are not struggling like many adults do today.  

Prince: What do you have coming in 2022 that you’re excited about?
Dr. RJ: I am launching a life coaching certification program called Life Scholars Academy for adults who want to coach teenagers. There are over 20 million teenagers in the United States, and the numbers are showing that many of them are depressed, struggling with anxiety and suffering from identity crises. They don’t have help and therapy is not the answer for everything. My goal is to get more life coaches out there who want to support teenagers and make a huge impact on the next generation.

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