ASK THE COACH
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Coaching, Psychotherapy Very Different Things
By Dr. Ray Angelini
August 21, 2001
Dear Dr. Ray,
I am a small business owner and I am trying to expand my business. Several friends recommended that I hire a coach to assist me; others suggested that I see a therapist. Can you explain the difference between coaching and psychotherapy?
— Confused in Charlton
Your question is a common one. Coaching is a relatively new profession that began to develop approximately 10 years ago. Coaching is a body of knowledge, a technology and a style of relating that focuses on the developing of human potential.
Psychotherapy is a much older technique that has been around well over 100 years that focuses on helping people develop greater awareness of how their thoughts, feelings and actions affect themselves and others. Thomas Leonard, the founder of Coach University, has made key distinctions between coaching and psychotherapy.
Coaching is about achievement, psychotherapy is about healing. Coaching is not psychotherapy. Coaches don't work on "issues" or dwell on the past very much.
Coaches move clients forward and set personal goals that will help them create a more rewarding life. It can be argued that psychotherapy does this as well, but it often can take much longer and accomplishes its goals using very different techniques.
Coaching is about action; psychotherapy is often focused on understanding. One coaching client described her coaching experience as a "grenade in my life that is still going off." Coaches spur their clients into action by helping them implement new skills to make sure they achieve the goals they desire. Coaching is also about creating momentum; psychotherapy is often focused on creating safety.
As a coach, I challenge clients to take risks to achieve what they really desire in life. This often requires thinking outside the box and abandoning the safety and security of doing things the same old way. Coaching is about moving forward and saying "Why not?" Psychotherapy is often focused on looking backward and asking "Why?"
Coaching is about attraction, psychotherapy is about protection. Coaching helps people build upon their strengths in order to help them overcome obstacles to achieving their personal and professional goals. Coaching is focused on finding out what's right with a person and maximizing it; psychotherapy is often about finding out what's wrong and minimizing it. Coaching is about creating, psychotherapy is often about resolving. Coaching focuses on both creating abundance and recognizing the abundance that already exists. Psychotherapy tends to be more focused on scarcity, or what "is" or "has been" missing. Coaching is about "what is" and "could be," psychotherapy is often about "what was."
Both coaching and psychotherapy are extremely valuable and have served as catalysts in helping many people grow and change. The major difference between them is focus. For some, it is necessary to look backward in order to move forward. For others, moving forward can create a clearer perspective on what happened before.
Whether you choose to hire a coach or a therapist, your business will undoubtedly grow and benefit because an investment is being made in its most valuable asset — you.