The Distinctions Between Therapy and Coaching

Distinctions between therapy and coaching
The 4 Gateways Coaching Model
Long-distance phone and skype sessions

As people set out to find help and guidance when they have a problem or situation that they can not solve on their own, they often want to know the differences between hiring a therapist or a coach to help them with their problems. Although this is not a thorough explanation of the two different processes, I have attempted to highlight a couple of the major differences.

One of the main differences between the two categories of helping relationships has to do with assumptions regarding the relationship.  The view of the therapist is as the authority figure, who remains professional in every sense. There is a dependence on the therapist to educate the client who needs help understanding what needs were missed during the developmental years.  Having a sense of safety and trust in the relationship is necessary in order for a client to be able to overcome fears and take on the task of re-parenting themselves.   Face-to-face counseling is necessary for needed support during this time.    

Another distinction lies in the area of responsibility. There is a tendency for some therapist/client relationships to abdicate responsibility onto the therapist. The therapist who operates as the expert who can fix the presenting problems fosters dependency and doesn’t really help their client to develop confidence and a sense of empowerment.  Both therapy and coaching can operate from the position that a client’s greatest power is one that we all have, the power to choose.  

Therapy is having a place to talk about past events and how the assumptions made regarding those events might have triggered their symptoms.  Insight into family dynamics and traumatic experiences during childhood can explain one’s present-day behaviors. Major losses or disappointments can cause enough stress on our system to create chemical imbalances causing various symptoms.  Symptoms to look for are:  loss of energy and interest in activities you once enjoyed as well as losing or gaining weight and having a sense of restlessness.  Men and women exhibit symptoms of depression differently.  Men become more irritable, whereas women become more melancholy.   Anxiety symptoms, such as insomnia or panic attacks are signs that the mind and body are out of balance. If medication is necessary to function, it needs to be in conjunction with therapy in order to get to the root of the problem.  Specific energy techniques are sometimes helpful in releasing deeply held emotions. 

I believe that even with chemical imbalances, clients who have the courage to enter into therapy have the desire and ability to take responsibility for getting better by engaging, doing homework and applying what they have learned.  I believe that seeing people as victims of their condition leaves them disempowered and without the wherewithal to overcome.  Clients who believe that they can overcome any obstacle with enough intention and hard work find that they are successful and have the confidence to develop new goals dreams. 

Coaching, on the other hand, is not necessarily for people experiencing pain in their lives, but is for those unable to move forward in reaching certain goals.  Coaching clients are in the “preparation stage” of change, (Stages of Change Theory Research Review Article) wanting to clarify what might be keeping them from taking “action” or identifying what obstacles need to be considered in order to move forward.   Coaching clients know where they want to go and need help clarifying how to get there.  They often ask the question, “What is holding me back?” 

A typical issue addressed in coaching might be:  You want to give your family both a sense of financial security and also spend time with them, but don’t know how to pull it off.  Or, you want to engage in more self-care activities but don’t seem to have the time.  Answers in life don’t have to be an either/or proposition.  You can get creative in finding ways to work at a job that you enjoy and also make money.  What I have found is that “advice” is not helpful or necessary.  A good coaching process can help you find the answers already within you.  With guidance, you can discover what you surprisingly enough already know, and will be more motivated to follow through in an intentional manner.

In a few sessions a coaching client can clarify their goal, identify the obstacle(s) and establish the steps to move forward. From there, resistances are often encountered which are at the core of the work. Learn more about coaching under the “Coaching With Beth” menu tab.

I begin coaching sessions using the 4 Gateways Coaching model because it is the best tool I have found to help you clarify your issues.  You present your problem and we begin the process of looking at it from four different perspectives.  You can learn more about 4 Gateways coaching under the “Coaching With Beth” menu tab.

Coaching sessions are easily done over the telephone, whereas, the nature of therapy does not allow for long-distance work. Coaching clients invest ahead of time, anywhere from 3 months and beyond in order to create intention for meeting their goals.