Home Applications Personal & Life Coaching Ten Trends in Personal/Life Coaching

Ten Trends in Personal/Life Coaching

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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.

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One Comment

  1. Rey Carr

    June 9, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Something about this article left me thinking that I missed the connection between coaching and any of the 10 items mentioned. For example, all the three points that neurobiology is allegedly responsible for in contributing to knowledge of human behaviour (and changing behaviour) were clearly known prior to the advent of the current craze to quote brain research. I don’t think that neurobiology has contributed at all to improving the coaching relationship. And as if to strengthen my point, the authors give no examples or evidence of how coaches have actually used these principles to make a difference in their interactions with clients.

    The same holds true for the nine other trends mentioned. Cognitive psychology (via Jerome Bruner and others) as well as solution-focused work and the work of William Glasser and Albert Ellis and countless others are all cognitive approaches that turned traditional psychotherapy on its head and dumped it from working with dysfunctional individuals.

    I wish the authors had provided more direct evidence of the way in which these trends have actually influenced the work of coaches.


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