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Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Difference Between Life Coaching and Therapy




Due to past traumatic events, is your life stagnant? Has confusion over taken your thoughts? Do you feel the wounds of your past? Experiencing flashbacks? Do you want something more out of your life? Are you ready for a change? Maybe you should consider life coaching for your trauma issues… it is now a valid alternative path to change, healing, wellness and success. As the result of experiencing abuse or trauma you become more skilled at surviving and not performing in normal life. Trauma coaching is a new path that can break the old habits of just surviving and move you to functioning better with new daily skills.


A recent article in USA Today was very enlightening in that the journalist stated that many people are searching to be more skillful in life. The USA Today’s article titled is "Life-Coaches – All The Rage."  written by Karen S. Peterson, a journalist at USA TODAY, wrote:

"Personal growth is hot. Diagnosis is not. That is one reason America has seen a boom in the number of people offering their services as "life coaches." These guides give clients the confidence to get unstuck — to change careers, repair relationships, or simply get their act together."

Ms. Peterson then quoted life coach Laura Berman Fortgang:

"We are not talking about being incompetent or weak. They are everyday, normal people who have their lives together. They realize the value of having somebody to help them think outside the box."

People who seek therapy or coaching are not much different. Both want change in their lives. I want to help you look at the difference between the two.

Is Traditional the Best Answer for All?

Therapy has been around for over 100 years … since the days of Sigmund Freud. There are many good points about therapy. I know! I was one for over 38 years. I witnessed many patients get help, but many did not. Why?

What Therapy Does?

Therapy's objective is to help a person deal with personal problems and issues that need to be analyzed and solved. The process of therapy is about reflecting on the person's past and seeking the cause or root of the problem. Therapy assumes that the person has a problem, or mental illness, and is based on a disease model.
Therapy is an answer-oriented process. What does that mean? A person who seeks therapy will tell the therapist his or her problems, and then ask, "What do I do?" The accountability is on the therapist to give the right answer. Inherent in therapy is the key factor of having a good therapist. If you do, then the therapist will give you the right answer or insight, and everything will be okay. With the right answer, the person's life will go forward. In therapy, there is no accountability for the person to do what is suggested. Also, a therapist will focus on events in the person's past which came from his or her family of origin.

A major disadvantage of therapy is based on the medical model. The person who gets involved in therapy gets a diagnosis, a label which will follow them for the rest of his or her life. Naturally, if a person says they are in therapy, another person may think that "there is something wrong" with them. People, in general, assume there was something wrong with the person’s brain, mind or spirit, even if they had worked on their issues to the point of being restored to good health. The shadow of illness is always there.

Another disadvantage is that if a person has a "disease" they must take medicine. Many times, medicine can create its own problems, physically and mentally. Psychiatric medicines are very powerful and can hinder the feeling of emotions which need to be felt in order to be healed. So you see, there are many reasons why people have avoided the therapist’s couch at all costs.

What Is Life Coaching?

Life coaching is a relatively new field. A lot of people find it hard to embrace life coaching and raise their eyebrows at the possibility.  Life coaching is such a new field which is virtually unregulated at this point. Does that mean it is not effective? No. Business leaders, professional athletes, artists and entertainers have known about coaches for ages, and they have used coaches for decades to help them become more successful. Just like therapists, there are good coaches and bad ones. The USA Today article stated:

"Life coaches are a new option for the worried well — those whose lives are only slightly askew. No longer do they need a diagnosis from a psychotherapist who delves into the painful past." 

The objective of life coaching is to assist a person in formulating what his or her life intentions are, to uncover deep beliefs which might be barriers to his or her positive movement, and to move forward successfully. Life coaching assumes that the person is lacking a skill to move out of a comfort zone and get more out of life. Life coaching is a teaching experience, just like a sports coach who trains, teaches and directs athletics or a team to win games and work toward having greater confidence and being number one among their peers.

Life coaching is a question and assignment-oriented process. What does that mean?  Life coaching is an active process. Learning, instituting suggested change and practice. A person who seeks coaching tells the coach his or her intentions or goals, and then the coach asks, "What do you want to do about it?” The coach might also ask, “What is the one thing you could do today that would radically change your life?" Coaching believes that the answer is in the heart and mind of the person wanting coaching and not in the coach. It is the method or strategy the coach uses which does the help … not the coach himself. The coach is a coach, guide, teacher, mentor, motivator or team member to assist the person in learning new skills to break down blocks that impede performance and success.  Accountability is the responsibility of the person … not the coach. In coaching, with the right question and assignment given by the coach, the answers and appropriate action steps will be revealed. The person is consciously accomplishing, following through, and responsible for completing the agreed action plan. If the person follows through and completes the action plan, then positive movement will be achieved.

