As a coach the question that I get asked most often regarding what I do is how it differs from therapy. While I strongly believe that just about anybody can benefit from both, in an effort to make life easier for coaches everywhere and to appease any fears that working with me implies horizontal couch time, deep psychoanalysis, and a missing PhD, I offer you my two cents on the matter.
The way I understand it, there are two distinct differences between therapy and coaching.
The Focus: Therapy sessions are designed to get to the bottom of why you are the way you are and why you make the decisions that you do by looking for things in your past that have influenced you in a deep and meaningful way. Most people go to therapy because they have things to heal and a deep desire to understand themselves and their past better in hopes that it will help them decipher what do do with their present and future.
In coaching, the past is acknowledged and validated as the primary source of data points in your present ‘story’ but is never acknowledged as the full picture. I put the word story in quotes because if we look at it from a detached perspective, our past is just that—a compilation of experiences, characters, and plot lines that have determined the way we see and relate to ourselves and the world around us.
What if we were to arbitrarily decide to divorce ourselves from our ‘story’ and start writing one that is more aligned with with what we truly want without the limiting beliefs and judgments from our past? What if understanding that the ‘why’ of the past is less important than the ‘who’ you want to be tomorrow and the development of an actionable plan for ‘how’ and ‘when’ to get there? Therein lies the meat and potatoes of the coaching conversation.
The second major difference between therapy and coaching lies in the relationship between therapist / coach and client.
The Relationship: The cool part of coaching for me is the partnership component you enjoy as co-creator with your client. Unlike with therapy, where the therapist is clearly regarded as the knowledge authority in the room, coaches don’t give a diagnosis or advice for a client to consider. We are trained to ask the right questions to structure your inner dialogue in a way that serves you and the goals you are trying to accomplish. That’s it. We have no agenda and no answers, you do.
With that said, you may be asking yourself what exactly it is that we accomplish with all that poking around and no advice giving. Well, for starters we help you get aligned with what you feel is your innermost truth. That's a huge breakthrough all on its own in my experience... We then help you change your 'story' to one that allows you to relate to yourself and the world from a standpoint of possibility and empowerment. Once that's done, we put you back in the driver’s seat and hold you accountable for what you say you are going to do to ensure that you get to your desired destination. We support you along the way and once you’ve finally accomplished your goal or reached your target, we let you go and say Namasme. ;)