How is coaching different than therapy?

by | Coaching

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is “What is the difference between coaching and therapy?” It’s a great question! Many people looking for help have some idea what therapy is, but aren’t quite as familiar with coaching and how it works. 

Coaching and therapy share the same purpose…

Coaching and traditional therapy share many of the same benefits and purposes.  They both seek to offer support and help you feel better. Both can also help you learn new life skills that will eventually lead to a renewed sense of joy and hope in your life.

The biggest difference between coaching and therapy is how those goals are reached and who is responsible for making sure you getting you there.  Which one is a better fit really depends on you, your background, and what you are ultimately looking for. Take a look at the similarities and differences in processes below.

What is therapy?

By definition, therapy is  “treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.” (OxfordDictionaries) Merriam-Webster defines therapy as “therapeutic treatment especially of bodily, mental, or behavioral disorders.” As therapy is intended to diagnose and heal specific disorders, treatment can only be adminisered by state licensed mental health professionals (aka therapists.) Their job is to figure out what disorder best describes you according to standardized definitions outlined by the American Psychological Association.  Once the specific condition has been identified, a written treatment plan is then prepared and executed by the therapist and treatment is administered using standardized treatment protocols and evidence or research-based methods.

Have you ever wondered why insurance plans will pay for therapy, but not for other types of help? This is why! Therapy is considered a type of medical intervention intended to treat a specific and diagnosable illness or disorder.  If the person helping you isn’t an authorized provider, part of their network, or doesn’t use the specific standardized methods accepted by the insurance company, insurance won’t pay for their services.

How does therapy work?

One of the goals of therapy is to help you untangle your past and understand how it is impacting your present. Therapy is often equated to an archaeological dig that looks backward through your life and deliberately digs up buried emotions, events, and triggers to find the root causes of your current dysfunction and distress. While this may be necessary at times, the process can be quite invasive and progress is often slow and painful.

There are, of course, different types of therapy and treatment methods out there. Some of the newer trauma specific treatment such as EMDR and DBT work differently. Not all therapists are trained in how to use these method, though. Just like any professional, each therapist has their own area of expertise. None are trained in all methods or have experience with all issues. Long story short, just because someone is covered by your insurance plan or has availability in their schedule doesn’t mean they can actually help you.

If you’re considering working with someone, be sure to ask a lot of specific questions about their trauma-specific training, methods they are trained in using, and their experience (and success rate) in treating complex cases. These questions are relevant even if you’re looking for someone to work only with you. As a parent, you’re part of the complex trauma package…and it’s also now part of your own story. If you find someone who know how to help your child, they’ll probably know how to help you. The reverse is also true. If they don’t have the training, skills, or knowledge to help your child, they likely won’t  know what to do with you, either.

I want to make something very clear. Even as a coach, I’m not anti-therapy. In fact, I believe a good therapist is worth their weight in gold. If you’ve got one, keep them!

Unfortunately, way too many therapists simply don’t have adequate training in how to handle complex trauma situations. Nor do they have sufficient experience in working with such cases to fully understand the realities of parenting children with intense emotional and behavior challenges. They likewise don’t realize the incredible toll these issues take on the entire family (especially the mom) or the true safety risks they can present for all family members. That doesn’t mean therapists aren’t doing their job. It means this stuff isn’t being taught in colleges as part of the foundation curriculum.

There is also one last important note I’d like to make about therapy. Because therapy is is a medical service, it becomes part of your medical records. Maybe that’s not a big deal to you…or maybe it is. Either way, it’s something to consider as it can stay in your medical and mental health records for several years and follow you wherever you go. Disclosure that you’ve been in treatment may be required in some situations.  That simply is what it is and shouldn’t be a primary reason to choose one option over the other.

Coaching takes a different approach…

Coaching takes a very different approach. Coaching is a forward looking, solution-focused journey of empowerment and transformation. Coaching is not a treatment program,  a “how-to-parent your child” program, or a “magic bullet that will fix everything”…because, duh, those don’t exist.

