Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life Coaching < > Personal Therapy

Life coaches are frequently asked about the differences between their profession and the practice of psychotherapy. And the answers are probably as numerous and diverse as the individuals who are replying. A few years ago, Coachville, Inc. -- the largest organization of coaches in the world -- formed a study group of coach therapists to describe distinctions in technique and philosophy between the two fields.

I don't agree with all the conclusions reached by the study group, but a few of the comparisons hit home. Consider these:

Life Coaching: Personal evolution. Therapy: Personal strengthening

Life Coaching: What's next? What now? Therapy: Why me? Why this?

Life Coaching: Life dynamics Therapy: Cognitive/behavior patterns

Life Coaching: Choose goals and actions Therapy: Issue resolution

Life Coaching: Co-creation Therapy: Therapist-Patient

Life Coaching: Self discovery Therapy: Pathology

The study makes numerous other comparisons, but they all tend to support similarly different templates -- Life Coaching as a dynamic, forward looking partnership, Therapy as an analytic, inner seeking, past oriented relationship between therapist and patient.

As a trained clinical psychologist, I'll be among the first to acknowledge the importance of both disciplines, and the unique roles played by each. There are many people who can achieve productive results in either Life Coaching or Therapy, or by a combination of both. For myself, I can't imagine functioning effectively as a Life Coach without the therapeutic perspective I bring to my clients. But I'm also glad to have the action-oriented, pro-active tools of coaching available for use at all times.

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