Coaching v Therapy

 
Photo by  Kari Shea

Photo by Kari Shea

 

Executive coaching is very solution-focused. Some engagements can be as short as 1-3 sessions. Other clients need longer periods, from six months to a year, strategies and tools to interweave results and relationships at the individual, team, and organization level. It sounds like a simple concept, but it is not easy to pull off. A coach’s background varies, accounting for a wide spectrum of talent. A coach can hold a behavioral, social science, or psychology master’s or doctoral degree.  And, there are also coaches practicing with little professional background. Both types of coaches submit to the requirements of a coaching program. Both types of coaches can get certified through an accrediting body by taking a 3-hour open book test. Because the certification body accepts all comers, some choose not to become certified, using their academic degrees and experience as credentials. There are no state licenses for coaching.

Psychotherapy is a long-term process. A patient works with a therapist to diagnose and resolve problematic beliefs, behaviors, relationship issues, feelings and sometimes physical responses generally resulting from past trauma. The therapist holds a clinical master’s or doctoral degree and submits to state licensing requirements. In general, states license two specific types of roles—mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. 

In choosing a practitioner with coaching or therapy, the client needs to decide what level of rigor they are looking to engage with and distinguish for themselves the difference between wise counsel versus friendly advice.

Dipping v Dwelling

Both therapy and coaching are collaborative processes based on the relationship between an individual and a practitioner. Both are grounded in dialogue, provide a supportive environment allowing clients to talk openly with someone who’s objective, neutral and nonjudgmental. Both practitioners use a client’s past as a tool for understanding present behaviors. It is here a therapist will dwell to heal and a coach will dip to frame understanding of how the past influences the present. Coaching can be therapeutic, but it is not therapy. Together with the client, both practitioners will work to identify and change the thought and behavior patterns that are keeping clients from feeling and performing their best.

While there is a shared understanding and rigor between trained therapists and coaches educated on behavioral theory, the fundamentals of coaching are what distinguish it from therapy. Therapy dwells in the past and attempts to heal an individual’s emotional pain by reversing the suppression of memories and emotions. Coaching dips into the past and attempts to help an individual frame painful experiences to increase awareness of past patterns and understanding of their impact in present situations. In this way, coaching is not therapy, but it can be therapeutic.

 

Coaching is focused on helping leaders work through their dilemmas so they can truly learn on the job (in front of others, under pressure) and directly translate that knowledge into results for their teams and ultimately the organization.

 

Coaches use diagnostics to asses individual and organizational effectiveness and performance. They do not diagnose mental illness. A coach with a background in behavioral science, psychology, or related field has an understanding of the fundamentals of human behavior from a theoretical perspective (how family systems work, human development, adult learning, our lopsided natures, and the impact of denial—to list a few things). Therapists apply a similar lens and use it to determine illnesses and pathologies so their patients can be clinically treated.

 The coach’s focus is typically present-forward compared to the retrospective lens of the therapist. The coach is not focused on healing the past, but rather taking note of how it influences the present and what strategies can help the client increase their effectiveness. Coaching never requires medication, micro-dosing, coordination or services, or adjunct therapies though the client might opt for any those experiences separately with a therapist.

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This blog post is part of a series related to The Little Book of Coaching pending publication.

Profile In Craft: Lesley Holm Art Therapist

To tackle the wicked problems of our present and future, we need to embrace a strange, counter-intuitive irony: as organizations across all sectors continue to create and adopt technologies like artificial intelligence, employees need to stay relevant by increasing their subjective intelligence. My research on master craftsmen and how they gain mastery helps connect the dots on this new dilemma, and might be the place to seek initial solutions.

When it comes to open ended problem solving and learning to improvise with what we are given; master craftsmen have something to teach us. Having to work with a material where they cannot be sure what will happen is something they are used to. Combined with the more structured training and education offered to us today, improvisational thinking in the face of uncertainty is useful to leaders in any sector. Even in the face of countless books and articles about how important it is, most traditional business school programs and organizational training fail to address sophisticated thinking about ambiguous problems.


Craftsmanship refers to something made with the highest quality. It requires a distinct mindset and approach. Values like durability, integrity, and calling are often associated with craftsmanship. But it’s more than that. Craftsmanship—to live a life and perform work with craft—is the struggle for individual agency in a world telling us to fit in. More than finding a calling, it is about understanding how to fully utilize ourselves and our unique ability to solve problems of every kind. My goal is build a bridge between the principles of craftsmanship in the traditional sense and apply it to our own lives and work.

Vancouver Psychology Centre http://www.vancouverpsychologycentre.ca

For Lesley Holm the dream was to work creatively with children in a way that would make a difference in their lives. Today she fulfills that dream in her career as an Art Therapist. 

She didn’t initially know that art, creativity and working with children would look like in terms of a career. Most people don’t know what that is; she didn’t either. Art therapy is more than analyzing pictures. It is a blend of psychotherapy and art where art is incorporated as part of the regular counseling process. Art isn’t the end goal. Art is an illustration of a client’s process and what sense they make of their image.

When Lesley was young, her parents separated. She remembers that being a chaotic, confusing and scary time. Art was a comfort to her.

Now, Lesley specializes in helping children of divorce and helping them through that process. The drawings don’t have to be great, they just have to be expressive.

“There isn’t any better reward in life than a child who knows that I’m really there for them.”


Christine Haskell’s research focuses on individuals dedicated to the craft of their professions, in pursuit of excellence, sustainability and integrity. Craftsmen and women use those principles to raise standards toward a better world. Her current work is featured in Look To Craftsmen Project. featuring the Profiles in Craft Series. You’ll find a trove of profiles of intriguing artisans and innovators spanning a wide variety of professions across the globe that illustrate her research with links to the full articles. Christine’s book The Future of Work Will Require Craftsmanship is due in late 2019. To understand more about Christine’s work, check out Our Current Problem.