The coaching process is, however, tailor made to fit your personal needs, wants, values, goals, and situations. A coach’s job is to partner with you, provide positive support, outside perspective, accurate information, and guide you through the process of you finding your own right answers. A coach’s job is also to challenge you to grow, find solutions, and move forward in ways you didn’t think were possible.

Most coaches are not licensed mental health providers. Nor is it necessary for them to be as diagnostics and treatment of disorders are not part of coaching.  That doesn’t mean coaches don’t have education and training, though. In fact, the opposite is quite true! A good coach will be well educated, especially in their areas of expertise, and will also have professional training and certification specific to the coaching process and their specific area of expertise.

Please note, however, here are no licensing or certification requirements for coaching. Pretty much anyone can hang a sign on their door and call themselves a coach…and a lot of people do. As with anything else, if you’re considering working with someone, ask a lot of questions. Find out what their training is, what their experience is, what their approach is, and what their specialty is. Unfortunately, I know from experience is that those call themselves coaches, but lack coach specific training and certification will likely also lack the skills needed to help you change your situation for good.

What does working with me look like?

I’m not a licensed mental health provider, but I am a professionally trained and certified life, parent, and family coach. I specialize in working with mothers of children who struggle with intense emotional and behavior challenges associated with early childhood trauma, complex PTSD, FAS, attachment disorder, and other forms of mental illness. I believe mothers are the most important change-agents for their kids. Therapy and other treatments can help (and are often necessary at some point), but the deepest and most important healing for everyone happens at home…and it happens through connection and relationships. It’s pretty tough to make that happen if mom is a burned out, stressed out, empty shell of herself.

Though it’s not uncommon for moms to be in that burned out state when they first come to me, I make absolutely no assumption there is something wrong with you. All of these things are very normal reactions to very abnormal situations! My goal with coaching is to make sure you have the support, training, and feedback you need to do your job. We work together to identify missing pieces and problem areas, help you learn how to calm the chaos, better balance and manage your own life in spite of all the crazy stuff going on around you, create healthy relationships within the family, and learn how to love a kid who doesn’t want to be loved. 

We  start wherever you are right now, take all the good, the bad, and the ugly and use all of it to build something purposeful and meaningful. Our work together is all about connecting all the pieces and helping you bridge the gaps between where you are and where you want to be.

 We don’t just wander through the weeds in a willy-nilly way, though. We work within a structured, step-by-step system I have developed based on research and also what I know from my own personal experience about what it takes for children, parents, and families in situations like ours to heal. As a parent of severely traumatized children myself, I’ve been in some very dark, scary, and mega-stressful places in life. The steps I guide you through are the exact steps I used to climb out of my own dark abyss. They are also the same steps I’ve used for more than a decade to help other parents find their way out and restore peace and light in their lives. Check it out!

Though coaching isn’t therapy, many do experience therapeutic benefits. In fact, many people I work with find coaching offers a faster, less invasive, and more effective path to wholeness and serenity than traditional therapy. Our ultimate goal is to help you repair and refill your own emotional bucket, navigate the challenges of parenting extremely difficult children, and leave the trenches of chaos for good. In process of getting there, however, it’s not uncommon for my clients to realize that issues such as depression, anxiety, and other stress-related conditions are actually symptoms rather than primary ailments. Once we get to the roots of whatever is driving them,  these these often just take care of themselves.

As we work through each step in the right order, and you give the process everything you’ve got, you will gain exactly what you need to climb out of the dark trenches of chaos, find hope and healing for yourself, and inspire your family to follow you.

Are you ready to find out more?

If so, hop on over and apply for a complimentary Parent Empowerment Session with me! It’s a FREE, no obligation session. We’ll meet via video conference for about an hour, get to know each other a bit,  and take a deep-dive look at your current situation. We’ll also look at where you want to be and how (or if) I might be able to support you in getting there.

You might as well give it a try! You’ve got nothing to lose, but might have everything to gain!

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