Listen above or subscribe on Apple Podcast + Spotify

In this episode of Referral Worthy, Dusti is joined by Thais Sky, a former life coach who has transitioned into the world of therapy. Thais discusses what led her from the realms of coaching and being deeply influenced by the wellness community to pursuing a more structured path in psychotherapy. She elaborates on the challenges and insights gained along the way – especially the realization of the coaching industry’s limitations and her desire for a foundation built on integrity and inclusivity.

Referral Worthy is hosted by Dusti Arab, Fractional CMO and marketing strategist. She's the founder of the reinvention co, a marketing consultancy for personality-driven companies with big online presences and small teams. Learn more at

Love this week's episode of Referral Worthy? Leave a review + subscribe!

Referral Worthy intro, outro and transition music is named We are invincible by Tim Hirst and was found on Epidemic Sounds.

“I really thought that if I could finally get the attention of the internet, the attention of the world, something within me would be cured and healed.”

– Thais Sky, on the seductiveness of the internet

Dusti Arab: Hey, everybody, welcome back to referral worthy today. I’m here with Thais Sky. She is a life coach turned therapist in a dazzling turn of events here that I’m so excited to talk to her more about today. Thanks for coming on, Thais.

Thais Sky: I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for having me. 

Dusti: Okay, so we’ve known each other through the digital ether here for a while. And you were a coach when I first met you. So I would love to hear about how you ended up in coaching first, and then how you’ve ended up making this transition that a lot of people do the opposite of. 

Thais: Yeah. Well, it started for me back when I was just at the beginning of my career in my early 20s, trying to figure out who I am and what I wanted to do in my life. And I’ve always known that I wanted to be in leadership roles. I wanted to be in management. I wanted to be the boss babe. I always knew that I wanted to help others, to be in service of others in some way. And I just didn’t know what that was going to look like. But then I started going to yoga and I started to really enjoy the prospect of teaching yoga and being in this community of like-minded individuals. This is the first time that I started to find people who are thinking similarly to me, which is, I think, a thing that many people in their early 20s go through when they are out of college or out of the bubbles that have been created for them. So now they’re trying to find what type of bubbles they’re going to belong into. And that for me was the world of yoga. And then pretty quickly, as I think many people who take a step into kind of Western’s idea of yoga, they find wellness, they find coaching, they find self-improvement, they find self-help, and I started reading all the books, you know, that everybody knows that Gabby Bernstein, Danielle LaPorte started to drink the really exciting Kool-Aid of self-improvement, and that quickly then turned into, hey, I’m finding that this stuff is working for me in some ways in my life, and I really liked being of service to people so like, I can do this. I can help other people the way I’ve been helped. And so that’s how I turned into a coach. I never identified as a life coach; that feels like such a big title, but certainly, I identified as wanting to support women navigate their wounding, navigate their pain, make sense of their challenges, kind of live their best life, you know, all of the kind of really choppy cliche stuff of the internet, loved it, soaked it all up, wanted to just be at the top of that pyramid of like 

Dusti: But good on you for actually owning that. Nobody talks about it, because I mean, I feel like, especially if you were here back in the day, we all went through a phase where we wanted to be Danielle LaPorte, just desperately.

Thais: Oh my gosh, she was the pinnacle of authenticity, you know, and she was so genuine in her language, you know. What I find about all of these women is that they know how to use language to capture emotion and attention. And I have always been enamored by that. I think many of us are, but I’ve also wanted to emulate it and create it in my own way. That was very seductive for me. And I really thought that if I could finally get the attention of the internet, the attention of the world, something within me would be cured and healed. And so I really sought it and I think that there’s parts of my personality that are really amenable to it. You know, I’m very outgoing, I’m very gregarious, I like to be in conversation with people so in theory, yeah. So that really played nicely together. But of course, it came at quite the cost that I didn’t even realize that I was paying until it kind of got to a point where I just continued to rub up against like, there’s something off here. There’s something that’s not working about this. There’s something that’s not jiving, and I could just not name it, and it just kept going back to like, maybe it’s because I’m not being authentic enough. I need to be more authentic. You know, whatever that means. It doesn’t mean anything really like what does that even mean? But it meant something and somehow, like I just needed to be more like Danielle LaPorte 

Dusti: You’re just out of alignment, Thais. If you just, you know, these negative vibes are going to continue to attract this energy.

Thais: Exactly, I just needed to uplevel my negative mindset and manifest harder. 

Dusti: Go do another ayahuasca retreat. 

