Get the Most Out of Life
You might wonder what life coaching (or simply “coaching”) is, and how it differs from counseling (also called “therapy,” “talk therapy,” and “psychotherapy”).
Both coaching and counseling utilize knowledge of human behavior, motivation and behavioral change, and interactive helping techniques. The major differences are in the goals, focus, and level of professional responsibility.
In addition to being a Board Certified Coach (BCC), I am also licensed in the State of Texas as a Licensed Professional Counselor with Supervisor designation (LPC-S). That means I have the training and experience to independently diagnose and treat mental illness and emotional problems.
My counseling and life coaching practices are separate and distinct. While there are some similarities between counseling and coaching, they are very different approaches and it is important you understand the differences between the two services. We can discuss this at your first appointment with me, and I am happy to answer any questions you might have.
I am unable to engage in coaching services with you if you currently are, or have ever been, a counseling client of mine. Nor will I be able to begin counseling services with you if you are currently a coaching client with me. In both scenarios, I would refer you to other professionals who can help you.
The Differences between Counseling and Life Coaching
Counseling aims to identify, diagnose, and treat the symptoms and root causes of presenting mental health problems, ranging from mild to severe, and sometimes this involves delving into past issues, patterns, and traumas. Counseling is a health care service and is usually reimbursable through health insurance policies. This is not true for coaching. The goals of counseling include alleviating symptoms, understanding the underlying dynamics which create symptoms, changing dysfunctional behaviors which are the result of these disorders, and developing new strategies for successfully coping with the psychological challenges which we all face.
Most research on counseling outcomes indicates that the quality of the relationship is most closely correlated with therapeutic progress. Counseling clients are often emotionally vulnerable. This vulnerability is increased by the expectation that they will discuss very intimate personal data and expose feelings about themselves about which they are understandably sensitive. The client’s past experiences have often made trust difficult to achieve. These factors give counselors significant power that creates a fiduciary responsibility to protect the safety of their clients and to “above all else, do no harm.”
Life Coaching clients are essentially healthy and functional (meaning there are not significant unaddressed clinical issues) yet feel they aren't reaching their full potential in some area of life. The coaching client is seeking personal development and self-improvement. An assumption in coaching is that the client is capable and already possesses all the resources necessary to achieve their goals. The coach is not in the role of "expert," but rather collaborates with the client to define his or her vision of the future, and to hold himself or herself accountable for actively working towards it. Coaching is very much a future-oriented, strengths-based, co-creative, and empowering process focused entirely on the client's interests, challenges, and goals.
Coaching may address specific personal projects, life balance, job performance and satisfaction, or general conditions in the client’s life, business, or profession. The coach's role is to listen and ask thought-provoking, powerful questions to help define what the client wants, to challenge self-limiting beliefs or negative self-talk, and to overcome obstacles. Coaching utilizes personal strategic planning, values clarification, brainstorming, motivational techniques, and other helping techniques.
The relationship between the coach and client is specifically designed to avoid the power differentials that occur in the counseling relationship. The client sets the agenda and the success of the enterprise depends on the client’s willingness to take risks and try new approaches. The relationship is designed to be more direct and challenging. You can count on your coach to be honest and straightforward, asking powerful questions and using challenging techniques to move you forward. You are expected to evaluate progress and when coaching is not working as you wish, you should immediately inform them so together you and the coach can both take steps to correct the problem.
Because of these differences, the roles of coach and counselor are often in potential conflict and I believe that it is ethically inappropriate for one to play both roles with a client, whether concurrently or sequentially. Positive change is difficult enough without having to worry about role confusion. This means that if either of us recognizes that you have a problem that would benefit from psychotherapeutic intervention, I will refer you to appropriate resources. In some situations, I may insist that you initiate counseling and that I have access to your counselor as a condition of my continuing as your coach.
It is also important to understand that coaching is a professional relationship. While it may often feel like a close personal relationship, it is not one that can extend beyond professional boundaries both during and after our work together. Considerable experience shows that when boundaries blur, the hard won benefits gained from the coaching relationship are endangered.
No information in my coaching services is intended or implied to be a substitute for professional mental health, medical, or legal advice or is meant to replace any of these professional relationships.