Coaching and Psychotherapy: Sisters not Twins
Often prospective clients ask me if they should consider coaching rather than psychotherapy, psychotherapy instead of coaching or should they engage in both. It is likely that you are curious about coaching and how it compares with psychotherapy.
Coaching is about creating the future and psychotherapy is about healing the present and past.
Coaching has a number of similarities with psychotherapy. Both strive to facilitate an increase in life satisfaction for the client. The most striking dissimilarity is that coaching has a different and stronger “future” orientation for clients than does psychotherapy. That is the coaching client is challenged to bring clarity to their life priorities in the service of creating a life plan or vision for their future. This envisioning process generates strong motivators to overcome the inevitable obstacles clients face in moving forward toward lasting change. The coaching agenda unlike psychotherapy does not include helping clients heal past wounds nor does it address management of chronic mental health issues such as that of depression, anxiety, etc. Coaching is perhaps most similar to brief solution therapy in that coaching is very action/goal oriented and thoroughly client-centered.
Coaches follow the client while many psychotherapists both follow and lead.
The role of the coach is also somewhat different from that of the psychotherapist. The coach is there to support even challenge the client but solely around the agenda the client has determined. The coach makes suggestions sparingly and if so, asks the client permission to do so. The coaching process is centered exclusively on what the client identifies as her goals. This is true to some extent in psychotherapy but many psychotherapists tend to be more directive than coaches in terms of giving advice, suggestions and their opinions about the problems clients present. There is emphasis on problem solving in psychotherapy and creating the client’s desired future in coaching.
When should I consider coaching?
You feel ready to make some concrete changes in your life and recognize that to succeed you need some support. Some parts of you life are working fairly well and you are optimistic that you can make changes that will increase your sense of well being. You have some history of succeeding and overcoming challenges.
When should I consider psychotherapy?
You are in emotional pain and need relief.
How can coaching benefit me while I am in psychotherapy?
Coaching can be a helpful companion to psychotherapy when a client demonstrates readiness to move forward to make specific life changes in the service of creating a more satisfying future. While at the same time the client continues to modify maladaptive behaviors from emotional wounds of the past. For example, a psychotherapy client may benefit from work with a coach in designing a wellness program with specific goals around exercise, nutrition, and stress reduction. At the same time the client continues in therapy to work on decreasing guilty feelings about putting her needs before those of family members.
When is coaching not enough?
Psychotherapy can be beneficial to the coaching client who repeatedly sabotages her coaching goals and becomes “stuck” to the point that little to no progress takes place.
Psychotherapy can uncover the roots of the client’s resistance and give the client the emotional strength to take back control. The client can then return to her coaching goals with renewed determination.
Psychotherapy can also relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression that prevent coaching clients from reaching their full potential in meeting their life goals.