Resistance to the New Field of Professional Coaching
What about those in the fifth diffusion group—the recalcitrants? Sadly, I must nominate some of my fellow psychologists who insist that professional coaching is nothing more than unregulated and undisciplined “psychotherapy-for-normals.” In the early years of professional coaching, “consulting” psychologists were often (gently) making a claim of privilege: psychologists are to lead and regulate the field of professional coaching given their unique qualifications as coaches. It is the psychologist who is committed to conducting (or at least being guided by) research. It is the field of psychology that has built conceptual foundations regarding coaching practices (Kilburg, 1996,b). Furthermore, psychologists can point to their distinctive conceptual base in learning theory (Diedrich, 1996) and, in particular, clinical psychology (Kilburg, 1996a).
A prominent psychological consultant, Harry Levinson (1996, p. 115), noted the following example regarding the important insights available exclusively to psychologists (especially those embracing neo-analytic psychology): “a knowledge of psychological dynamics is particularly important when trying to understand the manager-subordinate relations in the context of adult development. . . The choice of a successor is fraught with conscious and unconscious conflicts and, once that person is in place, with the predictable ambivalence both parties experience.”
Along with many other psychologists, Levinson suggests that this privileged knowledge extends far beyond succession planning. It enables psychologists to explore in-depth issues with their clients in a way that is unavailable to or inappropriately used by coaches without psychological education and training. Psychologists can stake out an even broader claim for privilege in the field of professional coaching. The practices of personal and life coaching are founded on psychological principles (Williams, 2008)