Distinctions: Coaching vs.Therapy
Friday, November 4, 2011 5 Comments
© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T., MCC, SCAC
Dr. Lee Smith, CTP, MCC ©1994, ’95, ’02, ’11, ’15
Obviously, the well-being of the client is the context for this discussion, and determining what kind of assistance is appropriate is an important question.
Because most coaches are not trained therapists and most therapists are not trained coaches.
• For potential clients: the question is, Which do I choose and how do I decide?
• For helping professionals: the issue becomes when, what, and to which professional to refer.
• When ADD is part of the picture, (or any of the Executive Functioning** dysregulations), the differences between an ADD Coach and any other kind of coach becomes important as well.
**(Check out the Executive Functioning LinkList –
jump to the one you are most interested in reading,
or read them ALL – opens in a new window/tab)
Beginning at the beginning
Let’s begin the process of differentiating therapy and coaching by focusing only on the items in common with all coaches, without regard to specialties.
At the end of this article are some links that will help you understand some key differences that only comprehensively-trained, brain-based ADD Coaches understand how to work with. In a future article I will address the issue ADD Coaching differences more directly.
At first blush, therapy and coaching look more alike than they are, because it’s easy to see the similarities:
- For both therapy and coaching, there is a practitioner/client relationship.
- The focus of both is on the functioning of the client.
- Both practitioners listen and reflect on what is said.
- Both help with empowerment.
- Both develop relationships with their clients that are central to the alliance.
- Both accept clients at whatever level they are on and help them work to the next level.
- Both take place in what the therapeutic community calls “the frame”:
they occur at a specific time for a specific amount of money and have specific ground-rules.
- And both place the responsibility for doing the work that’s developed together on the client.
The differences are easy to see too.
They are easily apparent to anyone looking for them who has experience with quality in both arenas. Both technologies are useful, but Therapy and Coaching are different tools and different disciplines. It is not uncommon for a person to have both a therapist and a Coach, working in different areas of the client’s life, or on the same problem in two different ways.
The pdf document that can be downloaded at the end of this article contains a 2-column chart developed to outline some of the differences in eight key arenas: Domain, Clients, Approach, Relationship, Listening Focus, Time issues, Accountability, and Tools & Application.
Charting the Differences
The chart you can access by clicking the link below summarizes many of the differences between a traditional, dynamic model of therapy and comprehensive, whole-person coaching.
- Other types of therapy, based on different models, are distinguished somewhat differently from coaching, and are as different from coaching as they are from each other.
- And comprehensive, whole-person coaching differs from accountability/check-in coaching as well.
Not everyone is an appropriate candidate for coaching.
A coaching client must be ready, willing and able to take ongoing action: relatively emotionally stable, addiction-free, and invested in making changes that will alter their circumstances.
Clients who are not Coach-appropriate are encouraged to find a therapist or a 12-step or other support group and to come back to coaching once they have done some focused work in “deeper” areas on which Coaching is not designed to work: a client’s underlying psychological issues are not an appropriate focus for coaching.
The relatively rapid growth characteristic of coaching is possible only because conflict resolution has already been handled. Therapy is often a slower process because major psychological underpinnings are being carefully brought to light for examination and change.
There are times when a therapist might well refer to a coach, and there are times when a coach must refer to a therapist or addictions counselor. There are also areas where the coach will want to refer to a therapist, especially when there seems to be a lack of willingness on the part of a client to take actions.
An effective coach must be aware of the issues that are handled well in the coaching arena and, most importantly, those that are not. It is a breach of ethics to dabble in areas where we are not trained, however well-intended our efforts. It becomes a legal matter when we deliver services we are not licensed to deliver, however well-trained we may be.
An effective therapist needs to differentiate between developmental issues and functional challenges, distinguishing areas where traditional therapy can be effective from those where lack of information, skills or resources create behavioral inconsistencies that can look a lot like resistance, blocks or conflicts.
While therapists need not be licensed to work with systems development, that is an area in which comprehensively-trained coaches are trained specifically. Especially when there are a number of developmental issues to handle, a therapist might well consider the benefits of referring the systems issues to a coach.
A relationship where “one hand washes the other” allows clients to proceed with power, and excellent results can be expected from a partnership where both professionals understand the coach/therapy distinction and help the client/patient to make best use of the services of either.
It has been said that the primary goal of therapy is to move a person from dysfunctional to functional, while the primary goal of coaching is to accompany a person on the journey from functional to extraordinary.
An analogy I find useful is that of a house with a leaky basement:
- Restoration must be accomplished before the basement can become a really great recreation room.
- The leaks must be located and repaired and the major water damage cleaned up before the basement can be restored.
- Coaching doesn’t come into play until last-stage restoration work is behind you.
- Your Coach helps you design your rec-room to be perfect for your lifestyle.
Then, once it’s ready, your Coach can help you plan the celebration!
Download the rest of this article in pdf format, charting the differences by domain, by clicking this dark gray link:
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Many more ADD-ADHD Articles on this site:
Articles in the ADD Coaching series
(all onsite articles will open in THIS window– use your browser’s BACK button to come back here)
- The ADD-ADHD/EFD Coachablity Index™
- What to Talk About in Your Coaching Call
- Brain-based Coaching Paradigms
- ADD-flavored Coaching
- Key Tasks for ADD Coaching
- The Art and Science of the ADD Question
- The only valid way to LISTEN
- HOW to Listen from Belief
- Listening for Time Troubles
- Until they believe they can, they can’t
- 10-Step ADD Coaching
- 10 Essential ADD Coaching Concepts
- Ten Basic Coaching Skills used most often with ADDers
- ADD Traits my clients have in common
- Mentor Coaching
Articles in the ADD Concepts series:
- ABOUT Executive Functions
- What ARE Executive Functions?
- Executive Functioning, Focus and Attentional Bias
- Executive Functioning Disorders: not just kid stuff
Articles in the Differential Diagnosis series:
Articles in the ADD Overview series:
Related Articles Elsewhere on the Web:
(offsite links open in a new window/tab)
- The Difference between Coaching and Counselling (sandyseeber.wordpress.com)
- How to Find an ADHD Therapist (everydayhealth.com)
- Coaching – What it is, what it isn’t, benefits and expectations (ageinghealthily.wordpress.com)
- The gap between psychotherapy and coaching narrows (angerblog.wordpress.com)
- Can Everyone Benefit From Therapy? (everydayhealth.com)
- Executive Coaching, anyone? (jobsearchingblog.com)