Thais: 100% Yeah. 100% all of that. I drank all of that stuff. I really believed all of that stuff is what I mean to say. And it’s not to say that those things don’t have merit or it can be helpful in some ways, but when I started to then in 2016-2017, started waking up to white privilege and racial injustice in the US and started to become awake, aware of things that my entire kind of privileged life didn’t really have to get in touch with, that’s when things started to break down. So it was around that time that I started to realize, “Oh, hmm, okay, I wonder what else am I not seeing?” Right? Like if I didn’t see this really kind of big thing, this glaringly kind of obvious thing about how our culture is set up, what else have I not really interrogated and not really looked at? You know what? Let’s take a look at other systems. Let’s also take a look at capitalism. Let’s also take a look at some other things. And so that kind of shifted my perspective a lot, but that wasn’t the final end all be all. I think it took me seeing how much the coaching industry was really built on some pretty innately kind of shaky foundation that made me concerned about my future and like, what do I want my life to look like when I’m in my 50s and 60s and 70s? What do I see for myself long term beyond what I’m just doing now? In my early 30s? That’s like, a pretty young thing. You know what I mean? What about when I’m wrinkly and wise and old? You know, am I still gonna be wanting to post TikToks on the internet? What am I really doing here for my future, for the long term? So that’s when I decided, you know what, I want to make sure that what I’m building, what I’m developing, what I’m focusing on is baked on a foundation. That’s not only not inherently but kind of inclusive, but also not really in alignment with maybe the fullness of what I believe or what I could be. So that’s when I went back to school in 2018 to get my Master’s, started getting my hours to become a psychotherapist.  

Dusti: And, just for anyone who’s not familiar with how therapy works in the United States right now, you have to get licensed in individual states and this is part of the reason why get taking a coaching certification is so popular because for lots of people, it’s just effectively letting them do therapy across state lines. That happens and then you know, for some folks they really do prefer coaching over therapy and stuff. But that’s part of why I’ve been so excited to talk to you about this transition that you’ve made, because you are growing, I wouldn’t say a more traditional type of business. Like yes, in some ways, but the way that you’re building is so nuanced and specific, and I’ve just had the best time watching you over the past year and a half.

Thais: It’s really, I have so many opinions about the ways in which our state licensures is in part, I think, why the coaching industry is as prolific as it is and why so many therapists then choose to be coaches. A lot of people argue that, “Oh, it’s coaching and therapy is so different” and I don’t because I’ve been so steeped in both worlds I can tell you, without a doubt in my mind that there is no difference. I mean, there’s some, there’s difference in terms of legal right. For example, coaches can’t diagnose, but I can easily go on Instagram and find you hundreds if not thousands of coaches who are using words like trauma, addiction, PTSD, you know, complex trauma that are not using that language. And that language should reside only in the world of psychotherapy and mental health and not in the world of coaching. So, this arbitrary division is in so many ways, very arbitrary. And I think it really then prevents proper care, proper support for ethical guidelines to then be in the world of coaching. I’m a part of CAMFT which is the California Marriage and Family Therapist, kind of a board or whatever. And they send out a magazine every quarter, Dusti, that in the back tells you every therapist who has gone up against the licensing board, the BBS, and gotten their license revoked, or punished in some way. So it’s basically like a way to, like a public shaming. It has their full name and it has everything that they did that kind of got their license revoked. Oh, yeah, it’s it’s really I love it. 

Dusti: Wow. 

Thais: A lot of them have to do with DUIs. If you get a DUI, you’re in so much trouble with the board. They do not want you drinking and driving, but there’s also therapists who gave, you know, drugs to teenagers. I mean, there’s so many wild things that you find back there, but I’ve Googled some of those therapists curious to see what they’re doing now. And they just turn coaches because they can, right? So now they just shift their name and nobody is the wiser. So the coaching industry is a way in which therapists are ducking their ethical guidelines, and in some ways I get it because working within state lines is so ridiculous. In our country, like it’s so silly.

Dusti: Especially since COVID. Like especially since COVID, and everything being so democratized, like across state lines and remote work and all of that. So, I agree, it is 100% outdated, but and also that does not mean we undercut all the ethical guidelines across the board here.

