The field of life-coaching is mushrooming but it tends to be discounted by licensed mental health professionals, some of whom see it as pop-psychology or psychology-lite. An article in Monitor on Psychology (November 2010) argues instead that “the coaching field is a terrific fit for psychologists who have the expertise and skills to enhance the field’s credibility.” The article gives a concise overview of coaching and urges readers to “learn the territory,” “get training,” “develop a niche,” and consider non-practitioner roles including research on coaching effectiveness, teaching coaching, or writing coaching newsletters. Now there’s a creative idea!
Experienced coaches will find familiar ideas in the article along with potentially controversial conclusions like these:
- Psychologists and other trained mental health professionals “have the most training of any profession in understanding human motivation, behavior, learning and change. If they’ve done clinical work, they have a depth of one-on-one experience far greater that that of people who aren’t mental health professionals.”
- Even so, coaching differs from therapy in many ways. The skill set is different and, contrary to some counselors and therapists, psychological training does not qualify one to be a coach.
- Coaching is an unregulated industry. This means that anyone, including those without any training in behavioral science, can become a life coach.
- “The weakest aspect of life coaching is its lack of empirical backing…. With their strong research focus and training, psychologists are key people,” to do the research and give the field credibility beyond personal anecdotes. “Coaching psychologists” in Australia and the UK are taking the lead in this pioneering research work.
- Whereas the International Coach Federation works to upgrade coaching effectiveness, perhaps more academic institutions should offer degree programs that combine core coaching competencies with graduate level training in behavioral science including an understanding of intrinsic motivation, behavior regulation, individual differences, research methodology and basics psychological dysfunction.
- And here is the suggestion that may be the most controversial: We should “differentiate coaching performed by qualified psychologists from coaching conducted by those without advanced degrees in human behavior.” Psychologists should work to develop psychologically informed training, practice, credentialing and continuing education in coaching.
Please give your reaction.