Didn’t have time for a blog today, so I am reprinting an article that I did earlier to explain the difference between therapy and coaching. Hope you like it!
As an attorney, part of my career has been focused on Professional Coaching in the legal field. I have always been interested in Mentoring and helping my colleagues succeed. After 20 years of running a highly successful solo practice, I felt my experience and insight would be helpful to a wider audience. Having two coaches who influenced my professional life and supported me through many challenges and changes, I was aware how valuable coaching can be.
I also had three very fine therapists in my life who were bright spots in my development and added greatly to my success. Looking back on both of those experiences, it is easy to see the differences and the similarities and I thought it might be valuable to share my insights. My belief is that a more detailed understanding of the principles of professional coaching by Psychologists and Lawyers will also benefit the support and interplay which could exist between the two communities.
• FIRST, LET’S SEPARATE COACHES:
Unlike Psychologists who train, have supervised experience and obtain a license, coaches usually don’t have any formal training in coaching. There are national and state organizations to which coaches can belong, but as of now, there is no formal College or graduate training available, of which I am aware.
Some people do go through training set up by facilities that give them certification or other credentials, but there is no licensing or other public scrutiny involved in these courses. Some times these people are called “Life Coaches” or “Business Coaches” and come from an array of backgrounds.
Professional Coaches, on the other hand, must have an intimate knowledge of the field in which they are coaching. It doesn’t work to have a mechanic coaching a CEO since there will be no trust or credibility. Professional coaches must also have been successful in their careers. This doesn’t mean that they haven’t had failures and setbacks but you don’t want to be coached by someone who hasn’t yet figured out the business end of their field for themselves .
Last, professional coaches have superior people skills, just like psychologists. They must be flexible and able to work with difficult situations without letting go of their objectivity, just like psychologists. Listening is an important aspect of both professions.
• COACHING, UNLIKE THERAPY,IS PRIMARILY DIRECTIVE IN NATURE.
The first goal of a coach is to help the client ferret out the difficulties that the client is having in being successful in whatever endeavor he or she is attempting. Once the problem surfaces, the coach and client can work on specific goals to achieve success. Take for instance the problem of revenue which is usually right up there on the “increase” list. It is not important to have a deep understanding of all the psychological factors involved in why the client isn’t earning the desired amount but it is important to the coach to 1. make sure the desire amount is reasonable 2. make sure the client has the motivation to do what is necessary to achieve that goal and 3. make sure the client is aware of the time it will take to achieve a significant goal.
Coaches then work with the client to set up specific goals. These will be written down and broken down into “baby steps” . Just like an athletic coach, the professional coach prods the client to keep on track. Support, through realistic praise and highlighting the positive is always beneficial but will be directed towards achievement, not understanding.
• COACHING SHOULD HAVE TIME LIMITS
While formulating goals, it is important that person being coached have time limits set on their achievements. Of course, these can always be adjusted if they prove undoable, but good coaches know the value of a time certain to gain focus and momentum to continually work towards success.
• A CLEAR CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT SHOULD EXIST BETWEEN THE COACH AND THE CLIENT
It is important to have a written agreement setting out the duties and responsibilities of both the Coach and the Client.
At the first meeting, the client should walk out with tentative long-term goals as well as specific goals to work on right now. The method to achieve those goals should be evident to both the client and the coach.
• SIMILARITIES BETWEEN PSYCHOTHERAPY AND COACHING
Perhaps one of the most significant similarities between psychotherapy and coaching is that both professionals have the betterment of the client/patient’s life as their sole purpose in working with them.
Mentors have their own businesses, personal lives and time constraints. Family can be supportive but they also have their own worries and concerns. Colleagues and friends who give advice may not fully understand the needs of the client.
Psychotherapists and Professional Coaches have none of these restraints. Their work is defined by the individual’s needs, thus making them unique in any person’s life.
Hopefully this brief overview has been helpful in more clearly defining exactly what Professional Coaching is all about and will aid lawyers in understanding the role it can play in their life.