After all the years of being a therapist, why would I switch to coaching? And is it really different?
Yes! It really is! The 5 principles of coaching capture the difference.
#1 The Client Is Whole, Completely Resourceful and Self-Innovative:
In therapy, part of the goal actually is figuring out what’s wrong with the client and trying to fix it. How that works can vary. Often, therapists are more likely to have a specific plan they follow with the expectation that it will work for most patients. Other therapists are more flexible and allow the client to determine some of the direction of the treatment. But in general, these days, therapy follows a medical model – there’s a diagnosis and a treatment for the diagnosis.
There’s nothing wrong with that. As a therapist, I had my favorite treatment approaches because I believed they worked. And often, they were helpful. Sometimes, therapy is exactly what someone needs. But it’s different from coaching.
Coaching assumes that there’s nothing wrong with you that needs to be fixed. That you have your own answers. And that you can find your way to your own path with someone who helps guide your process. I don’t know where you’re going – or exactly what you need to get there. But I can help you figure it out.
#2 The Client Determines the Coaching Agenda:
As a coach, I’m not trying to figure out what needs to be different in your life. Where you want to go is up to you. You have a destination, I have a map. There are lots of different ways to get to where you’re going. Together, we look at the map and decide which direction to take and where we need to stop along the way.
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#3 The Client’s Life Is Viewed and Addressed as a Whole:
Because this is holistic – Whole Person – coaching, “The Map” may start with the Web of Life. This leads us to look at all the areas of your life before you decide which direction to take.
In any case, we are working with your agenda, helping you figure out how to move in the direction you want to go. You may discover that many areas of your life are working well for you. There may be just a couple of areas that you want to address. Or you may need to bring more balance to all the areas in your life.
#4 The Coaching Relationship Is Co-Creative and Synergistic:
I have emphasized that you, the client, are in the driver’s seat in the coaching process. So why have a coach? What do I bring to the relationship?
Of course, I answer that question here, in my bio, I talk about my experience and some of the things I’ve learned in a lifetime of listening to people and walking their journey with them. I bring my authentic self to our relationship, mirroring what I see in you as you deepen your awareness of your authentic self.
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The relationship between us is co-creative and synergistic. Co-creative because we both bring our creative energy to the process. We are working together to create the space for you to choose your own destination and find your own path.
The relationship is synergistic. “Synergy is the creation of a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.” In the combination of our creative selves, there is a bit of alchemy that allows us to develop a new energy, one that is more than just the two of us. That is the power of coaching.
#5 The Coaching Process Is Dynamic and Honors the Client’s Journey:
Coaching is a dynamic process. We talk about progressive sessions because there is movement, one flows from the last one into the next. It doesn’t have to be a roller coaster – it might be more like a budding flower or opening a door.
On your journey, you may cross bridges and break down barriers. You can change your mind about where you’re going and how to get there. You can choose a new direction. Whatever you feel called to do, in the process of creating a life that supports the work you do, we can plan the steps to take and walk the path together.
This is one of the last blog posts I wrote for my website as a psychotherapist. I think of this post as a transition to the work I do now, as a life coach.
Several times lately, in mid therapy session, I’ve suddenly realized that my client’s biggest problem may be that there’s nothing wrong with them.
No, I don’t mean the problems are “just in their head.” And I don’t mean they don’t have problems. But they’re struggling to figure out “what’s wrong with me” – what diagnosis, what deep-seated flaw, what horrible defect needs to be cured – because if they could just figure that out, then they’d know what medication, what therapy, what correct course of action would fix them.
But – what if they don’t actually need to be fixed? What if there’s not actually anything dreadfully wrong with them? What if the real problem is that they believe there’s something dreadfully wrong with them, and they’re putting their energy into trying to figure out what it is? What if that’s the wrong question?
There are a dozen ways I can talk about this from a clinical perspective. I can talk about schemas and core beliefs. I can talk about negative self-talk. I can talk about mindfulness and moving toward radical acceptance. I can talk about the just world theory and the existential challenge of answering the question “Why do bad things happen to me? And all those things apply. But what if we can make it simpler. Consider this.
If I believe that the problems I’m having and the anxiety and depression I feel are because there’s something inherently wrong with me, then of course I want to know what it is. But in looking for the answer, every uncomfortable feeling and every painful event become just more evidence of my failings.
My husband said something mean to me. It’s my fault because I should set limits with him. My first husband was like that too – I just attract the wrong people. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My 14 year old daughter feels like she doesn’t fit in. I never felt like I fit in, it’s probably my fault she doesn’t either. If I knew how to fit in, I could help her. My boss said something the other day and I think it means she thinks this new guy is doing a better job than I am. I’ve been there 10 years, why doesn’t she respect me more? I must be awful. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
And then the person tortures themselves, trying to figure out “what’s wrong with me.” What if that’s the wrong question? What if the husband is having an existential life crisis and just feeling irritable? And what if the daughter doesn’t “fit in” because she’s super creative and bright? What if “fitting in” isn’t actually the goal? What if it’s ok for the boss to praise someone else and it doesn’t mean anything about her other employees?
What if “What’s Wrong With Me?” is just the wrong question?