One therapist says:
If I had to, I’d say – yes, coaching’s came out of therapy. Only, psychotherapy is pathocentric, and then it turns out that all is pathology… Now, it is difficult to define the standards of health and normality, but let us say that, all things considered, therapy is dealing with pathology and coaching is dealing with what is healthy.
Coaching is described as
a relatively new member of the club” and “In Serbia, still in infancy.
It is positioned as a technique designed mainly for business people and the managerial caste – a feature that makes it rather unique in the group of helping professions.
It is for people who value efficiency, ambition and control, one coach says, and this view is echoed by a psychotherapist whose perception is that “it is used more by managers than any other group.
It is also seen as “fashionable”, “popular” and “in”. One coach (in a rather self-defeating way) expects that its popularity will eventually subside, opening room for new helping professions.
You’ve done everything, and the client is either not getting any better or he is regressing.
When do you refer a client from coaching to psychotherapy? The umbrella answer is rather obvious: When you realize that the client is not making progress due to the nature of the problems he’s dealing with.
Going into the more specific reasons for referral, psychotherapists mention the presence of a disorder which can be classified according to the ICD or DSM – which, of course, implies that the coach is trained in the basics of psychopathology and hence able to recognize a disorder. Moreover, if the client’s problem requires analyzing his history and identifying his misperceptions and invalid conclusions about life, and if these misperceptions have to do with dysfunctional relationships and stressful/traumatic events in the client’s history. In short, “When the problem is on the verge of normalcy, or requires a deeper approach”.
Namely, this means: if there is a serious problem with reality-testing, if the client is extremely unstable and unable to maintain a rapport with another person unless he or she is always present; if the client is dependent; if there is a pronounced lack of affect control – if the client is too impulsive, if there is no mental processing, and the client expresses intense emotions directly through action; if he is extremely ambivalent about everything, indecisive, cannot bear to have conflicting emotions for someone or something, and experiences frequent and intense emotional shifts.
A client should be referred to a different professional in a situation where coaching is not working: You’ve done everything, and the client is either not getting any better or he is regressing. Also, when you determine that the problem which brought him to coaching is just the tip of an iceberg and that the main problem is underneath it. To do this, the coach has to be able (i.e. have the necessary psychological knowledge) to determine that the client in fact chose a particular problem as a defense for avoiding to deal with a more serious (and unpleasant) one.
In the final stages of psychotherapy I often turn to coaching.
Overall, there is awareness that there are clients who should not be in therapy, and who would benefit more from seeing a coach.
These situations include the absence of a disorder classifiable according to the ICD or DSM, and if the problem for which the client seeks help does not require analysis of the client’s history.
Referral should be made – and here the respondent stresses that this is again from a pathocentric point of view – if it becomes clear that the client came to psychotherapy to be treated and not to be cured. He enjoys being in the relationship and having someone to take care of him, thus protracting the situation of dependence. In that sense, coaching is seen as offering less opportunity for the development of psychological dependence and neurotic regression – because it keeps calling upon personal responsibility.
Apart from the absence of pathology, a client should be referred to coaching when he needs support in life skills, as opposed to situations where there is need for reparation or in-depth change.
Going back to the place of coaching in the group of helping professions, clients are ready for coaching after completing psychotherapy or when in its final stages. The suffering is now gone or reduced, but the client still cannot fully cope with the challenges of real life. There is now need to identify, materialize and realize new potentials, and this is when goal setting, time management, creating action plans, strengthening the will and initiative become efficient and productive.
One particular group of clients are identified as typical coaching clients: people who come to psychotherapy because of a sense of inferiority, and need someone to tell them how to feel safer. Coaching is unrivaled –
and I believe that psychotherapy cannot provide this at all,
one therapist says – when it comes to teaching presentation skills, and assertive appearance in social situations.
Therapy can pave the way for this, but in coaching you can actually actively teach a person what he is to do in order to send out a message about himself in a social context and how to best make himself ‘socially appealing’ to others.
An isolated opinion suggests that a client should be referred to coaching when he is lacking the capacity to change. This stands in sharp contrast with the coaching mantra that change is in the center of coaching, and that coaching is all about action which leads to change.
There is also the opinion that therapy can achieve the same as coaching, which may imply that referral in that direction is in fact not necessary. Interestingly, this opinion is held by a life coach. It is safe to presume that he suggests that psychotherapy is more generic and universal in scope than coaching is.
