Coaching or Counselling?

 I haven't blogged for ages. The fact is; I am fortunate enough to be busy. Very busy with client work and on top of that studying for the Level 7 coaching qualification with Dr Trish Turner, working towards Accreditation as EMCC Senior Practitioner.

I miss writing blogposts. When I had time on my hands I enjoyed mulling over different professional concepts and topics. Writing posts helped me to consolidate my learning and development. The act of writing things makes them concrete for me. So I would like to utilise that opportunity again, to process and consolidate my ongoing development as a coaching practitioner.

It so happens that over the years, some of my therapeutic relationships have subsequently grown to become more of a coaching relationship, e.g. where I meet someone monthly for a confidential space to discuss areas of their life such as work and relationships, with someone they can trust, who knows them well and can provide professional, empathetic support and appropriate challenge. Sometimes this can be about setting goals and keeping on track with them. It can have an element of clinical supervision; a confidential space to discuss difficult aspects of work, particularly with regards to compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma, but also the less dramatic but also problematic, tricky relationships; with colleagues, with family. I then started seeing clients for just coaching, without the therapy bit first. 

How is this different to therapy?

In my contract I define it thus:

Although there are some overlaps, the focus in coaching is different to therapy. We will be looking at practical strategies and focusing on the present and future, rather than looking at unresolved emotional issues from the past.

Not everybody needs to resolve the past. Not everybody is ready to or wants resolve the past (this is a very subjective thing and I wrote a post about this 8 years ago). In coaching we focus on the here and now and the future, with perhaps a nod to the past where it is useful to understanding any obstacles to the goals.

How do I separate the therapist in me from the coach?

I am still me, and still very much a relational practitioner. The pluralistic backbone of my practice means that I am experienced in delivering a service that has the client's agenda at the heart of it. So if this is about focusing on the here and now, and not on "resolving the past", then that's what we do. Frequency is usually less often and there is less need for "containment" (therapy is regular, weekly sessions at the same time). Coaching and counselling are close relatives, but not twins. 

If material comes up which indicates that a client may benefit from a therapeutic approach then I would raise this, particularly if there were significant blocks to our coaching work and the goals set. A referral to a therapist may be indicated. 

Relational Depth

As in counselling and psychotherapy, the quality of the relationship is a key part of this partnership between the coach and coachee.  Coaching is a meaningful, structured conversation to help tease out and make sense of our thoughts and processes. It can help make things concrete to enable decisions and/or changes to be made. A good working alliance often involves shared humanity and humour. I will draw upon my professional expertise on relationships, on how our minds and feelings work, in order to aid the client in finding the best way to live their best life; at work, at home, in relationships; wherever it is that needs this focus.

Trauma Awareness

One thing that I would like to make clear, is that any deep, relational work has the capacity to be potentially retraumatising. I do feel that it is important that coaches are trauma informed. There is specific training around this for coaches who perhaps do not come from a psychotherapeutic background, provided by Julia Vaughan Smith, author of Coaching and Trauma. I would only refer clients to trauma informed therapists or coaches.

Do I need therapy or coaching?

My sense is that clients tend to know which would be more appropriate. If in doubt then an exchange with the practitioner you are enquiring with can help you decide. 

I enjoy providing both counselling and coaching with relational depth. The overlaps as well as the differences bring balance to my work life and give my  clients options. 

This page on the BACP website gives some useful information about counselling and coaching.