Why Is It Hard to Change From Therapy to Life Coaching? (2)

February 2, 2007

Part 2: A Different Professional Image

One of the main reasons it’s hard for therapists to shift our practices to coaching is the way people perceive the two fields. They know what therapists are. They’ve seen Ordinary People or Sybil or The Bob Newhart Show. They might feel uneasy with us, but they see us as experts.

Expert is a comforting label. Therapists are isolated from the world, safe in offices decorated for our personal comfort. People come to us in pain and sadness and anxiety, but we stay professionally detached. We structure the time and the relationship. We control the situation as much as possible. There’s a lot of safety in that.

Coaching is less defined, less regulated, and—let’s admit it—less exclusive. A lot of therapists like the status of our degree and licensure. It’s part of our personal identity and what makes us special. Coaching doesn’t have the same status. It’s a new field with people from lots of backgrounds, from sales to human resources to physical therapy to marketing. The standards for certification are far below a graduate degree with supervised internship—and certification is not even required!

There’s a related problem. Coaches without a mental health background can get in over their heads, beyond the level of their training. I’ve read accounts by psychologists who step in and correct workplace coaching gone wrong. I don’t want to be identified with that. I want the credibility and respect my degree and my professional counseling license give me.

I am trained in human growth and development, psychopathology, assessment, group dynamics, family dynamics, systems theory, organizational consultation, and a wealth of therapy models and techniques. I show organizations how to flourish by nurturing their people. I help build strong and supportive families. I guide people to discover, cherish, and express their unique qualities so they have purpose and feel alive. I don’t want to be thought of as “only” a coach.

I want people to value themselves. I am an advocate for personal growth and development. I want people to value each other. I am an advocate for genuine relationships. I will help people step out of the box of “doing okay” and watch them learn to thrive!

This is vital work, as important as therapy. It’s much bigger than the word “coach.” Will most people realize that? It’s part of my calling to make sure they do.

In upcoming posts I’ll continue to explore the shift from therapy to coaching. Topics will include A Different Business Model and A Different Marketing Method.

May You Find Your Calling and Follow It,

Steve Coxsey


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