In sports, it has always been true that the more an athletic practices their skills, the great his or her confidence and more proficient becomes in that sport. This is also true in life. A coach can help a person who is having blocks in business, communication, health, job, finances, nutrition, physical wellness, mindset, work, relationships, romance, self esteem, and even spirituality. A block is mostly due to lack of skill. Once skill has been achieved and the person practices the new skills, a higher confidence level is gained. Therefore, why not view life as the accumulation of different sports (areas) in which to become more proficient? As proficiency increases, so does performance.

Gender Differences

The USA Today article sited Life Coach Patrick Williams from Colorado,

"Coaching is especially popular with men, who respond favorably to a term from sports. Seventy percent of the caseloads in therapy are women; 60% in coaching are men." Williams went on to say "life coaching will change the face of psychotherapy, helping people live a better life without the stigma of needing a diagnosis (disease model) or a visit to a psychotherapist they don't want or need."







After Thoughts

If you feel stuck or blocked in your life, consider what you really need before you choose a path. Both life coaching and psychotherapy have a place. Knowing the difference can benefit you greatly.

Life coaching is more for a person seeking positive changes, reducing anxiety or stress, increase confidence or esteem, find solutions to problems, wish to enhance their self and life skills. Sometimes, these folks are called “the worried well.” A life coach teaches you how to be what you truly wish and want to be through action, custom assignments, mindfulness, education, being proactive, skill acquisition and practice. Then a coach supports you in being accountable and management your growth.

Life Coaching is about the right question. Meaning a life coach believes that the client has their own answer. If life coaching the philosophy believes that if the coach asks the right question then the right answer from the client will be revealed.

If a person has a more serious or long term mental illness-related issue, then therapy should be the choice. A therapist helps you in discovery and understanding why you are the way you are today due what you experienced or acquired growing up. 

Therapy is an answer process. Meaning that the client tells the therapist his or her problem and the therapist tells the client the answer. Generally the answer is in conjunction with medication.

Now of course, if your issues are out of the life coach's scope of practice, then it is absolutely necessary for a coach to refer the person to a licensed psychotherapist, social worker, marriage and family counselor or psychiatrist for assessment.

Do you identify with any one or all of these statements.

1.  Am I irresponsible and refuse to complete and be accountable          for my assignments and action plan that I committed to do? 


2.  I am unable to move forward? I keep going back to my old 
    destructive patterns. I can't or won't help myself? I become               angry and won't let go of my resentments, old emotional 
    hurts or past pains? Do I keep subconsciously bumping 
    into emotional triggers? 

3. I just feel very disconnected from myself. I just feel like I 

    can't control my behaviors, thoughts or feelings. 
    I feel I am out of control.

If any of these statements resonate for you, you may find your issues are more emotional, and less personal development.You would probably benefit from working with a therapist, than a life coach.

Coaches are Part of a Team and Shouldn't be an Island

Having decades of experience in both areas, as a therapist and a Life Coach, I would like to offer a note of caution to the less experienced coaches out there. The power of a coaching comes from their program, not the coach as a person. Know your limits as a Coach. Don't attempt to see a client through just coaching lens.

Have a referral list of trusted professional who you can consult and refer to. Watch for warning signs which point to the need for qualified licensed professionals. Where there is a family in dangerous circumstances due to alcohol/drug use, violence/abuse/aggression, or emotional turmoil, a qualified and certified family therapist should always be consulted. Where there is an individual showing signs of depression, who seems too often have strong negative opinions of himself and the depression doesn't seem to be waning, or some other signs of mental instability (radical mood swings, etc.), then a qualified mental health practitioner should be engaged as soon as possible. Just as important as knowing your professional talents and abilities, is also important to know the areas where you do not have the expertise. Be quick to consult with or refer your client to the right professional if dangerous situations are threatening. 

Here is the link if you want to read the original article. 