Thais: Right. Well, and of course there’s good reason for why. There’s good reasons and then there’s capitalist reasons, right? Like these boards make a lot of money off of their, you know, like the BBS, they’re not gonna want to give up the income that they’re, you know. There would have to be massive restructuring across the country and the state licensing boards, they don’t want that. And I also understand it’s easier to regulate, let’s say 10,000 people than 10 million people. State licensures, they can keep a closer eye on what’s happening in their state. Plus, of course, every state has different laws. You know, some about reporting, about what is legal and ethical. Some states you can do therapy for children for example, as young as 12 without parents approval. In some states, that’s not the case. And so, because the laws are different in each state, it makes sense that they want to keep a closer eye on how the psychotherapist in that state is upholding the laws of that state. I get it but you’re also right in that because of the rise in telehealth through COVID, we’re just seeing… Right now the way it is legally, if you’re my patient, and we’re both in California, everything is good and dandy. Let’s say that you decide you want to take a session in Arizona. First I have to ask you at the beginning of every session, where are you right now, Dusti? And you have to tell me your address. I don’t know of a single therapist who does this, but that’s the law. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And then if you say, “Oh, I’m actually here visiting my sister in Arizona,” technically, I’m supposed to say well then I can’t work with you. If you’re on a train and you cross state lines, I’m not supposed to work with you even if you hop over. But now there’s some wiggle room that people say “Oh, well, if it’s temporary, it’s okay.” But then it gets confusing. How temporary is temporary? Whatever, a month. What if you’re staying with your sister and it ends up turning to six months, and now I have to terminate our work together that we’ve been doing for five years. It’s so silly. Right? So there’s got to be something that, there’s things in motion. There’s things that are frustrating, but at the end of the day, I get why a lot of therapists then turn to coaching. Now they don’t have to do any of that. The problem of course, is that just because you’re a coach doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be thoughtful of ethical guidelines. You should not be thoughtful about the ways in which the work that you’re doing can be complicated when you’re further away. Like there’s all sorts of things that we need to be mindful of. And just because you’re now called a coach doesn’t mean you abscond that responsibility. 

Dusti: Absolutely. Well and you have a program that addresses this, too.

Thais: Well, so I do mentorship for depth coaches, which is like a small container, max four women who are coaches who you know, identify as coaches who want to do meaningful work, but they are scared. They’re scared and worried about doing it right. And what’s cool about my mentorship is that I often call it supervision, which is what it is in the world of mental health, which is, you come in, we talk about your clients, we talk about the work you’re actually doing in the room, and you get support for it in the room. I think that it’s really tragic that we don’t have that in the coaching space.

Dusti: You and one other woman are the only people I know who are actually creating containers for something like this. 

Thais: Wild. You have infinite containers for how to build a business. Infinite containers for how to do every single type of marketing. And those are wonderful. But then what happens when you start getting clients? Like what happens besides making money off of them, how do you actually support them? How do you actually do the work? What is the work that you’re actually doing? How do you navigate conflict? How do you navigate your people-pleasing and the ways in which you want to do right, but this client is kind of wanting things that you don’t provide. How do you navigate the complexities of the relational dynamics that come up, the power dynamics that come up? There are so few spaces for it. And I think that that is absolutely of detriment to the industry. Because this is where harm happens. Prolific harm, right, like all everywhere, all the time harm, dual relationships. There’s no place where we can really grapple with what happens when we’ll come out of this coaching certification programs, where we’re taught to do coaching to one another, and now we’re expected to put ourselves out there and coach strangers when the only relationship that we’ve experienced where we’ve coached people that we know. I mean, there’s so much here there’s so much opportunity to get better support so that we build something more sustainable. And yeah, I’ve really wished that it was more common. That this was a more common practice because I don’t see why it shouldn’t be or couldn’t be.

Dusti: That’s what happens when you’re an innovator, Thais.

Thais: Well, I don’t know about all that. It’s pretty common standard practice in the world of mental health. 

Dusti: It is but it’s not being applied in these other areas where, like you said, rampant harm is being done. So I would love to switch gears just a little bit here and talk about your business. Because it’s definitely gone through some iterations now from your days of coaching through getting a master’s program, which just, like maintaining these things in tandem is like, “Oh, man.” It makes my brain explode thinking about it. So where do your clients come from at this point? 

Thais: Most of them come from referrals from my network that I’ve built here in LA, but I get the occasional Google SEO and also through that my website and also through, very few, but through directories like Psychology Today, that can also be a really good source of referrals, but the best referrals I get are in person, kind of through people knowing me. Contacts and my clients also refer people to me.

Dusti: Very cool. I’ve always wondered about that, because I’m like, even if I have a really good therapist, I’m not sure if she’s going to be the right therapist for my buddy. And it also feels weird. 

Thais: It’s complicated because if you have a close enough relationship to that person that you’re then referring, then that can kind of complicate that. 

