Here is a setup for two similar stories: Two women need help. Both women seek help, they feel better, and their problems are resolved, or at least improved.
So what exactly is the difference?
The difference is the path each decides to take. In one story, the woman partners with a licensed therapist. In the other, she works with an expert life coach. Same happy endings, but a very different journey.
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Many clients wonder about the differences between receiving coaching versus obtaining therapy. Most therapy is based on a diagnostic problem that needs to be solved. For example, you may go to the physical therapist for rehabilitation (treatment) of an injury (the issue to be resolved). Therapy also has a tendency to focus on the past to understand the future or to move forward.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between one type of popular therapy—cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—and coaching.
CBT is similar to coaching since it focuses on a person’s behavior, thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Although this sounds similar to coaching, it’s actually not. In CBT, the therapist’s goal is to take a non-functioning person to a functioning state. For example, a person dealing with addiction, severe depression, or obsessive/compulsive behaviors that prevent her from functioning in the world would likely benefit from CBT.
CBT is defined by Wikipedia as “a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health.” As a form of psychological treatment, CBT focuses on developing personal coping strategies that target solutions for current problems, rather than probing the root causes of issues. It can help individuals change unhelpful patterns in cognitions (e.g., thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes), as well as modify behaviors and regulate emotions. Originally designed to treat depression, CBT is now used for many other mental health conditions.
In contrast, coaching typically takes an already high-functioning individual to the next level. The best example would be receiving coaching to become a better soccer player, student, or writer. Coaching focuses on the here and now and what you want to do—or not do—to rise to the next level. There is no diagnosis to be discovered or treated.
Coaching is defined by Wikipedia as “a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance. Occasionally, coaching may mean an informal relationship between two people, of whom one has more experience and expertise than the other and offers advice and guidance as the latter learns.” Coaching can include focusing on specific tasks, objectives, general goals, or overall development.
Does coaching ever look at your past? An interesting question to ponder. Yes, but with the coaching I provide we look at your THOUGHTS about your history. Since your past, and your interpretation of your past, only exist in your mind as thoughts.
Coaching creates a future-focused approach that allows the brain to imagine, and create new thoughts, behaviors, and actions. Therefore the results you produce will be different from the ones you are currently producing.
Coaching can be described as an educational, discovery-based process that looks at your potential. Self-exploration, self-knowledge, professional development, and self-management can be areas of focus. Coaching focuses on what needs to be removed to allow you to move forward and on to “what’s next!”
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