Dispelling the Myth: Coaching vs. Therapy?

There are many who hold the erroneous belief that coaching is essentially the same as therapy. There are certainly similarities, but the differences make coaching a significantly different concept worth noting:

Similarities include a relationship between a trained professional and a client who seeks the services of the professional to help them get past issues that they are experiencing. That is perhaps where the similarities end.

The differences between the two are far more evident. First, coaching “supports personal and professional growth and development based on individual-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is forward moving and future focused.

“Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or a relationship between two or more individuals. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability and follow-through.” –International Coach Federation

While a licensed therapist has received training for longer periods, certified coaches have received rigorous training as well. Perhaps a reason for a therapist’s longer training includes the fact that therapists are trained to work with entire populations including those with mental illnesses, whereas coaches work with those who simply want a change. In addition, licensed therapists are trained to take the lead in their sessions, getting their clients to a specific resolution. Coaches will simply guide their clients to take themselves where the client wants to go, being a place of resonance for that client. The coach is simply there to help the client get clear on what it is that the client wants.

As a coach, there have been situations where I have referred a client to a licensed therapist, although I continue to believe that regardless of being in therapy, one can still benefit from skillful coaching, even simultaneously.

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