Dusti: Like, it’s gonna come up. Yeah. 

Thais: Usually, I don’t accept that. But if it’s like your sister’s co-worker’s niece’s father, I don’t know.

Dusti: Like a third tier connection versus a direct connection. I love that. Okay. So, if you had to start from scratch, where would you get those first 10 clients?

Thais: Through building connections with people around me because at least at first, the internet is a very noisy place. It takes time to establish yourself, it takes time to kind of build something. It takes more effort in some ways, because you’re just a name on a screen, to build that kind of connection in relationship to people, not that it’s obviously not possible. It just takes more time. So if I’m like, “Oh, my goodness, I need to get my 10 clients soon or else I’m not going to make money. I’m not going to be able to feed myself,” then building a connection, building a strong community of people around you, I think is a really, really powerful way to do that. But honestly, don’t put yourself in a position where you need to make money or else you’re not going to feed, in terms of an entrepreneurial pursuit. I’ve done that and it is, because you have to scrap, you also have to be desperate. The desperation can often force one to do things that are not in integrity with our best selves. And so I know that that is kind of not possible for all people. I get it, but if you can not put yourself in a position where you have to get clients are you not going to feed yourself? Don’t do it. It is not advisable. But I know you didn’t add that urgency. I’m adding that urgency in your question. But yeah, building connections, you know, connecting to people that you’ve met on the internet like you and I, right? It’s so much more powerful to say, hey, let’s get a 30 minute zoom chat and get to know each other. So now when I see your name, I’m remembering our connection or remembering our relationship, I’m more likely to think of you that means that that goes a long ways.

Dusti: I completely agree. Whenever my pipeline would start getting empty, I would just open up 20 minute coffee chats. Because I already know if I do that, I’m going to generate some business but more importantly, I’m planting seeds with so many people. I’ll usually do up to 20 in a two week period, which is a lot. But usually they’re, like you never know when people are lurking and you never know who’s lurking and it could be somebody really great who maybe you work with them down the road. Maybe you don’t. But just being willing to take a little bit of time and really see somebody makes such a huge difference in my experience. 

Thais: Oh yeah. I mean, people are thirsty for real, genuine connection. And I think we’re really depriving ourselves of also getting the opportunity to get to know other people’s minds. I also at the beginning, and what I sometimes support my coaches and my mentorship, this isn’t for everybody, but sometimes lowering your price point to a place where it’s easier to get clients can generate a momentum. See what I was told when I first started was you want to be pricing yourself high because you are of service, and you are offering transformation, and what price point can you put on transformation? Like 20 grand is nothing if you’re going to absolutely transform that person’s life. I was told high ticket and know your worth, right. So I did it. And what I found myself is that I didn’t have experience, I didn’t have clients and I was trying to sell something that requires experience and competence, right. So taking a step back, lowering my price point to a place where I was then more easily able to generate clients, now I’m getting experience, I’m gaining competence, I’m gaining self confidence. Now I can say, “Hey my clients…” without lying. I’m seeing it because I have clients not because I’m faking it till I make it, which again is another kind of strategy I was told. That went a long way to helping me speak to the right people, to know what to speak about, to know what kind of content to generate because I was pulling it from what I was experiencing, what I was working through. Again, this is all kind of in the coaching space not so much in the psychotherapy space because in psychotherapy, you need 30,000 hours. You need to be getting clients you know, it’s a totally different model, doing internships or doing free labor to get your 30,000 hours. But in the coaching space, pricing yourself to a point where it’s easier for you to market yourself you’re getting… That I think makes a bigger difference than I think how a lot of the more popular coaching paradigm is right now. But again, it’s not for everybody. If you are working a nine to five job and you don’t necessarily need to make money, maybe this won’t apply to you. I mean, again, it really is circumstantial. It depends on you. It depends on what you want. But I think being willing to humble yourself and price yourself accordingly. You’re not a master yet, you’re not an advanced coach yet. If you have one client, you know, to humble yourself a bit. It goes against the coaching culture, but it makes a difference. People can feel it, they can tell you know.

Dusti: Totally. Well. I used to do, I haven’t done it in the past year and a half because I had a baby, but I used to do 

Thais: Cute baby, by the way.

