Let’s start with what coaching is not. Although coaching can be therapeutic, it is not psychotherapy. Coaching is not consulting. Resources can be given but the client is not told what to do by coach as expert. In the coaching relationship, the client is the expert in his/her life.
What’s the difference between coaching and therapy?
Although there are some similarities between Coaching and psychotherapy, I will not conduct psychotherapy with my coaching clients. These are different activities, and it is important that you understand the differences between them. Psychotherapy is a health care service and is usually reimbursable through health insurance policies. This is not true for coaching. If we reach a point in the coaching where you going through a depression or circling around the same issue, I may suggest therapy as a way to move forward.
Both coaching and psychotherapy utilize knowledge of human behavior, motivation and behavioral change and interactive counseling techniques. The major differences are in the goals, focus and level of professional responsibility.
The focus of coaching is development and implementation of strategies to reach client-identified goals of enhanced performance and personal satisfaction. Coaching may address specific personal projects, life balance, job performance and satisfaction or general conditions in the client’s life, business or profession. Coaching utilizes personal strategic planning, values clarification, brainstorming, motivational counseling, self discovery and other counseling techniques.
The primary foci of psychotherapy are the identification, diagnosis and treatment of mental and nervous disorders. The goals include alleviating symptoms, understanding the causes of symptoms, changing dysfunctional behaviors which are the result of these disorders and developing new strategies for successfully coping with the psychological challenges which we all face. Psychotherapy patients are typically in an emotionally vulnerable state and this vulnerability is increased by the expectation that they will discuss very intimate personal data and expose feelings about themselves about which they are understandably sensitive. The past life experiences of psychotherapy patients have often made trust difficult to achieve. These factors give psychotherapists greatly disproportionate power that creates a fiduciary responsibility to protect the safety of their clients and to “above all else, do no harm.”
The relationship between the Coach and the Client is specifically designed to avoid the power differentials that occur in the psychotherapy relationship. It is a co-active relationship where the client is the expert in his or her life.
The client sets the agenda and the success of the enterprise depends upon the client’s willingness to take risks and try new approaches. The relationship is designed to be more direct and challenging. You can count on your coach to be honest and straightforward, asking powerful questions and using challenging techniques to move you forward. You are expected to evaluate progress and if coaching is not working as you wish, you should immediately inform me so we can both take steps to correct the problem.
Because of these differences, the roles of coach and psychotherapist are often in potential conflict, and I believe that, under most circumstances, it is ethically inappropriate for me to play both roles with a client, whether concurrently or sequentially. This means that if either of us recognizes that you have a problem that would benefit from psychotherapeutic intervention, I will refer you to appropriate resources. In some situations, I may insist that you initiate psychotherapy and that I have access to your psychotherapist as a condition of my continuing as your coach.
The Coach retains the right to discontinue coaching if, in her professional opinion, psychotherapy, and not coaching, would be more appropriate for the client. In this case, unused retainer fees would be refunded.