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Coaching vs. Psychotherapy

Coaching and psychotherapy are different activities. Both use knowledge of human behavior, motivation, behavior change and interactive counseling techniques. However, there are major differences in goals, focus and level of professional responsibility.

Coaching is a professional service which involves helping clients make decisions and implement change in their lives. Using specific strategies, techniques and skills, the coach guides and supports the client as she/he sets the agenda, decides what specific changes to make, develops an action plan, implements the plan and develops strategies to maintain change. Coaching clients are assumed to be healthy, resourceful and creative. Their success is dependent on their own willingness to work to achieve their goals. The coach’s job is to support, encourage, challenge, teach and help client’s stay on track toward their goals.

Psychotherapy is a health care service. Its primary focus is to identify, diagnose and treat nervous and mental disorders. The goals of psychotherapy include alleviating symptoms, understanding the underlying personality dynamics which create symptoms, changing the dysfunctional behaviors which are a result of these disorders and helping patients to cope with their psychological problems. Psychotherapy patients are considered emotionally vulnerable. The psychotherapist’s job is to provide treatment.

In addition to being a Coach, I am also a Licensed Psychologist-Doctorate in Vermont. While I have training and experience in diagnosing and treating emotional and psychological problems, the work I do as a Coach does not involve using those skills. I do not conduct psychotherapy with my coaching clients. If I believe a coaching client is in need of psychotherapy, I will gladly make a referral to a psychotherapist.

(The content of this page was based on the writings of Ben Dean, Ph.D. of Mentor Coach)