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Gold Rush Coaching Supervision

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The trend within coaching to require supervision for all coaches is, therefore, misguided and fraught with dangers for the entire profession. From the earliest days, coaching has been a self-regulated profession, successfully fighting off attempts to regulate it by government and outside professional entities. Mentor coaching, in its broad definition, has provided and continues to provide the reflective opportunities that are purported to be provided by coaching supervision.

Is it wise to open up a regulatory Pandora’s box?

Finally, adopting clinical forms of supervision, using the language that applies to regulated areas of clinical practice in the USA holds significant risks for the coaching profession, as represented by the ICF. Whether or not coaching is the de-facto practice of psychotherapy becomes less clear if practices applied to the legal control of therapeutic practice become mandated for all coaches. From the creation of the first credentialing program in the mid-1990s efforts have been made to keep the distinctions between these types of practice clear and to “reinforce professional coaching as a distinct and self-regulating profession.” (ICF, 2005)

Auerbach (email dated February 18, 2015) consulted with Eric Harris, JD who:

felt that a US court would see coaching supervision, because of the similarities in the methods of the supervision process in the mental health fields, and in the similarities between coaching and counselling, as a form of consultation that would align with what is commonly known as the type of supervision that licensed mental health professionals experience, which is defined by the American Psychological Association as the supervisor having authority and legal liability. In the mental health fields this legal liability of the supervisor leads to many people not wanting to take on the responsibility of supervising others, hence causing a serious difficulty for aspiring professionals to get their required supervision.

Linda Page, PhD Psychology, MCC, Founder and president of Adler International, identifies a type of psychological supervision that she calls “developmental supervision”, which is very relevant to coaches. However, in an email dated February 28, 2015, she states “I believe this is the type of supervision that is captured by the “mentor coach” designation.”

Coaching supervisors stand to make a great deal of money from providing coaching supervision. In a profession that has seen many trained and certified coaches unable to make a living, since the global financial crises, this added requirement may cause even more coaches to leave the field. Some argue that supervision (and mentoring) is actually exploitive of coaches and coaching, representing a form of ‘pyramid model’ and reinforcing the unfortunate perception that the industry’s growth is in part coaches making money from coaching other coaches who may be required to hire/pay these coaching mentors and supervisors. I say, let the market be the deciding factor–the reputation and work of effective coaches will speak for themselves, and clients will continue to be well served.

What can be done?

We need to be sensitive to the notion that professional regulation is changing – that it is not the same in all countries. Here I have presented a North American-based perspective of coaching supervision, where government regulation is unlikely–provided that the scope and practice of coaching as defined by the ICF is not compromised. This culture shift in the coach profession to more control by professional associations through mandated supervisory practices, may lead to coaches voting with their feet.

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