• Coaching is a very hot field today. Many therapists are taking on the role as a coach for executives and people. There are important but subtle differences between the two.First, coaching is a process that has a long history. It is nothing new. The typical format that most people are likely to associate coaching with is in the field of sports. Coaching athletes is centuries old, but the formal approach taken towards the application of coaching to general public is a recent phenomenon.Coaching differs from psychotherapy in several ways. Although they may appear to be very similar processes, to the well-trained individual in both, it is entirely different and one should not be substituted for the other when psychotherapy is really necessary.

    To begin with, psychotherapy is treatment and is applied when individuals, couples, families or groups of individuals are affected by a malady that creates some form of dysfunction, pain or distress. It is reimbursable by health insurance because it is a treatment process. As such a diagnostic interview is the first step in the psychotherapeutic process.

    In coaching, there is no diagnosis of an illness or malady. Coaching is applied when individuals are seeking to better their performance or enhance their natural capabilities. By description, individuals are not suffering some form of dysfunction or distress. It may be frustrating to not be able to perform up to a certain level or expectation, but ultimately it is not required. The individual being coached would otherwise be fine. People likely seek out coaching because of a self-imposed desire to better themselves.

    Psychotherapy establishes a relationship between someone who is trained and knowledgeable about the person’s specific malady. Coaching is done by someone who has acquired or has specific experience in an area in which they feel they can “coach” others to reach.

    There are similarities in the two processes that include empathic listening, problem solving and employing techniques for behavior change. The difference between the two processes is that psychotherapy is a healing focus and coaching is an enhancing process.

    Coaching is more directive, though not to the point of discouraging the coachee’s independent decision making. Coaching is more action oriented in the here and now, while psychotherapy is more explorative in a therapeutic milieu that was purposefully created as part of the process.

    Specialized Therapy Associates has coaches on staff who are specifically trained to address issues within this framework. Executives who typically seek coaching are those who have had their skills assessed and or realize from work experience there are weak areas that they would like to enhance. The general public may seek coaching as a process to help them further skills in a number of areas. For example, people have sought coaching to improve money management, communication skills, changing careers etc…

    Dr. Vanessa Gourdine is a psychologist, executive and life coach and Director of Specialized Therapy Associates, LLC and Life Work Strategies, LLC. She can be reached atDrG@LWSCoach.com. She has a behavioral health column in BC Magazine and is a regular contributor to lifestyle publications. She has developed a coaching model based on using strategies to influence growth and change for successful living. She can be reached at 201-224-5200.