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2002-08-04-lifecoach_x.htm

About the Author

The author, Dr. Bill Tollefson Ph.D., is a Master Certified Life, Trauma and Holistic Addiction Recovery Coach in Cape Coral Florida. He brings his education, expertise and training of 38 years as a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, reality therapist and licensed addiction counselor to his coaching. Dr. Bill coaches adolescents, adults, recovery addiction clients, survivors and couples anywhere in the world over Skype and on the phone (239) 349-2209. You can also go to his website … http://www.drbilltollefson.com/… for more information.

                                              


Please make a comment at the bottom of this article and express your ideas. 

36 comments:

  1. I can see the importance of both...therapist and life coach. I have experienced both. I have experienced good points in both.

    Most of my life I have been in therapy and have been given many "labels"..."diagnosis's".. and the labels do follow you through your whole life. Once "labeled" it sticks in your brain and you believe this will always be who I am. Even after years of therapy and doing better, I still carry that "label" around even if it is in my subconscious and I feel it has held me back and kept me from being "compete"..."whole".

    Also medication issues, I believe psychiatrist think they are honestly helping by giving medication...but I have found it has only hindered and delayed my healing process.

    Seeing a "good" life coach can make all the difference in the world. They do not see "labels" they see me for who I am... for what I can be...and help work through the obstacles that are blocking the path in becoming who I truly am...or can be...my desires can become my reality.

    I do believe therapy has helped me...if nothing else...it has kept me alive and kept me from giving up many years ago. But, having a life coach has taken me to places I thought I would never see...never become. Desires "are" becoming "realities".

    My new desire is to be free from addictive medications I have been on for many years. And I also believe this "desire" will become a "reality". Thanks to a wonderful life coach that believes in me and doesn't look at "labels"...but looks at me and my true abilities.

    Thanks Dr. Bill

    ReplyDelete
  2. Dear Anonymous,
    I really appreciate you making a comment on my blog. I wrote it to inform people on the differences between Life Coaching and Therapy. There are many misunderstandings floating around. I want others to know that there are other views and paths when seeking relief from abuse or trauma recovery, healing and freedom.

    Traditional methods are very effective for a lot of mental conditions (of which I was part of that system for 38 years), but Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not one of them. PTSD is not a pathological disorder. PTS, I wish they would drop the "D", is a "normal" mental, physical and spiritual response to viewing or experiencing a life threatening event. The event could be mild or server, primary or secondary, but the resulting affect are the same. The event changes the person, response to self and others and changes their life. Traumatic events follow survivors like a constant shadow.

    I hope that this blog allowed you to see both in a new light side by side. Coaching is a skill based acquisition method rather than an examining “wrong/broken" method. What is funny is that psychiatry, psychology or coaching is an exact science. So it is the practitioner behind the tools that makes the difference.
    Another difference is Life Coaching gives people accountability through assignments and action plans they have to complete. Therapy does not. I would rather be accountable and invested rather than expecting the therapist to have the “right answer”.

    It is now people’s choice in what direction they want to travel. Either focus on what was wrong with your past and take the chance the “negative” will manifest that into their life (therapy). Or self assess what they want (happiness/success), what skills they need to acquire your goal and achieve it.

    Your choice toward your “freedom” is yours.

    Thank you for expressing your ideas for others.

    Blessings, Dr Bill

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is one of the absolute best articles on the concepts of both life coaching & therapy i have read! It is very comprehensive, informative and unbiased! The artucle clearly covers therapy & life coaching; their similarities/differences; what is focused on in each; tips to help a person decide what avenue they need/want to go; things to be mindful in choosing a professional &/or what type and so much more!
    Thank you for writing such an excellent yet warm & appealing article & sharing it. Your sincere heartfelt motive in wanting to truly help people reach their best potential (frequently unknown by the client what that is) comes across throughout the article.
    I can speak with experience that I am extremely grateful for having worked with an awesome therapist and more recently a life coach and my life has truly been transformed to heights never ever dreamed or imagined possible! He is now my mentor & colleague as I enter into the mental health profession myself. I hope I can even in some small way help clients reach the heights he has helped me obtain.
    THANK YOU!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very welcome. I really thank you for your comment. I worked hard not to be bias in this blog. I want everyone to understand the difference so they can make an informed decision on their direction because both field work in opposite directions.

      I have professionally worked on both sides of the fence. I worked as a psychotherapist & mental health corporation owner for 38 years and now well into my 4th year as a Certified Master Life Coach in private practice. I can clearly tell you that there are both good and bad therapists and life coaches.

