I recently came across an article in the The Journal of BACP Coaching which discussed a intersection between coaching and counselling. Traditionally, counselling is seen as a discipline which explores present and past behaviours whereas coaching focuses on the client’s present and future. However, this does not mean that counsellors do not look at the future with their clients or that coaches do not reflect on the past, they do but the emphasis on past and presences differs.
Counsellors and psychotherapists have comprehensive training which allows them to help clients address difficult aspects of their past, present and future whereas trained coaches are explicitly told to not cross the boundary into the ‘issues’ of counselling. This is understandable due to lack of psychological training the coach may have but what if the trained coach also has psychotherapeutic training? In my experience, coaches who have training in the counselling field may find it difficult to stop crossing over into more traditional counselling territory during coaching sessions. After all, it’s our history that instructs our future.
I have always felt in my own coaching practice that there is a place for some brief therapeutic work. For example, if a client wants to achieve a goal but an old childhood wound prevents this for happening, it is useful to explore the issue in order to eradicate or reduce the power of the obstacle thus helping the client to move forward. When looking specifically at the GROW model, the obstacle which stops the client moving forward could be borne out of a childhood belief, e.g. ‘I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve to be successful etc’ or another childhood issue. By using skills from therapeutic training the coach may be able to help the client get to the root cause of the blockage, freeing them to move closer to their chosen goal.
In her article, Sue Houghton states that ‘good quality coaching delivered by multi-skilled therapists has many applications and that practitioners can recognise and manage significant psychological issues’ . I absolutely agree but what is very important, is for clients is to check the qualifications of their coach, before entering into conversations involving psychological issues.