How is Coaching Different from Therapy?
Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology
"Oh," said Bob, after listening to me explain what I do, "So
coaching's like therapy for healthy people?"
No, because for one thing there are healthy people in therapy,
and for another, coaches aren't doing therapy. In fact this
strikes many of us coaches as funny, because we intentionally
chose not to be therapists, and so are many therapists. Over
1/3 of the members of the International Coaching Federation
are therapists! In fact, I fit the hybrid of many coaches
-- I have a master's degree in clinical psychology, but had
a career in marketing and PR. Why didn't I make therapy my
profession? I was waiting for coaching to come along.
The field of psychology is at least 100 years old-Freud opened
up his consulting room in 1886, and the American Psychological
Association (APA) was founded in 1892. It is by all accounts
experiencing major growing pains right now, and whether it's
labor pains, or death throes remains to be seen. Therapy was
originally based on the medical model of disease-there was
something wrong with the patient that the expert must find
and then fix. As in "cure."
Over the years, there have been many changes in the field
of psychology, with new names (Winnicott, Jung, Adler) and
new theories (Rational Emotive, Cognitive, Behavioral), but
all assuming pathology.
Martin Seligman's Positive Psychology is a force in a new
direction we're watching carefully, and the fact that he's
started a Coaching School shows at least some affinity to
the coaching philosophy.
FILLING A NEED
Coaching evolved to fill a need that wasn't being met. Haven't
you looked at least once at a professional athlete and said,
"If only…" or "Well, sure, when you have that kind of help."
We may not all be 6'5" with superb reflexes, but each of us
has a unique set of strengths and just as much raw potential
to develop if placed in the right hands.
We all know what a professional coach does for an athlete.
It's a combination of teaching specific techniques and skills
and a lot of work on "mental attitude," or whatever it's being
called these days. (I think of it as Emotional Intelligence.)
Sports coaches have long been into the mind-body connection.
But 10 years ago, who was around to do this for you when you
wanted to build a business, or find a new career, or get unstuck,
or create a retirement worth living for, or be a more effective
Not that you couldn't do it alone, but it would probably go
quicker and better with fresh insight, perspective, and perhaps
some specific expertise. Coaches are "change agents," but
also are specialized. You may want someone who can help you
with life balance, who understands your field (engineering),
who has actually been a single Mother, who has served on a
Board, who has built a successful business, who has been a
manager or a professor, who has lost 50 pounds, who has helped
someone else lose 50 lbs., or who is himself multicultural.
SO IT'S LIKE FRIENDSHIP?
No. Friends and loved ones have their own issues, agendas,
perspectives, and points of view. They also "project"-that
is, if they are timid, and you want to do something they consider
daring, they'' try and discourage you, and tell you it's "for
your own good." I'm not talking about bungee jumping; I'm
talking about starting your own business at age 50, or moving
halfway around the world, or walking away from a 6-figure
job because it's making you sick.
Friends are not trained to be objective, and the closer they
are to you, the less likely they'll be objective. Everyone
involved with you emotionally has a vested interest in what
you do. They also, I'm sure you've found, do not have the
So for those of us who wanted more out of our lives or particularly
out of ourselves, who wanted personal and professional development
not in the pop-psych short-term-goal way, but as a lifelong
proposition, where was there to go?
Reading self-help books gives theory for a mass market, but
where could you get a personal and individualized program?
It was time for something new for the millennium - coaching!
About 8 years ago, I was burning out of my then career field,
and looking for something I didn't even know the name for.
I went to a therapist who said I was depressed. Damn right
I was. I said I needed to find a new career that was meaningful,
and she said she "didn't do that," and didn't know anyone
who did, but we could talk. She asked me about my father,
a lawyer, and if I was 'supposed to have been the lawyer.'
There were no female lawyers in 1966 when I graduated from
college, my father is long dead, and I was beginning to feel
I was and nobody had told me. What I was looking for was what
coaching is all about-finding your passion (or reclaiming
it) and going forward.
USER-FRIENDLY: CONVENIENT, EFFICIENT, EFFECTIVE & AFFORDABLE
Not surprisingly, since it evolved to fill a need, coaching
is very user-friendly, mostly done by telephone, from wherever
you and/or your coach happen to be. It uses your time efficiently.
No wait, no drive time, no dress code, no need to cancel because
you're on vacation. It's stream-lined, cyber, results-oriented,
and becoming more affordable all the time as it becomes more
AND WHO ARE THE COACHES?
Well, some are therapists, but they come from all walks of
life. There are credentialing schools (I direct one, EQ Alive!),
but the "requirements" for the field are established by the
individual consumer. As Thomas Leonard, the founder of Coaching
said, "Check your credentials at the door and leave your Boy
Scout badges at home." He himself was an accountant who had
a knack for helping people with the more important things
in their lives.
WHAT KIND OF COACH FOR YOU?
Coaches help people, and in the most amazing ways. Soon I
think there will be a coach for everything, and I think that's
wonderful. Now there's a Potty Training Coach. If you're laughing,
you haven't been there, as I was - thousands of miles from
any family member stumbling around with my friends, the blind
leading the blind, and confused by the conflicting advice
I was hearing and reading, and a pediatrician who said, "You'll
know when he's ready." Not this first-time mother!
There are coaches for ADHD (the Canadian Medical Association
has recommended coaching as part of their multi-modality treatment
plan), Depression, Divorce, Elder Care, Communication, Leadership,
Conflict Resolution, Relationships, Intuition, Introverts,
eZines, Marketing, Real Estate, Retirement, Breast Cancer
Survival, Emotional Intelligence, Fathering, Public Speaking,
Career, and Writing. If you can't find one for what you want,
visit Premier Coach Referral - http://www.webstrategies.cc/coachreferralservice.htm
. We'll find one for you.
For those who have the income to invest in personal and professional
growth and are used to paying for professional services, coaching
makes sense. It's definitely an idea whose time has come.
© Susan Dunn, MA, Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach
Susan Dunn, MA, Clinical Psychology, The EQ Coach,
. Offering individual coaching, coach training and certification,
business solutions, coach products for licensing to jumpstart
your practice, distance learning, The EQ Learning Lab,
the EQ eBook Library, http://www.webstrategies.cc/ebooklibrary.html
, and Emotional Intelligence resources. Send email to email@example.com
for FREE eZine.
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