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  • Writer's pictureMel

What coaching and therapy mean to me

Updated: Mar 6

“Therapy is primarily concerned with alleviating distress and suffering, and coaching is primarily concerned with the development of potential. Coaching can sometimes be therapeutic, but that shouldn’t be its primary purpose.”

– David Britten, dual-trained therapist and coach, “How Coaches Can Better Support Clients’ Mental Health”, The AC Podcast (AC = Association for Coaching)

“Coaching is, therefore, an integration of cognitive-behavioural/solutions-focused/positive psychology approaches together with a motivational theory within a humanistic tradition.”

– Julia Vaughan Smith, Therapist Into Coach

Thank you for articulating so clearly what I couldn’t!

As a final-year trainee integrative therapist who also works as a coach, I’ve been thinking more and more how and what I integrate in therapy, how it differs from my coaching practice, and where the boundaries are between the two for me.

There have been times when I wondered if I was doing coaching right, just because it seemed to also have some therapeutic effect. And the more I learn about different therapeutic modalities, the more I’ve found myself thinking, This sounds a lot like coaching. The most recent example? Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy.

So I’m glad that I got to talk out some of my confusion and concerns with my coaching supervisor, who pointed me to the work of Julia Vaughan Smith. The way she describes coaching, as quoted above, does sound exactly like what I integrate in coaching. When I’m in therapist mode, there are even more possible modalities to integrate as appropriate. Almost everything I do in coaching, I can do in therapy, but not the other way around.

David Britten’s recent interview on The AC Podcast, also quoted above, is full of gems. He distinguishes between different types of psychological distress and thinks that coaches can very well work with functional suffering. Functional suffering is broadly proportionate to the situation, you can likely identify what event causes it, and it tends to short-lived (even though it can be intense). I’m also going to look more into therapeutic coaching too.

I’d love to learn more from and connect with other dual-trained practitioners! If that’s you, please get in touch.


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