The ICF Code of Ethics states, “I will carefully explain and strive to ensure that, prior to or at the initial meeting, my coaching client and sponsor(s) understand the nature of coaching, the nature and limits of confidentiality, financial arrangements, and any other terms of the coaching agreement or contract.” Additionally, “I will suggest my client seek the services of other professionals when deemed necessary or appropriate.” Also, “I will accurately identify my coaching qualifications, expertise, experience, certifications and ICF credentials.”
Coaching is not counseling or therapy. If a coach moves in to counseling or therapy they are practicing without a license (unless they happen to be a counselor or therapist). Some clients think a coach is like a counselor or therapist because they are simply unaware of the nature of coaching.
What happens if a client needs a mental health professional? One challenge for a coach is if they are not trained in mental health they simply don’t know when other professional services are needed. Some training on signs can be helpful. During discussion in coaching certification the example that stating mental health services are needed is diagnosing a mental health issue which cannot be done without being a mental health professional. One option is for a coach to state they are aware of something they are not qualified to address, and then ask the client what their options and resources are for deciding what services are appropriate.
It is essential that coaches discuss the difference between providing mental health services and coaching and then ensuring they are only providing coaching services.