Recently I had a conversation with a representative from a well know coaching agency as I was considering a certificate in life coaching. Despite my feeling that many therapist often function as a life coach, I wondered if somehow this additional training might enhance my skills and possibly make me more attractive to potential clients. While this woman tried to sell me on the idea that life coaching is distinctly different than therapy, part of her jargon was to explain that while therapist pathologize and view individuals as broken and in need of healing, life coaches assume that individuals are whole and healthy. What I found interesting is that most of what she described as unique to life coaching, sounded much like a Rogerian Client Centered approach that many in the counseling field embrace, i.e., clients are not patients that need fixing, the client is the expert; the therapist guides rather than directs and seeks to empower the client to find their own solutions; the therapist accepts the client unconditionally, without judgment, without disapproval or approval.
I found an article where the author makes the argument that therapist assume the client needs healing.. Works to bring the unconscious into consciousness and works for internal resolution of pain and to let go of old patterns. Although this may be true of a psychodynamic focused clinicians, this not so true of those of us that have a more humanistic approach.
The reality is that therapist are trained practitioners, we are held to very high standard of laws and ethical codes that govern how we work with individuals. We all have a Master’s level degree or higher, have to accumulate thousands of hours of training before we can even become licensed, at least in the state of California and we have a state governing board that approves us to be able to work independently along with having to have malpractice insurance. Unfortunately, this is not yet true for those in the Coaching fields. Not to say that there aren’t really good coaches providing really good practical tools for people, and they play a huge role in business success. The reality is in my opinion, the basis of coaching stems directly from counseling principles and the goals of coaching are not much different than that of counseling.
Therapist who provide brief therapy that is client focused, often help clients focus on here and now issues, and ways to strategically improve their current situation. Past issues are not the focus of sessions, nor is time spent delving into the underlying reasons the current situation exists. It is solution focused designed to develop a step-by-step plan of action, to focus on future goals, explore current challenges to your success and to celebrate your results. Coaching with a therapist can be very beneficial, as you have the knowledge that you in the hands of a very well prepared, highly educated and trained individual who has the ability to incorporate life experiences in a way that makes it highly useful for you. Someone who’s goal is helping you become your best you.
Peace & blessings,
Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC said:
Hi Loretta –
I understand and appreciate your concern, but please keep investigating – as you would say to me if I commented on your field after a relatively brief conversation with a single source, no matter how well placed. It is unfair to yourself and to clients who might well be served to ring in with an opinion of an entire field (pro or con) with little more than an introductory conversation.
You received a non-specific explanation formulated to loosely describe differences to “the general public” — those who know little of *either* field — the Pareto Principle source of those who generally show up with that “What IS coaching?” question. Even if the person you spoke with understood s/he was speaking to a therapist, unless there was a high level of familiarity with both fields, I’m sure he or she was struggling.
With both coaching AND therapy, there are good practitioners who make lousy “marketers” – they can’t explain what they do particularly well, even when they DO it quite well. None of the helping professions are especially easy to talk ABOUT, in any case – certainly not in sound-bites or in the presence of real or perceived pressure to rise to a “challenge.” Both fields have terms and technologies that are similar – the difference is in the details.
You must remember that, practically overnight, this relatively brand new coaching field has grown amazingly rapidly –& not simply due to the bloat of the ranks of those coming from “weekend trainings.” Almost every administrative arm of almost every coaching organization is overwhelmed and understaffed. As a result, there are also individuals who become, essentially, an organization’s “marketing” face, who don’t understand (or can’t articulate) the foundational nuance of what they are attempting to explain well enough to BEGIN to do so — either because they are not coaches themselves, or because they are new to coaching (who see field involvement in that manner as a “related” side-job while they train or build necessary coaching hours for certification or graduation.)
IMHO, this dynamic does the field a disservice as a result, but there is currently no viable alternative: PR firms don’t understand how to explain it either, for similar reasons; heads of schools can’t personally talk to prospects and handle the rest of their accountabilities; seasoned coaches aren’t going to be willing to take on those jobs, nor do we have time to field the numerous requests for [unbillable] conversations about the topic – nor would you, if the shoe was on the other foot.
Either way – how well would YOU do if I called to ask you to explain your field, knowing little about it beyond the fact that people are doing it for a living and there is training available? Fortunately, your field is well enough established in the mind of the public that it is beyond having to explain “from scratch.”
Pick up a copy of Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives (Karen Kimsey-House, Henry Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl), or Teri-E Belf’s Coaching With Spirit. While I don’t personally agree that everything in either book applies to ADD Coaching, those two will give you a better idea of the value of coaching than a month of “marketing” conversations. Dr. Pat Williams, a former therapist, founded the Institute for Life Coach Training. I’m not familiar with their curriculum (or their intake people!), but Pat and I trained together initially, so I know him to have been a very good coach a few years after graduation.
There is ALSO a recent cross-modality conversation in process exploring the topic of the distinctions between coaching and various types of therapy on LinkedIn in the following group: Links For Shrinks — For Therapists, Psychologists, Coaches. Our mutual goal is to foster collegial understanding in service of being excellent professional resources for appropriate options for growth and healing. Please join us.
Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, SCAC, MCC – (blogging at ADDandSoMuchMore and ADDerWorld – dot com!)
PS – You are correct in seeing many similarities between coaching and Brief Therapy modalities. It is a misstatement to say that coaching is “very” different from therapy – many of the most important differences are subtle. When I trained ADD Coaches (not currently offered, btw, and not scheduled for 2012 at this time), I always cautioned the therapists that it would be more challenging and take them longer than their “therapy naive” classmates to “grok” the differences in “come-from” and technique — talk to a comprehensively trained therapist/coach and they will probably be able to explain why that is so better than I could.
LGordon, MFT said:
Thanks. I spoke with reps from ICA I think and another representing relationship coaching.