Newsletter #508 – Are You Ready for Therapeutic Coaching?

On November 23, 2012, I read an article in the New York Times (click “most popular,” then “What Brand is your Therapist?”) and saw an article in Psychotherapy Networker (November-December issue) — both documenting the decline in numbers of people seeking services from psychotherapists and counselors. Many mental health practitioners in private practice are earning less than previously and having difficulty getting and maintaining clients. There is a growing trend toward medication-only approaches to problem-treatment but also to what is termed therapeutic coaching. Most of the current Networker issue (www.psychotherapynetworker.org) revolves around this theme: “Is the [Counseling] Game Changing? The Rise of Therapeutic Coaching.”

In the lead article, “The Coaching Edge,” Lynn Grodzki (pictured) describes a man who came for counseling because of depression and fear of losing his job. Grodzki applied established techniques for dealing with the man’s emotions and uncovering the causes of his distress. Suddenly her “calm, therapeutic observer of the situation” was interrupted by an inner thought that shouted “the man is drowning and you are letting him describe the temperature of the water and his fears…He needs to make some changes to keep his job. Get him to focus and start to create a plan.” Long before this Grodzki had concluded that “learning coaching skills could not only prepare me for a coaching career but also make me to be a better therapist as well.”

Grodzki knows the dangers and illegalities of coaches and counselors who have training in one field trying to work in the other without further training. The Networker articles also note professional concerns and ethical issues about switching back and forth from counseling to coaching. But unlike most coaches Grodzki has dual training as a therapist and certified coach. Her practice and effectiveness have both grown since she added coaching to her care-giving repertoire.

I confess my relief when I read the Networker articles. I teach coaching in two graduate schools. I also teach in a counselor-training program where coaching courses are neither wanted nor offered. I understand both positions. I also understand that people-builders and people-helpers (pastors, professors and other leaders included) need to be aware of the changing therapy fields where the old approaches may need (evidence-based) updating.

Do you have thoughts about this, including therapeutic coaching? Please comment.

    • Dave
    • November 29th, 2012

    I see value in both counseling and coaching, particularly in cases of career or job-related depression and anxiety like the man described in your post. Speaking from experience, recovery comes not only from understanding the roots of the anxiety (counseling) but also from developing a new vision and a new application of the strengths and skills you bring to the work environment (coaching). You raise an appropriate question, though. Can one professional fulfill both roles or is it better for the client to see both a counsel and a coach? In my case, I did the latter and it proved very beneficial.

  1. Thanks Gary for this posting today! I found it encouraging to hear that as a Life Coach I don’t have to also be a trained psychologist. There is room for both!

    • Amy and Dave, I suspect that the current issue of Networker can open some debate and discussion. Problem for life coaches without psychological training is that in most U.S. states (and in some other countries) it is a violation of the law to practice psychology/counseling and charge for services unless one is licensed. And for licensed mental health professionals it is unethical to practice in a field and charge for services outside of one’s area of training. It seems that as a profession, psychology expects practitioners to stay within their area of expertise except when issues of spirituality or coaching come up. Here some of my psychological colleagues think (maybe even decree) that they are qualified without any extra training.

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