Why Is It Hard to Change From Therapy to Life Coaching?

January 26, 2007

Part 1: Rediscovering My Own Profession

I was looking for my next career very intensely in the late summer and fall of 2004. I looked for help on the internet and discovered Valerie Young and Barbara Sher. Reading stories of people discovering their special interests and abilities, and finding ways to use those to define and discover work that nourished them instead of draining them, got me really excited. In time I realized that was energizing to me. I like helping people develop and grow and accomplish. I wondered if I could start a new career doing that. I struggled with what to call it. I wondered how long it would take me to get trained. I had a course in career counseling but I knew this was different, and more, so I wondered if I needed more classes. I thought, Classes in what? I thought carefully about the skills Valerie and Barbara used and decided I would need skills in communication, increasing self-awareness, maybe some imagery techniques to increase emotional understanding, consultation skills, and understanding motivation and problem-solving.

Suddenly I remembered: The field of Counseling is about promoting healthy human growth and development! Psychology, my major field, is broader, but in my counseling courses I learned that focused definition. I’m a Counselor and I forgot! As a Licensed Professional Counselor all I had to do was shift the focus of my practice. It sounded so easy—in theory. But I realized that I would have to market my practice and make other people aware of what I offered. The problem? If I, a Licensed Professional Counselor, took weeks to realize that what I wanted to do IS counseling by definition, how in the world would my potential clients know that help with positive change, personal growth and development, finding meaningful work, and building strong relationships is part of counseling?

I got sidetracked in fall 2004 by the opportunity to join a business and marketing consulting firm and learned a lot about marketing and not going into partnerships until you know people well. I got sidetracked in fall 2005 by focusing on building a therapy practice, thinking that would give me more credibility to be able to do what I really wanted to do, the positive counseling path. By the middle of 2006 I knew I wanted to focus on this path exclusively but could not even put it into simple words where I could explain and market my practice. I attended a seminar by Ben Dean, PhD, of MentorCoach and learned there is a steady stream of people moving from therapy practice to life coaching. I was comforted that his organization specifically focused on taking the skills of therapists and redirecting them to life coaching. In my mind that gave honor and respect to those skills and gave me a way to enter this very broad and poorly defined field within a clearly qualified niche.

During the training we were introduced to many coaching techniques, and not one of them seemed like a new thing or different idea. The other therapists thought they were and they found them challenging during role-play demonstrations. As a therapist trained to work with children and adolescents, I already use a lot of observation and reflective communication and explaining the steps of new situations. I almost never ask about feelings but listen for and reflect them. Coaching was easy, like listening with purpose to a friend discussing a plan for the future or a minor dilemma. I knew I wanted to do this as my work, or at least a major part of my work.

From there I have realized the obstacles that have slowed and are slowing me down. I will share those with you in future posts, showing how they have affected me, how they can affect other therapists who are considering the transition, and the things I’ve discovered so far about moving around them. They include A Different Professional Image, A Different Business Model, and A Different Marketing Method.

May You Find Abundance,

Steve Coxsey

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