Which Way to Grow?

Choosing a Process for Change

The distinctions between psychotherapy and life coaching seem to be less important to clients than they are to professionals. Depending on the client and their interests, either psychotherapy or life coaching can help. The descriptions below are especially interesting to the professions who are vying for clients and attempting to carve out unique and protected territories for practice. 

Coachville R&D developed the useful comparison chart below (used by permission with credit © 2002 Coachville.com). The Coachville R&D Team say the following:

"We've created this comparison chart with the help of dozens of therapists on the CoachVille R&D Team who are also experienced coaches. And, while not everyone will agree with every single word pair, it's our view that this chart does help to clarify the differences between coaching and therapy. That said, the fact is that many of the differences between modern therapy and personal coaching aren't as big as we might like them to appear. Both professionals can be working with fully functioning adults who are working through a difficult situation. Both disciplines focus on helping people make changes and accomplish goals that really matter to them. They are different ways of working; each with its own special value."

The chart suggests that "Conventional Therapy tends toward..." and "Personal Coaching tends toward..." Important words here are "tends toward..." This means these categories are not absolute. The use of the word "conventional" to describe the therapy compared is also important. Therapy has had three waves of development, each influenced by different ideas about change, unit of treatment, kinds of practices and preferences for the client/therapist relationship."Conventional" here may refer to therapy in the first or second wave. Therapists of the third wave of therapy that includes the Solution-Oriented Therapies (Solution-Focused, Narrative and Collaborative Language Systems) often consider their work to fit both the "Therapy" and the "Coaching" column. Some conversations have even suggested that "coaching" is the new "therapy" as therapy itself moves away from psychopathology and into territories of resilience, competence and client preference.


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