Coaching or therapy? Finding which one is right for you

A couple of years ago, I decided to stop using the term ‘health coach’ to talk about my job if I was meeting someone for the first time. I wanted to avoid the bewildered looks I always got. Instead, I now say who I help and what I help them with.

‘Coaching’ is a popular term and established profession in the US and recently the UK. However, it is a different story in Germany and most European countries. Depending on where you come from, it might be more or less a completely foreign concept to you. It’s also not a protected term, so unqualified people can also describe themselves as coaches.

A word that doesn’t mean much, a profession that isn’t legally defined. No wonder people might be reluctant to work with a coach!

If you are also feeling unsure of whether or not an investment in coaching is worth your money and time, read ahead. This blog post was written for you.

What is coaching?

The word ‘coaching’ comes from the English word ‘carriage’ which comes from the french coche or the german klatsch. These come from the Hungarian village ‘kocs,’ where the first-ever carriage was made. A coach is someone that “carries” a student through a particular challenge or hardship by guiding them through their advice and suggestions.

While initially used in sports, coaching as it has formed today started developing in the 1970s. In 1992, Thomas Leonard, who founded the first formal coaching programme “Coach U” was the first to introduce it as a profession.

Currently, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership. We all have goals we want to reach, challenges we’re striving to overcome and times when we feel stuck. Partnering with a coach can change your life, setting you on a path to greater personal and professional fulfillment.”

What are the different types of coaching?

To make things more confusing, there are different types of coaching. You might have heard of life, business, executive, career and, most recently, health coaching. These definitions are based on what the coach supports their clients do. I am a certified health coach, meaning that I support clients in activating internal strengths and external resources to make sustainable and healthy lifestyle behavior changes.

These can include working on their mindset, stress management, sleep, eating habits, physical activity as well as their mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

I have also recently added a transformative operating system called Positive Intelligence® to my toolbox, to address what we call mental fitness. That is, the ability to change your mindset so that your mind acts as your friend, and not your enemy. It helps remove stress that is very much self-inflicted, and allows people to adopt a different perspective.

I like to say that it helps you live life with love in your heart.

Should I be going to therapy instead?

You might hear people tell you that you shouldn’t be wasting your money on untrained people who don’t have a university degree in human psychology. They might even tell you that working with a coach might be dangerous.

It’s not.

First of all, coaches become coaches because they have a true passion for helping others reach their true potential and live their best lives. I am not excluding the possibility of some people only doing it for the money, but 1) we are living in a capitalist world after all and 2) the same can be said of any profession, including mental health professionals and doctors.

I might be biased but the coaches I have encountered in my life are some of the most kind, considerate people I have ever met.

The two professions (coaching and psychotherapy) have some similarities and some clear distinctions. They both offer deep one-on-one conversations that provide major insights. However, “coaching focuses on visioning, success, the present and moving toward the future. Therapy emphasizes psychopathology, emotions and the past to understand the present, and it works more with developing skills for managing emotions or past issues than does coaching” (ICF website).

Most importantly, a good coach knows when to refer someone to therapy. I have personally referred clients to therapy, including somatic therapy multiple times. I have also worked with people who go to therapy in parallel with our coaching sessions. The two compliment each other beautifully.

My kind of coaching

I help mums of small children cope better with the many challenges that parenthood throws on them. I help them change their outlook by improving their mental fitness. Trained in behavioral science, I support them in making lifestyle changes and consequently help them prevent burnout. This allows them to be able to be there for their family the way they would really like to. To live a fulfilled life without having to wait until their children are older.

True to my scope of practice, I don’t prescribe supplements nor interpret any tests. I know when to refer people to other healthcare professionals with these qualifications.

Which one is for me and how do I decide?

You might already have some past experience with therapy. If it was beneficial then, the chances are it will be beneficial now. However, a coach has a specific offering for you. They help you go from A to B in a specific amount of time. For example, my programme has a timeframe of 4-5 months and includes 12 coaching sessions. Therapy is rarely limited in time. It also rarely has a precise outcome. Coaching is meant to be limited.

So if it truly matters to you that you are at point B and no longer at point A, coaching can be a wonderful tool. If you are unsure of what you want and are just feeling generally down; if you’ve experienced trauma or there is something specific that happened in your past that you would like to address; then you might be best going to therapy.

If you have made it all this way and are still confused, please reach out so that I can help you figure it out. I offer a complimentary discovery session for both of us to decide if a coaching relationship might be beneficial to you, or not.

 

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Hi, I'm Annie!

I’m a mum of two and a coach with a mission to help fellow mums prevent burnout, eradicate stress and overwhelm and live their best lives.