Coaching: Email-Interview with yours truly

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Normally I email-interview someone living and/or working a specific aspect of wellness and well-being.  However, due to some unforeseen difficulties, today that somebody is me.

I am often asked questions about my work providing Psychological Coaching, so I thought I would share some of those answers with you.

What is Coaching?

I think of coaching as a dance. It is a chance for you to find your own rhythm and harmony.  People typically consider coaching when something in their lives is feeling off balance, uncomfortable or unmanageable.  As I see it, coaching is a way for a person to find their feet again. It is not up to me to tell them when to rock or how to sway.  Instead, you and your coach are partners, with you choreographing and leading the dance.  In this way, you no longer have to try to find the beat to someone else’s song or struggle to keep up.  Whether with family, relationships, school, spirituality, health, work, or play, within the coaching relationship, you and the coach are working together to find just the right note.

The coaching client is considered “creative, resourceful, and whole”.  From this perspective, the coach’s job is to help the client focus on his/her own personal strengths, skills, talents and abilities.  It is not always easy because our tendency can often be to focus on where we are stuck, leading us to trip over our own feet, stumble and fall.  Instead, the coach reminds you to keep your eyes up, helping you to know where your needs, values and goals are leading you, so that you can trust in your own strengths and abilities as they guide you through each action step.  Of course, it can take practice and time, but your coach is always there to put a spotlight on your unique strengths and possibilities so that you can tolerate a tumble, bounce back, and thrive.

How is Coaching different from therapy?

As a psychologist, I strongly believe in the power of therapy.  It is a critical healing process particularly when you are faced with mental or emotional difficulties.  In therapy, the therapist is considered the expert, and is there to identify, diagnose and treat the problem.  Therapy aims to alleviate symptoms, understand the underlying dynamics which create symptoms, change symptom related patterns and behaviors, and help patients develop new strategies to successfully cope and manage the psychological challenges they face. By comparison, in coaching, the client is considered the expert.  The client and coach work collaboratively to develop and implement strategies to reach client-identified goals so that he/she is no longer “stuck” and can actively move toward their potential in the areas of life considered most important to them.

It is not unusual for a client to have coaching as an adjunct to therapy, but coaching is not a health care service, and does not treat mental health disorders. When working with my clients, if I or the client have reason to believe that they may be experiencing an undiagnosed or untreated mental or emotional health problem, I will refer them to another Qualified Mental Health Professional.

What does Coaching have to do with Well-being?

The World Health Organization has defined health as “physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease” (WHO, 1946). With this in mind, my approach to coaching is grounded in Nutritional and Positive Psychology with well-ness instead of ill-ness at its core.  The goal is for you to find your flow and enjoy the music for as long as it continues to play.

 

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Psychological coaching is grounded in the art and science of psychology and is in many ways very similar to traditional psychotherapy.  They both utilize knowledge of human behavior, motivation, behavioral change, and interactive techniques in order to help a client move from where they are to an improved state of being. The differences between psychological coaching and traditional psychotherapy are related to their goals, focus, and perspective. Traditional psychotherapy seeks to diagnose and treat emotional and behavioral conditions, with the therapist serving as "expert" in support of the client. Unfortunately, many have considered the pursuit of traditional psychotherapy to be stigmatizing, in part because of this perspective of the client being "broken" and in need of repair.  Psychological  coaching offers a different point of view.  The coaching psychologist is more likely focused on developing a collaborative relationship, with the client in the "driver seat", with the perspective that the client is creative, whole, and resourceful.  The clients' capacity for wellness and healing is assumed, encouraging them to move more quickly and directly through obstacles to their happiness, success, and life satisfaction.  

As a Coaching Psychologist, my goal is to support you in creating awareness so that you can access your own skills and inner resources in order to manage the challenges you face now and into the future.  While our work together may touch on past traumas and psychiatric concerns, they will be addressed from the perspective of your strengths, rather than with a focus on ill-ness or disability.  In our larger community, it is not unusual for individuals to experience mild to moderate mental health issues, making psychological coaching an accessible and viable option.  If, in the course of our work together, either you or I have reason to believe that your mental or emotional health concerns are better addressed by another service provider, a referral will be made.  

As a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, I have 20 years of ongoing training and experience providing, consulting and supervising others in the provision of psychological services.  However,  as of now, the life coaching field is unregulated, allowing anyone to be a life coach - even those without training in the behavioral sciences.  As well, the coaching field is considered to lack a solid base in research, creating disagreement on educational and training standards. The International Coach Federation (ICF) is working to change this.  In order to ensure that your coach is not counseling others beyond their expertise, it is suggested that when considering a life coach, individuals  should seek coaches who are trained or ICF certified.  Along with my license as a Clinical Psychologist, I am currently enrolled in MentorCoach® L.L.C., one of the oldest ICF accredited coach training programs, and one that will enable me to be an ICF certified coach.