The words learning and education indicate that it is a process, not a one-time, brief intervention. The purpose and aim of the process is to help the client resolve impasses and unblock and develop potentials, but also to lower anxiety.
Coaching is also defined as a form of psychological help – with an emphasis on its applicability:
Practical assistance… offering the most suitable and accessible solutions.
There is also a view that most coaching clients would not even consider psychotherapy as a way of reaching their optimal wellbeing in life, because they see it as (medical) treatment, which coaching clearly is not.
Coaching is also considered to facilitate personal and professional development, optimal wellbeing in life, application of available solutions, overcoming the problems, better-quality living and defining and then realizing one’s desires and goals.
I belong to the therapists who have heard about coaching techniques because I’m interested in technical textbooks of therapeutic communication, and the tricks of the trade.
There seems to be a common understanding that there is indeed such a thing as typical coaching techniques whose application sets coaches apart from psychotherapists. Some of the more common coaching techniques were listed in the question to avoid confusion with the techniques coaching shares with some schools of psychotherapy.
Some respondents use the coaching techniques, while others do not.
The psychotherapists’ answer is a straightforward no. However, there is a view that some of the techniques that psychotherapists are “allowed to use” are very similar to those used in coaching, especially when they are highly directive. An example is the experiment in the gestalt or the discourse used in the REBT. This may suggest that, in general, coaching is believed to be more directive than psychotherapy, and that the more directive techniques go well with it. Thanks to its readiness to use a variety of techniques
coaching, of course, gives the client the freedom to find their own meaning and their own solutions, but in a channeled way, without allowing too much dissipation.
By the same token, “too much dissipation” is seen as a weakness of the therapeutic process.
Coaches also listed role play, empty chairs and reframing as coaching techniques, although these have a history of practical application within some psychotherapy schools, namely Gestalt, Transactional Analysis and Psychodrama, to name a few.
In addition to these techniques, there is reference to the original coaching techniques developed within one’s own coaching model, with the aim
to create successful life strategies and the development of an authentic personality.
The coach who explained his original techniques also said that they are used in combination with a psychodynamic approach – when access to the deeper layers of personality is wanted (which then makes the process more similar to psychotherapy).
It can be said, therefore, that the techniques are not what distinguishes coaching from psychotherapy, but that there is a belief that the more directive techniques are more appropriate for coaching than for psychotherapy.
The difference is really in how deep you go.
Client’s mental health, the depth of the intervention, and the role of the past are identified as the areas in which the main differences between coaching and psychotherapy reside.
Coaching is understood as being intended for people who are functional – it is
addressing the person’s functional parts.
The typical client is described as someone who is “disoriented in life” but not mentally ill. The client in coaching is primarily concerned with what is wright with him, and he is striving to make his functional parts even better. The focus is on the support and a stronger activation of the healthy aspects of personality, the elimination of ambivalence, strengthening the will and motivation. In contrast, the focus in therapy is on the problems which cause fear, guilt, weaknesses, helplessness…
However, there is also a view that, because coaching is more directive than psychotherapy, a typical coaching client is more passive than the client in psychotherapy. The coach is seen as someone who
advises and guides and therefore assumes more responsibility
for the coaching relationship and outcome.
This may, but does not have to, make the client passive to the extent that he always relies on someone who leads,
while psychotherapy offers the possibility of insight and corrections at the level of one’s own recognition of their problems. As a result, the client in psychotherapy is more responsible than the therapist for his own wellbeing.
Coaching is seen as generally less analytical than psychotherapy. It is a more “superficial” intervention. It offers very specific measures for improving the quality of life; it is working with clearly defined goals which are planned in more detail and there is more focus on achieving the goal. It has no ambition to achieve a comprehensive reconstruction of the personality, which is what psychotherapy is about. In the words of one coach,
The difference is really in how deep you go.
There is an understanding that there are similarities between coaching and psychotherapy in the approach to the client, in structuring the setting in which the conversation takes place and basing the communication on certain rules which entail mental hygienic communication within the I-Thou relation.
One therapist turned life coach describes the boundary between psychotherapy and coaching as very clear and almost operationally defined in his coaching model.
His method is based on seven basic capabilities for managing emotions:
1) object integrity,
2) object constancy,
3) neutralization and mentalization,
4) tolerance to ambivalence,
5) tolerance to frustration,
6) will, and
Serious deficits in the first four capabilities are treated with psychotherapy – and are not suitable for coaching. People who have these Ego forces developed can be subject to coaching, which is then aimed at inciting or de-blocking tolerance to frustration, will and initiative.
The past is discussed a lot less than in (at least some) schools of psychotherapy. Coaching is more concerned with the “now”, and the question of the future and values/personal orientations are brought into focus. It is less interested in analyzing the problems by linking them to the client’s past.
There is consensus that there is less pathology in coaching, and that, in the words of one psychotherapist,
therapy deals more with what is ego-dystonic, while coaching is focused on the ego-syntonic.
In coaching more attention is paid on the behavioral content, and it is less concerned with the constructs behind the behavior.
Finally, there is a belief that coaching is less time-consuming than therapy.
Coaching is a branch on the branch of psychotherapy, and on the same tree called helping professions.
The place of coaching in the family of helping professions is not disputed. “It belongs to psychology and to the group of helping professions – there is no doubt about that”, one respondent is adamant. However, differences exist in understanding how it correlates with other members of the family.
While some readily rank coaching at the bottom of the list when it comes to the complexity of treatment and severity of the client’s condition – after psychiatric treatment, psychotherapy and counseling – others are hesitant to define it within a vertical hierarchy. There is a belief that coaching is equally valid a form of psychological help as psychotherapy or counseling, and equally demanding in terms of the required professional skills. However, it is stated that psychotherapist need to undergo more personal therapy than coaches to be able to provide quality service to clients. There is also a belief that psychotherapists should undergo training in coaching, just as parts of general psychopathology and psychotherapeutic techniques should to be part of the training of coaches.
More than a profession in its own right, coaching is viewed as a sub-branch of psychotherapy and psychological counseling, dealing with a particular type of issues. Not a separate discipline, because it shares the same subject matter and method as psychotherapy: it deals with people, their behavior, psychological life, and what characterizes it is its orientation towards resolving the so-called practical life problems. In this sense, coaching is
a branch on the branch of psychotherapy, and on the same tree called helping professions.