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Back to the Future

A conversation with a friend last night brought me to revisit this module as I was unable to articulate the difference between coaching and therapy except to say that one deals with the past, the other with looking at the future. This has invited me to re-examine that module so that I may more clarity in explaining this to others.

So, therapy – I’ve done my share and continue to do so as a way to have an impartial party help sort through the patterns and limiting beliefs I have grown to live my life by. As a client, I have been “broken” – one in need of “fixing”, reconstructing, righting up…. It has taken me this long (I’m a very young [and beautifully modest] 47 year old….) to begin to see with more clarity that conditioning which I had accepted as my “truth”. This process has taken years. I have set a goal each time I met with therapists, I suppose. Mostly, I think I was looking for relief. To no longer feel a sense of overwhelming doom and depression. Therapy for me, then has been a way to explore the past, as a way to get a better picture on why I am who I am. The work has not been for naught. Through determination, persistence and a burning desire to live a life of integrity and joy, I have pursued therapy and have hired and fired my fair share. With gratitude and appreciation I am now finally working with someone – with whom, I have had the longest therapy relationship – who has undoubtedly earned and gained my trust. It has been a two year process. I don’t warm up quickly, nor have I allowed myself to be fully open and vulnerable with others – at least have not, until now.

Therapy has been a constant process of unfolding – of peeling back layers of crud and muck to shed any sort of light on my “essence”. This process has taken years (and I feel as if I am just at the end of the beginning…). There was no specific goal I was aiming toward. The motivation came from my desire to move away from a sense of discomfort and dis-ease. So, truly, this process has been on opportunity to dissect my past in order to live a fuller present.

Coaching clearly has a different motivation, and a vastly shorter time frame. My sense is that the clients that seek out a coach have a specific goal in mind: support through career transition, beginning a new business, relationship, parenting – the list is endless. No matter what the client desires, it is the coach’s equal desire to ask the most powerful questions possible to have the client learn how to “fish” for themselves. They are perceived as already whole, creative and resourceful rather than one needing to be “fixed”. That, in itself, I find to be one of the biggest differences and draws to coaching.

The other aspect is that, as coaches we don’t counsel, advise or recommend. Instead, we may point to resources that the client can then explore in the meeting of their desired goal. This could come in the form of a book, an article, an internet site, a person… Either way, the coach is there to facilitate the process for the client. Ultimately, the client has to be the one to do the work – If we advise, or tell, then we are failing in our role of teaching the client to use their creativity and resourcefulness to meet their goal. I suppose, that, in a way, it is our role to teach them not to need us rather to learn and rely on the skills and knowledge that they already possess to figure things out on their own – to empower the client to be their own problem-solver. In this matter, perhaps, therapy and coaching are similar… I need to think of this more.

Lastly, coaching has a time frame of sorts. We ask our clients to determine a date for each action step. We hold them accountable for the steps they have chosen to take, we assign field work. And, most importantly, help them gain more awareness on their functioning should resistance show itself in the process and ask questions to allow them to see any limiting beliefs that may be interfering with their ultimate goal.

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