Do I need a therapist or a coach?
Psychotherapy is treatment and healthcare service. This is not true for coaching. Both coaching and psychotherapy utilize my training and knowledge of human behavior, motivation, and behavioral change, but there are significant differences in goals, focus, and level of professional responsibility for the two experiences. Coaching focuses on development and implementing client-identified goals, often related to performance and personal wellbeging. My work with coaching clients focuses to may focus on specific projects, occupational performance, work-life balance, career satisfaction, or more general issues in a client’s life or relationships. Together, I engage clients in brainstorming, strategic planning, clarifying personal values, and motivational enhancement, and utilize other coaching techniques. The primary foci of psychotherapy are identification, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological diagnoses. The goals of psychotherapy include alleviating symptoms, understanding the underlying dynamics which create symptoms, changing dysfunctional behaviors which are the result of the constellation of symptoms plaguing a client, and developing new strategies for successfully coping with psychological stressors. The relationship between the coach and client is specifically designed to avoid the power differentials that occur in the psychotherapy relationship. Because of these differences, the roles of coach and therapist can be in potential conflict and I believe that, under most circumstances, it is not appropriate for one to play both roles with a client.
In addition to being a coach, I am also a licensed psychologist in California, Virginia, and the District of Columbia with training and experience in diagnosing and treating emotional concerns and psychological disorders. While there are some similarities between coaching and psychotherapy, they are different activities and it is important that clients understand the differences between them.