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Coaching or therapy?

How do I choose, what do I need and who is the right person for me?

· therapy,coaching,choice,difference

Two sides of the same coin.

When I'm asked about the difference between therapy and coaching, I explain it as the difference between going upward and out - or inward and down - and I believe they are two sides of the same coin. It just depends on which direction you want to go...

Coaching tends to assume that clients are generally fairly happy (the 'worried well') and are looking to make some positive changes in their lives.

Clients who may be struggling to cope with their feelings, who are stuck in negative patterns of behaviour, or have difficulty getting over their past would likely be better suited to therapy.

Once clients have healed some of their wounds and are feeling stronger and more stable, they may find that coaching could be a good option. Conversely, in some coaching relationships the need can arise for deeper, more inwardly focussed work created by serious life changes, such as illness or bereavement. If the coach isn't trained to deal with this then he or she may refer their client to a therapist to get some additional or interim support. Whether the therapist is happy working with a client who is also seeing a coach varies from person to person. You would need to check this with both practitioners.

If you want more information, here are a few links that give an excellent overview of their differences, as well as some interesting perspectives on it:

Finding the right person for YOU

How to choose your coach or therapist? It's a personal choice.

When looking for someone to work with on your personal journey - whatever the approach - it's important that you feel really listened to and understood. And that you feel safe and comfortable talking to them. Pay attention to how you feel in your body during and after, the initial conversation. Make sure you understand what the person's credentials are, their background training and if their approach would suit you! If you are very goal oriented or need a lot of structure, someone who listens without setting up goals and tasks you may not be right for you. On the other hand - if you just need to be listened to, this may be exactly what you are looking for!

You will usually be offered an initial session to see if you and they are a match. These introductory sessions can range from a half hour to one hour and some practitioners may charge you for them. If you then decide to work together, you'll agree an initial number of sessions - or the package that suits you best. Payment is sometimes taken up front for the agreed number of sessions, or as you go along. This is entirely dependent on your coach or therapist.

Things you can consider and ask when talking to someone are:

  • How do I feel when I am talking to this person? Do I feel safe? Listened to? Understood? 
  • How long have they been practicing?
  • What regulatory membership body are they registered with?  
  • What are their areas of competence - is mine covered? (e.g career changes or anxiety)
  • Do I want a man or a woman? Does their cultural background matter to me? 
  • What made them choose this profession? Did it help them? How?
  • Is the practitioner's gender something that's important to you? Think about whether you would be comfortable with a male or female.

  • How about age? Would you prefer them to be of a similar age, older or younger?

  • Do you want to attend in a group or alone?

  • Is a match in sexuality a must?

  • What else is important to you for this journey? Ask for it!
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