Therapy deals with pathology and coaching deals with what is healthy.
The seriousness and quality of the pathological content, practicality, the client’s emotional maturity and directivity are listed as the single most prominent differences between coaching and psychotherapy. Also, it is underlined that psychotherapy is aimed at revealing the causes, while coaching is dealing more with the consequences and corrections on the conscious level.
IV – Conclusion
If the expectation from this research paper was to come up with a list of the features that clearly separate coaching from psychotherapy, it remains unfulfilled.
The element of learning is recognized as a very strong feature of coaching. Coaching is even defined as “the learning of life skills”. However, it is to be noticed that neither of the respondents linked this learning element to the fact that coaching is primarily working with adults and that it is founded on the principles of adult learning. (This could also be highlighted as one of the differences with respect to psychotherapy, which works with clients of all ages, including young children.)
This is where its prominent orientation towards relevance and result, the strengthening of both internal and external motivation, as well as the proneness to design and take practical action steps come from. This does not mean that there is no learning in psychotherapy, but it is not its primary goal and is achieved through other means and, what is also important, at a different speed.
This said, coaching is believed to take less time than psychotherapy. This is generally true, especially when it is compared to psychoanalysis and analytical psychotherapy, which can take years. Of course, the duration of both psychotherapy and coaching depends upon individual needs. But given that the coaching interventions are more superficial, and that coaching works with people who (in the ideal case) are already prepared to introduce change in their life, new practices and new habits – it is assumed that all of it typically takes less time. In practice, however, there are examples of very short-term therapeutic interventions, as well as coaching relationships that last more than a year.
It is also believed that these two “branches of the tree of helping professions” can be differentiated according to their target groups. What sets coaching apart from psychotherapy is the fact that it is intended for managers and executives, in addition to the already mentioned group of mentally healthy people, while psychotherapy targets the general public. This is only true for executive and business coaching, but does not apply to general life coaching.
Although there seem to be techniques which are identified as typical of coaching, it would be wrong to conclude that they are what separates coaching from psychotherapy, nor the directivity, which is associated with them. Furthermore, many techniques that coaching has included in its repertoire and which coaches feel they own, have in fact been borrowed from one or another school of psychotherapy.
As for directivity, it should be recalled that the directive therapies, such as CBT, are characterized by a much higher level of directivity than is typically practiced in coaching. There, the therapist leads the process by giving the client instructions for dealing with the problem, which is not allowed in coaching. On the other hand, the coach, same as directive therapist, may help the client to practice specific techniques, as well as give homework. At the same time, coaching is based on the assumption that the client is the one who leads the session in the sense that he is the one who initiates the content – which is characteristic of non-directive therapy.
It is believed that that the manner in which coaching and therapy approach the client’s past and the role of the past in the therapeutic/coaching process is very different. Coaching, it is said, is less concerned with the past and does not analyze it, and is more focused on now and the future. Here again it should be noted that, for example, transactional analysis proclaims that the treatment focuses primarily on the here-and-now, and that here-and-now techniques are used in psychoanalysis, notorious for its obsession with the past.
Moreover, coaching does not shy away from looking into the past in order to understand the present better. It readily turns to past experiences, assuming that the client learns from them (again, adult learning), and that what once worked well may be reused and be applied to solve the current problems.
There is a view that psychotherapists should undergo training in coaching, and that some chapters of general psychopathology and psychotherapeutic techniques should be part of the training of coaches. This is in line with the international trend, also present in Serbia, that more and more therapists are undergoing training for coaching and coaching including in their practice. The reverse – coaches undergoing obligatory training in psychology – unfortunately still seems to be confined to individual choice.
Overall, the line separating the two seems to be elusive, porous and occasionally – not there at all. All features that are identified as the possible differences in fact exist in both psychotherapy and coaching, but the intensity of their presence varies. Except one: psychotherapy has full title deeds of pathology. Identification of pathological content defines the moment when the client should be referred to psychotherapy, and there is a broad consensus about that.
It is clearly stated that coaching deals with healthy, functional parts of the individual, while psychotherapy takes over when there is a deviation from “normality”. One opinion specifies tolerance to frustration, initiative and will as elements that need to be present in a person to make him a suitable client for coaching rather than psychotherapy.
There is also a view that psychotherapy can deal with everything coaching is dealing with, which suggests that psychotherapy is more inclusive and has a broader scope of work than coaching.