Coaching and Mental Health Issues

What happens if a coach spends time delving in to the past?  What happens if a coach starts diagnosing a mental health issue?  What happens if a coach starts giving advice on how to handle situations?  It is a slippery slope in to practicing mental health without the proper licensure or certification.  Coaching is very specifically not the practice of mental health.

What is the difference between mental health and coaching?

  • A mental health professional is trained to diagnose.  A mental health professional works to understand what happened so it can be resolved.  A mental health professional gives advice.  Some mental health professionals give prescriptions.
  • A coach focuses on the future.  A coach asks questions about what the client wants it to become.  A coach empowers the client to explore their options.  A coach asks the client questions so that the client develops their plan of action.

What happens when a coach thinks their coaching client has mental health issues?  If a coach simply says, “You need to go see a mental health professional” this could be deemed as diagnosing and giving advice.  Instead, a coach might say, “I am hearing something I am not qualified to address.  I keep a list of resources that are helpful.  Would you like a copy of my list?”  It is very important that the list have at least three of each type of the different professionals that may benefit a client.  Alternatively, a coach might ask a client which additional professionals would benefit them (the coaching client).

Is it possible or appropriate to continue coaching if a client has mental health issues?  Sometimes it makes sense for the coach and the mental health professional to ask the client for written permission to talk and coordinate services.  Sometimes it makes sense to suspend coaching.  Sometimes it is appropriate to continue coaching.  A coach must be aware of how to best serve the client and the approach is situational.

What are your thoughts on working with a coaching client who is dealing with mental health issues?

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