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TITLE: The Difference Between Therapy and Coaching AUTHOR: Susan Dunn, MA, Clinical Psychology WORD COUNT: 1173 WRAP: 60 URL: http://www.susandunn.cc Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Photo available: http://www.susandunn.cc/images/susaninstripe1.JPG
“The Difference Between Therapy and Coaching,” by Susan Dunn, MA, Clinical Psychology
“Oh,” said Bob, after listening to me explain what I do, “So coaching’s like therapy for healthy people?”
No, because for one thing there are healthy people in therapy, and for another, coaches aren’t doing therapy. In fact this strikes many of us coaches as funny, because we intentionally chose not to be therapists, and so are many therapists. Over 1/3rd of members of International Coaching Federation are therapists! In fact, I fit hybrid of many coaches—I have a master’s degree in clinical psychology, but had a career in marketing and PR. Why didn’t I make therapy my profession? I was waiting for coaching to come along.
The field of psychology is at least 100 years old—Freud opened up his consulting room in 1886, and American Psychological Association (APA) was founded in 1892. It is by all accounts experiencing major growing pains right now, and whether it’s labor pains, or death throes remains to be seen. Therapy was originally based on medical model of disease-there was something wrong with patient that expert must find and then fix. As in “cure.”
Over years, there have been many changes in field of psychology, with new names (Winnicott, Jung, Adler) and new theories (Rational Emotive, Cognitive, Behavioral), but all assuming pathology.
Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology is a force in a new direction we’re watching carefully, and fact that he’s started a Coaching School shows at least some affinity to coaching philosophy.
FILLING A NEED
Coaching evolved to fill a need that wasn’t being met. Haven’t you looked at least once at a professional athlete and said, “If only…” or “Well, sure, when you have that kind of help.” We may not all be 6’5” with superb reflexes, but each of us has a unique set of strengths and just as much raw potential to develop if placed in right hands.
We all know what a professional coach does for an athlete. It’s a combination of teaching specific techniques and skills and a lot of work on “mental attitude,” or whatever it’s being called these days. (I think of it as Emotional Intelligence.) Sports coaches have long been into mind-body connection.
But 10 years ago, who was around to do this for you when you wanted to build a business, or find a new career, or get unstuck, or create a retirement worth living for, or be a more effective father?
Not that you couldn’t do it alone, but it would probably go quicker and better with fresh insight, perspective, and perhaps some specific expertise. Coaches are “change agents,” but also are specialized. You may want someone who can help you with life balance, who understands your field (engineering), who has actually been a single Mother, who has served on a Board, who has built a successful business, who has been a manager or a professor, who has lost 50 pounds, who has helped someone else lose 50 lbs., or who is himself multicultural.
SO IT’S LIKE FRIENDSHIP?
No. Friends and loved ones have their own issues, agendas, perspectives, and points of view. They also “project”—that is, if they are timid, and you want to do something they consider daring, they’’ try and discourage you, and tell you it’s “for your own good.” I’m not talking about bungee jumping; I’m talking about starting your own business at age 50, or moving halfway around world, or walking away from a 6-figure job because it’s making you sick.