Clients often ask me, what’s the difference between how you work, and how a therapist works? So I thought it might be helpful if I explained the different ways that therapists, counsellors and coaches work.
One way of differentiating between counsellors and therapists is to imagine the human mind, or psyche, as an onion: the outer layers, or current experience, is where coaches and counsellors tend to work; the deepest layers that hold our early childhood experiences is where most therapists tend to work.
Human psyche as an onion
Coaching (at least the psychological variety) can be seen as a branch of counselling – counsellors work with people, in their family or community setting. Coaches usually work with people in the context of their work and organisational setting. And both need to pay attention to the impact of one upon the other e.g., for a counsellor, the impact of family on a client and vice versa. And for a coach, the impact of the organisation on the client, and vice versa. Effectively coaches and counsellors do the same work, simply in different settings or contexts.
Most coaches, counsellors and therapists have a clear ethical frame that informs how they work, and they will guide you in the appropriate direction as to who might be best for you to work with, given what you are experiencing.
And just to add to the confusion, it’s really all the same work, if you find someone you like and feel safe with, then I’d say, go with that – if all else fails trust your gut instinct!
“Always trust your gut, it knows what your head hasn’t figured out yet.” – Anonymous
On this theme of how to choose the right practitioner for me…one way is quite to quite simply, talk to two or three people, then trust your gut! Another version of this in organisations, is what are known in the business as ‘sniffing’ sessions! A group of coaches sit in a room, and potential clients are free to speak to whoever they want to, and then tell the organiser after who they have chosen to work with.
Of course, you may also have an instinctive and adverse reaction to a practitioner – this doesn’t always mean that they are ‘wrong’ for you, it just means there is something going on between you that might end up being really useful!