Coaching Distinguished from Psychotherapy: A Guideline

coaching and psycholtherapy distinguishedby Ruth Dillon, Experienced Psychotherapist and Coach

On a continuum, psychotherapy and coaching are both professional services for assisting clients in gaining happy, healthy living.  Therapy assists in stabilizing the psychological, mental, and emotional well–being of clients, individuals, couples, families, and groups.  Coaching takes a stabilized individual, couple, family, or group (or business team) into focused, effective action to realize their dreams or goals.

Main Similarities:

Both therapy and coaching offer help, support, guidance, objectivity, fresh perspectives, values clarification, a good sounding board, goal-setting, facilitation of positive change, and a confidential, professional relationship with high standards of excellence.  Both utilize engaging inquiries for meaningful conversations.  And both work within the gap of where a client is now versus where the client wants to be.

Coaches can be very therapist–like in their interactions – caring, listening, empathetic, and encouraging.  Therapists can be very coach-like in their interactions – edgy, challenging, gently confrontive, assigning homework and holding clients accountable to their goals.  Many therapists and coaches are a combination of these ways of being.  And many therapists have added coaching skills to their repertoire.

Main Differences:

Therapy assists clients in working through “presenting issues” of emotional pain or behavioral problems.  Often therapy works with feelings, unresolved past issues, and uncovering of unconscious motivation.  Even therapists who view their clients as resourceful and creative in solving their problems and who work with their clients on goals – are generally working toward stabilizing the client ‘s well-being.

Coaching assumes clients are resourceful and creative, and assists in turning dreams into reality.  The basic philosophy is that by hiring a coach – a “partner” as committed to their client ‘s success as the client is – the client gains clarity and focus about what they want while removing obstacles to their success all the while taking effective steps toward reaching the goal…faster and easier than on their own.

Therapists are trained in diagnoses, such as mood, adjustment, or relational disorders, often assisting clients with mental health insurance claim forms.

Coaches are not trained in diagnoses nor do they consider their clients to be “patients” and often refer clients to therapy.  Rather, coaches assist with personal development, assisting a healthy person to produce greater, more fulfilling results.

In Summary:

Psychotherapy helps a client bring about the psychological and emotional well-being necessary for coaching, while coaching helps a client bring dreams into reality – all on the continuum of happy, healthy living.

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