Coaching versus psychotherapy

waterlilyBoth coaching and psychotherapy are effective help-by-talking professions that serve to support people into personal growth. Both are professionals trained to provide powerful, empathic listening in a safe and confidential space.

The following is a list of some of the differences between psychotherapy and coaching.

• Therapists clinically diagnose (based on criteria from the DSM) and treat clinical pathological disorders, and coaches do not.

• Therapy develops the personal self (ego development), whereas coaching assumes client already has an intact ego and sufficient ego strength.

• Therapy deals with issues of transference and counter-transference, and although that’s always happening during any personal interaction, coaching does not focus on those issues.

• Therapy is generally hierarchical in nature (therapist is expert, authority, one with power, and client doesn’t know or have own answers, often dealing with the therapist like a parent), whereas coaching is a collaborative partnership.

• Therapy deals more with past child/family issues (depending on type of therapy), and coaching focuses on the present, future and moving forward . However, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Solution-focused Therapy are orientations most similar to coaching, with coaching using many similar techniques that help uncover maladaptive or counterproductive beliefs, attitudes, and patterns of thoughts & behaviors.

According to Dr. Rosie Kuhn, author of Self-Empowerment 101 and creator of the Transformational Coaching program at Institute of Transpersonal Psychology:

Coaching DOES work well for individuals who:
• are experiencing success in some areas and feel ready for a bigger game
• are open to new ideas and new ways of looking at their lives
• find their vision is getting lost in day to day activities, they’re not accomplishing what they say they want
• want to experience meaning and purpose in their lives
• have great ideas and are not bringing them to fruition
• are interested in making a difference in the world

Coaching DOES NOT work well for those who (and who are more appropriate for therapy):
• are prone to psychologically diagnosable disorders
• are not willing to be accountable for their actions
• maintain rationalizations and justifications for why their life isn’t working
• haven’t developed the ego-strength to the degree to which they can move beyond perceived ego-identification
• have difficulty engaging in introspection
• not ready to put in effort to become aware of, examine and modify problematic thinking

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