Coaching and Psychotherapy
From its inception coaching has been on the frontier of the human services territory. As with all frontier towns, all a Sherriff needed was a six gun and a badge. In the early days of coaching all a coach needed was a business card that said, “Coach.” In those early days the boundaries between coaching and therapy were more clear cut. Therapy focused on dysfunctional behavior. Psychodynamic approaches sought to uncover past patterns that led to that dysfunction. Cognitive approaches sought to modify behavior patterns to improve functionality. On the other hand, coaching focused on strengths, potential, values, goals, ideals, and attaining a long term vision of the future you desired. It appeared that these were two distinct human services (Skibbins, 2007).
Even in recent years, a clear line has often been drawn between these two fields. One of the leaders in the field of personal coaching, Patrick Williams (who is also trained as a therapist) offers the following four distinctions regarding the relationship between the therapist and client as compared to the relationship between coach and client: (1) past (therapy) vs. future (coaching), (2) fix (therapy) vs. create (coaching), (3) professional (therapy) vs. collegial (coaching) and (4) limited (therapy) vs. open (coaching). (William,2015)
These days the boundaries may be blurring. Trends in modern psychotherapy include mindfulness training, narrative therapy, sports psychology, positive psychology, Neuro-linguistic Programming, Holistic Psychotherapy and the entire Human Potential Movement. Psychotherapy is beginning to focus on defining and meeting the client’s needs. Psychology is moving towards areas previously addressed by coaching. At the same time, coaching is incorporating neuroscientific innovations, couples coaching, Emotional Intelligence work, mindfulness training, and Insight oriented coaching. The coaching profession is moving into that boundary region between psychotherapy and coaching.
Coaching seeks to professionalize itself. Training programs that seek certified recognition from the International Coach Federation must meet standards that include supervision, class instruction, and many hours spent coaching. An individual wanting ICF certification must certify their education, be tested, and participate in Continuing Education. (https://www.coachfederation.org ) However, none of this training can begin to compare with what is required to become a licensed professional psychotherapist. This leads to acrimony between the two professions, especially as each begins to encroach on the territory previously ceded to the other.
There is no easy reconciliation to this conflict. As psychotherapy evolves, exploring the future concerns, expectations and ideals of the client will become grist for the mill of the therapeutic relationship. As coaching evolves, exploration into the working of the brain, and a deeper understanding of the barriers to effective choice making will become grist for the mill of the coaching conversation. A head-on collision is inevitable, and may lead to a deepening of both professions, if member from each side can come to respect the contributions of the other.Download Article 1K Club