The Difference Between Professional Coaching and Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy focuses on emotional or behavioral problems that need "therapy", that need to be healed or cured. The focus is therefore frequently on pathology and what is wrong rather than what is right. A diagnosis is usually developed and a plan of treatment prescribed.

Professional coaching on the other hand, focuses on what is right with the person. It focuses on their strengths and abilities and how the coaching process can facilitate the growth and development of the client and the movement of the client toward balance in their life. The client is assumed to be resourceful and creative. The whole person is addressed, not just the problem. The relationship is one of equals. The coaching plan or agenda comes from the client, not from the coach. Coaching is focused on the positive, on learning new ways of dealing with issues and problems and on taking action. The goals of coaching usually include areas of fulfillment which do not necessarily mean increasing the amount of money the client generates each year or the material possessions they own. It does mean helping the client to develop a sense of fulfillment in their heart and their soul. It focuses on being able to develop a balanced life, an increased level of satisfaction in the areas of relationships, spirituality, health, and career. Coaching, like psychotherapy or counseling, is a process. It takes time and like psychotherapy it involves some of the same skills. Good coaches and good therapists listen well. They are able to hear the client on a number of different levels and do not allow their own personal issues or problems to interfere or to distort the communication process. Coaches are naturally curious like most psychotherapist and ask good questions. The focus, like Carl Rogers client-centered counseling, is on the individual being coached. Coaches, like therapists, attempt to pull together the information that they receive from the client and may state that to the client as a hunch, intuition, or gut feeling, or in the case of the therapist, their opinion. For me, one of the best things about professional coaching is that it is free of the medical model. It's focus is on self-actualization, e.g., living up to one's potential. This model, I believe, fits well with the Independent Living Movement and with the training of individuals with disabilities to serve as coaches with other individuals with disabilities.

A few other distinctions between the two, professional coaching is frequently done over the phone and now over the Internet. It does not require face-to-face contact. Because it is not a medically necessary service it is not reimbursed under any insurance plan.