      You have proven that finding the right therapist and mentor to work as a team for your benefit is extremely supportive to healing. Now you are studying to help others. I commend you on your hard work in your recovery and dedication to a reaching a richer life. I am sure you will help many as you move out of your studies and into a professional career.

      "Knowledge is Power"

      Thanks for joining the conversation on this blog subject.
      Please share with others on your social media.


      Delete
  4. This article is really interesting and the knowledge provided is very useful. i want to know how we can Career Change in our life

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    Replies
    1. David Smith - I really appreciate your comment on this blog. I am glad you got something out of it and I hope that read more of my blogs and follow.

      Blessings,
      Dr Bill

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    1. ricky martin - I really appreciate your comment and that you took the time write it. I am glad that you gained something from this blog. Please read more.

      Checkout my websites www.DrBillTollefson.com and www.MakingaPositiveChange.com for more information and products.
      Blessings,
      Dr Bill

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    Thank you for your comment. It is always good to know that a blog is appreciated.

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  7. Coaching will help you to clarify your goals, determine your action plans, and stay focused on your career objectives. A coach will also support you through your fears and personal challenges, expect you to do your best, and help you to live by your values.
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    1. Dear Dr. Lepora,

      I really appreciate your comments. You express the concept and objectives of coaching very well. I am sure your comments will benefit others to find what will help them get to where they would like to be.

      Thanks again and keep following my blog. Listen to my new podcast also.

      Blessings, Dr. Bill

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  10. Thank you Sally for your positive comments. I write so others can learn and to know that life coaching can help anyone recover and move forward in their life.
    Blessings

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  11. I had always wondered this. Thanks for the post!
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    1. ritasoman, I really appreciate your comment and that you found value in this blog.
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  13. Thank you for your comment and for reading.

    Blessings, Dr. Bill

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    1. anderson,

      Thank you for comments I am glad my blog has helped you.

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  15. Excellent way of describing!!! Executive coaching help you bring various radical yet positive changes in your professional life. 
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    1. Dear Elbert David I want to thank you for your comment on this blog. I was a therapist for 40 years and now coaching has shown how you can help people really grow.

      blessings

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  16. Life coaching is a very positive and effective practice which helps people make
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      I appreciate your validation of life coaching as a very positive and effective tool which helps people achieve significant and meaningful changes. Changes can be achieved in a person's body and mind but also in spirit as well as overall enhancement in mindful and intuitive thinking as well as living. See more @ https://www.drbilltollefson.com/home.html

      Thanks so much, Dr. Bill

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  17. Thats great! Executive coaching can really make such a big difference in someone's life and set them on a road that will lead them to their true potential... and when they reach it they will be amazed at what they are capable of.
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    1. Dear Elbert David,

      Thanks for taking the time to read this blog.

      Coaching of any type can help anyone achieve what they want out of life. Look forward and not backward.

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  18. Thanks for such a wonderful article it describes the difference in between life coaching and therapy; we need the support of life coaching and therapy once in lifetime through which we are able to develop our lifestyle and able to deal with problems.
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    Replies
    1. You are welcome. I was a therapist for 4 decades and now moved onto being a life coach. I really think it is important for everyone know the difference between both, so when they have a need during their lifetime they can make the best decision on which one to pick.

      Life coaching is the less known of the two professions but coaching is gaining ground and popularity. Life coaching is moving in a new direction and taking action.

      Thanks again for your comment.

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    1. Dear Elbert David,

      I want to thank you for your nice comments and that you found the blog very beneficial to you.

      I hope you read more of my blogs.

      Regards, Dr. Bill

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  20. Wonderful tips. extremely well-written, keyword-oriented and incredibly beneficial. their really interesting to a lot followers. I seriously get pleasure from this specific, thanks.
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    1. Dear Elbert David,

      Thank you for comments on this blog. I am glad that you gained something from this article and the tips. Hope you read more of my blogs.

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  21. Great post,Life coaching is a very positive and effective practice which helps people make significant and meaningful changes in their lives.

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  22. Dear James Moore,

    Thank you for your positive comments on this blog and about life coaching. I really appreciate it.

    Life coaching can helps people accomplish their intentions and can inspire them to have a more fulfilled life.

    Regards, Bill

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