Dusti: Thank you. He’s fat and squishy and wonderful. But I used to do an annual pay what you can thing, and I always did that because I, you know, especially as I have gotten more advanced, I have developed more expertise, I am absolutely priced out of most people’s budgets at this point. Like you either have the revenue to bring me in as a part time marketing director or you don’t, which means you also have a team and it requires a million dollar plus business. And I still love so many of these people who I don’t get to work with or consult with as often. And opening up those times has always been, I mean, I usually get one weird one every time but, with the exception of the one weird one who subsequently gets blocked, everybody else has been super, super cool. And I get to work on so many more interesting projects. And it just reminds me of what folks are really working on at those levels so that I’m still like, I’m not totally out of the small business arena because small businesses, for me, are always going to be – like that’s where my heart is. And it’s just such a joy to get to work with more diverse clientele because otherwise I just don’t see a lot of those folks. 

Thais: Yeah, and I think that that’s in a way why you are in business. I think sometimes we just, again, the coaching industry is so obsessed with money and it’s like the people that I’m interested in supporting and working with are the coaches who don’t go into the coaching industry to make money or to make a bajillion dollars. They go into it because they have something that they feel is going to be beneficial to people, because they want to help people, because they’re passionate about supporting and uplifting, and now they want to fine tune it. They want to make it sustainable. It’s not that they want to do it for free. Of course we need to make money. We live in capitalism, but how do we do it in a way that’s sustainable? How do we do it in a way that’s in integrity, with our kindness and our goodness? And I think you doing that is your, kind of what you’re communicating is that you like this work and that yes, you know that the type of work that you want to spend most of your time on is with these types of businesses, but you don’t want to only do that, you know. You want to also make sure that you’re keeping your toes in other niches or other price points. And I think that that’s really wonderful. I really, really wish that more people would stay connected to why they got into this work in the first place and I speak from experience. I speak from the fact that very quickly because of my desperation, my despair and my desire to do this full time, I did some things that I’m not proud of and that I look back with a lot of shame and I’m working very hard to…not atone. What am I saying? Um, I work very hard to forgive myself because it was doing what I knew and I was doing the best I could. But I really wish that I had someone like me in a way, someone to support me, maybe feel like I didn’t have to make those choices, that there were more options than I thought there were. It can make a big difference, I think.

Dusti: And to be clear, we all, I mean it’s not just coaching either. Like you said, there’s so much that comes up when you’re in business, especially when it’s early. And I know for me, I come from a super traumatic background. And that’s part of how I ended up in this weird little corner of the internet at all was because, yeah, I figured out that I could make money on the internet, which meant I didn’t have to work at Starbucks anymore, which is where I started back when I started copywriting because it was the job that I knew I could get. I was you know, slinging fucking coffee drinks. And I had no idea how to manage client expectations and I absolutely had some projects that like, I’m sure there are rooms that if you mentioned my name, it’s like a bomb going off. And, sorry, I didn’t know any better. I feel like it’s so normal to have that experience and that’s just gotta be exacerbated by just the volume of knowledge that you have. 

Thais: Yeah, and luckily we grow up. And also, in some ways, we had to have made those mistakes in order to get to where we are now and we have to fail. We have to be willing to fail in order to take risks to succeed and we know that but it doesn’t make it feel any better. And that’s why I think okay, yes, we need to make mistakes, but we don’t have to do that alone. We can make mistakes, but we can also be in rooms where we can make sense of our mistakes. So we make less of them, especially when it comes to our clients’ mental health, right? If we’re talking about any type of coaching that takes people into their emotional experience, we’re starting to talk about potentially opening ourselves up to doing some harm. So we need to now be really thoughtful and mindful. There’s a difference between the type of harm that you can do if you write bad copy. The type of harm that we can do when we start opening people’s traumas up or opening people’s wounds up. Totally want to be really careful and thoughtful and intentional about that work.

Dusti: Yeah, absolutely. All right. Thais. Final question. What makes a business referral worthy to you?

Thais: Integrity. Doing what you’re saying you’re going to do. Honor your word, and making sure that what you are doing is in alignment with the type of work that you want to be doing.

Dusti: So well said. Thais, where can everybody find you if they want to learn more about you and your work?

Thais: Well, you can come to my Instagram at iamthaissky. You can also of course go to my website, I promise to send out a newsletter like once a year. I wish I had this very prolific newsletter system but it’s really like when my heart calls for it. So it’s usually like once a year, maybe twice, if you’re lucky. But you can always sign up there because you know, algorithms are not always friendly to us content creators. Yeah, my Instagram is the best place. Yeah.

Dusti: Amazing. And that link will be down below the episode in the show notes. Thanks, everybody for listening and thanks guys for joining me. 

Thais: Thanks for having me.

Filed Under: