It is both a distinctive activity undertaken by people agreeing to occupy the roles of counsellor and client and it is an emergent profession…. It is a service sought by people in distress or in some degree of confusion who wish to discuss and resolve these in a relationship which is more disciplined and confidential than friendship, and perhaps less stigmatising than helping relationships offered in traditional medical or psychiatric settings. [Source Feitham, C. and Dryden, W. (1993) Dictionary of Counselling. London, : Whurr ]
Carl Rogers , often thought of as being the ‘father’ of counselling, devised the phrase ‘person-centred’ or ‘client-centred’ counselling as a description of his approach to therapy with clients. This phrase appears to have been derived from an earlier phrase he used, ‘non-directive’, which is a phrase still used in Life coaching.
In Carl Rogers’ approach to counselling, it is believed that the client already has all the skills necessary for them to tackle the issues they present. This latter point is a factor that helps distinguish counselling from ‘other forms of therapy which provide an ‘expert’ to provide a ‘cure’ or ‘treatment’ for you.
What is Coaching
Now let’s revisit some of the definitions of coaching.
The ICF’s (International Coach Federation’s) Description of coaching is as follows,
The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching honors the client as the expert in his/her life and work and believes that every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:
- Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve;
- Encourage client self-discovery;
- Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies; and
- Hold the client responsible and accountable
[Source: ICF website: www.coachfederation.com ]
Coaching encourages you to move positively towards achieving your goals by focusing your energy and your potential on positive solutions. (http://www.inspirecoaching.co.uk, 2007)
The major strengths of coaching come from the technique of powerful questioning and active listening. While remaining nonjudgmental, the coach asks powerful questions and listens at a deep, intuitive level, guiding the session and process based on the information the client provides. In this way, it is as if the client and the coach are engaged in an intimate dance with the client leading. The coach’s role is to support, stretch, and challenge the client toward achieving his or her goals.
Coaching recognises the deep human desire to make a contribution to the betterment of humanity. On one hand the coaching relies upon the dynamic between the human desire for differentiation and unique self-expression and the need for integration, connection, and meeting the expectations and demands of the environment on the other. The foundation of coaching is self awareness. The perspective in coaching is to help people discover their unique “best self” and to bring their choices and actions more in line with it. Coaching helps the client to align life goals to his or her value system and examine underlying beliefs.
Common Heritage of Coaching and Counselling
The origin of coaching can be traced back to psychology. In recent decades, as coaching is developing more and more as an independent practice, the differences between coaching and therapy are getting explained more clearly. However it is important for the coaches to remember the common heritage.
When Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”, the search towards self awareness and personal development was being declared. Since then we have developed many ways of examining our lives.
Wilhelm Wundt in Germany and Edward Tichener in America propagated introspection as a method of understanding the workings of the human mind.
Williams James is considered the father of American psychology. He is best known for his view that humans can experience higher states of consciousness. One of his most historic books, “The Varieties of Religious Experience” is a treatise in the areas of spirituality and transpersonal consciousness.
Sigmund Freud brought us such terms as unconscious, id, ego, and superego.
More recently, psychological theorists Williams James, Carl Jung, Roberto Assagioli, Abraham Maslow, Alfred Adler, Viktor Frankl and others did write about life purpose and did cite any examples of the topic in their work with patients. Carl Jung noted in his theories of ages and stages of life, that midlife and beyond (after age 40) most humans begin to search for spiritual meaning, and heed callings for some shift in discovering and then living their life purpose.
The humanistic models of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow can be seen as early foundation stones of coaching as it exists today. Transpersonal approach of psychology which originated in 60’s dealt with human behaviour in a holistic manner considering body, mind and spirit. It included study and experiences of states of consciousness.
Similarities between Coaching and Counselling
Both coaches and counsellors establish a helping relationship with a client, with the general goal of helping the client to grow and to live a better life.
Both coaches and counsellors achieve their goals by carefully listening to their clients and working together to make better choices. This helps clients feel secure, understood, and gives them the support that they may be lacking in other areas of their lives.
The working relationships must be supportive, respectful of the client’s needs, and free of manipulation or abuse. Confidentiality must be respected. Both counsellor and coach get to know the client over time, help them assess priorities and goals, and help the client pursue those goals. Both approaches require a client who is open to change and willing to make changes in how things are done.
In the mid-1970s Dr. Arnold Beck, the originator of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) theorised that our thoughts were the cause of our feelings and behaviours, rather than feelings, behaviours, and external circumstances being the source of our thoughts.
CBT has gained stature among therapists, counsellors, and psychiatrists as the preferred method of treatment for a number of psychological disorders, including depression, substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Talking of CBT, there are many aspects which fit particularly well in a coaching model.
- CBT is time bound.
- Like coaching, CBT is designed as a collaborative effort between the therapist and the client. CBT therapists learn what their clients want out of life and then help them achieve those goals. The cognitive therapist’s role is to listen, teach, and encourage. The client’s role is to express concerns, learn, and implement that learning.
- CBT focuses on current behaviour and thoughts; the client’s past is not explored extensively.
- CBT is structured and directive. It helps clients achieve the goals they set.
- CBT is based on the scientifically supported assumption that most emotional and behavioural reactions are learned. The emphasis in CBT, as in coaching, is on educating the client in new ways of thinking that will help promote new behaviours.
- Homework is a central feature of CBT.