How is coaching different than therapy?

Coaching is both a technique and a discipline.  Many therapists use the technique of coaching within their psychotherapy practice.  However, coaches do not overlap and practice psychotherapy, and are prohibited legally from doing so .

Coaches are not always trained as therapists, and thus, are not usually licensed to practice psychotherapy.  As a  licensed therapist, I am required to make the distinction when I am working with a coaching client so as to NOT also provide psychotherapy concurrent to our coach/client relationship.

This can be a little confusing, but the rationale of coaching as a separate practice is predicated on the idea that the goals of psychotherapy are often very different than the goals of coaching.

Psychotherapy is a process that is largely focused on healing a mental health concern.  The strategy of how to accomplish this goal may differ between therapists with different theoretical positions, but the goal is the same.   Thus, psychotherapy looks at either what has happened or where the individual is currently.  The desired outcome of psychotherapy is that the patient feels better because something is healed.

In contrast, coaching does not focus on mental health except to note the extent that it impacts positively or negatively how one might move towards a goal in the future.  Coaching is the process of setting a goal, which might be broken down into smaller goals that build upon each other, and then acquiring the skills to achieve that goal.  Coaching also looks at potential obstacles as defined by the client.  Once identified, coach and client use a collaborative process to minimize or work around obstacles so that the goal is achieved.  The desired outcome of coaching is that the client IS better, because they have developed a process of goal achievement that remains in place after the coaching relationship ends.

 Not everyone or every situation is appropriate for coaching.  And again, a key benefit is  developing the skills to achieve goals.  Even though an individual might begin coaching for a specific goal i.e. to finish an unwritten book, the process learned can be applied to many, if not all of the client’s other goals and becomes a way of approaching challenges and opportunities ongoing.

Unlike psychotherapy where the therapist has specific training in the maladies presented by the client, the coach need not be an expert in the specific goal the client is seeking.  Nor does the coach “teach” the process.  Rather, it is a collaborative effort.  The coach is trained in facilitating the process and will use a variety of tools to seek out the strengths and resources within the client.

Who are coaches?

In our current environment, at least for a little while longer, anyone can call themselves a coach, unlike terms used for psychotherapists which are protected by licensure.  We do not yet have license requirements for coaches.  We do however, have a variety of certification programs which range from almost none, to very extensive training.  It is not necessary to be a therapist or even have a master’s degree to be a coach.  However, those with these last two qualifications are given a quicker track to the requirements of certification because they have already demonstrated proficiency in some of the necessary areas of working with people.

The largest certification body for coaches is the International Coach Federation. (ICF).  ICF certified coaches is a multi level, process that takes years to complete.  ICF does not certify candidates who fail to complete an ICF accredited educational program.   That is why I personally selected the College for Executive Coaching Program for my own training.

In 2012 The National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) also began a certification process for coaches.  However, in order to be certified by NBCC, therapists in good standing with NBCC were required to complete 30 hours of Coach training and take an exam.  I completed that training with the Executive college in 2012 along with an additional 18 hours.  I predict this move on the part of NBCC, that coaching will at some point move towards requiring licensure as well.  I support this direction because I feel it provides consumers with a higher assurance that professionals are qualified to provide the services for which, they claim proficiency.   Until then, however, it is important to do diligence on the part of the consumer to evaluate the level of investment the practitioner has made in their education.

 Personally, I came to coaching in a rather skeptical manner.  I was exposed to another certifying body a couple of years ago.  Although I completed the work, I never followed through on applying for certification, because I felt it was inadequate training and I was not prepared to coach people in a professional manner.  I also felt that the tools I learned were a collection of well-meaning intentions, haphazardly thrown together.

As I began my training at CEC, I started to see amazing shifts in people’s thought process (including my own) during the practical application of the techniques I was learning.  I got excited about coaching, not to replace my psychotherapy practice, but as a complimentary component.  While I use some coaching skills even in psychotherapy, again, my emphasis and style do shift considerably when my relationship with you is purely coaching model.

 Coaching also allows for more flexibility.  Psychotherapy (often covered by insurance) is designed as a 45 or 60 minutes session and is billed according to the codes of the International classification system.  Coaching, which is not billable to insurance (and not governed by ICD) can take place in 15 minute, 30 minute or 60 minute sessions based on the client’s needs.  Coaching can also take place easily by telephone or internet technology.  However, while the rules are different with respect to each profession, both therapists and coaches are bound to a code of ethics.

Here are a few examples of coaching goals:

-life/work transition
-improving organization skills
-develop attention deficit compensatory skills
-social skills training for Adult diagnosed Asperger’s syndrome
-getting unstuck from an incomplete project
-starting a new venture, project or business