Friday, January 15, 2010

How Do Coaching and Therapy Compare?

It seems like there are getting to be relationship coaches everywhere you turn. With little or no training, many entrepreneurs decide to call themselves coaches. They hang out their proverbial shingle and begin trolling for clients. Many say they specialize in coaching people in marriage improvement, having no more expertise than being divorced themselves.

What is coaching, anyway? How is that different from psychotherapy? How do you know when you need therapy?

Generally speaking, coaching tends to focus on the present and future. A coach’s main action will be to help you identify action steps you need to take and see to it that you carry them out. For example, if you intend to start a business, a coach will ask you to figure out your top five goals and the strategies you need to employ to carry them out. Your coach’s main function then will be to hold you accountable for carrying them out.

On the other hand, sometimes you need the training and expertise of a therapist. The primary way in which coaching and therapy differ is in depth. For example, if you have anger or depression issues that haunt your everyday life, a therapist would help you explore and unpack the roots of those issues. Freedom comes in understanding those roots and how they are still affecting you. This knowledge gives you options, rather than simply knee-jerk reacting to situations that trigger your obsolete ways of responding.

For example, I am working by phone with a young man from Massachusetts whose father died of cancer when my client was fifteen years old. To make matters worse, neither of his parents told him about his dad’s illness and impending death. So he was in total shock when his father died. And he was angry, too. In an attempt to cope on his own, he withdrew from his friends, sports, the rest of his family, and the world. And that is where he had stayed, until he began working with me. Needless to say, his isolating himself severely compromised his social development, which was my secondary concern, once we had emotionally buried his dad. His work included a trip to Minneapolis so he could literally put an end to his isolation.

It is easy to see, then, that psychotherapy goes way beyond the scope of coaching. Clearly, there is a place for both modalities in helping people to make changes in their lives. However, if you find yourself repeating the same mistakes or unhelpful responses to life, you would be wise to seek the services of a competent, well-trained psychotherapist with whom you have good chemistry. Whom you choose for your therapist is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. So choose carefully and wisely.

If you wish to have further clarification about the similarities and differences, feel free to contact me at my toll-free number, which is 888-546-1580.

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