Can a therapist be a coach?

David Steele (2011) suggests that there is nothing structurally, morally, ethically or otherwise preventing anyone from being a coach and a therapist and by offering both you have a powerful service modality to offer prospective clients enabling you to serve more people in better ways and to manage seamless transitions from coaching to therapy.

The International Coach Federation defines that Professional coaching is a distinct service which focuses on an individual’s life as it relates to goal setting, outcome creation and personal change management. In an effort to understand what a coach is, it can be helpful to distinguish coaching from other professions that provide personal or organisational support. Coaching can be distinguished from therapy in a number of ways. First, coaching is a profession that supports personal and professional growth and development based on individual-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is forward moving and future focused, coaches start working with the client in the present space and move forward.

Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or a relationship between two or more individuals. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability and follow through.

Considering all of this, Coaching and Therapy are two separate albeit overlapping professions. If you are offering both you should be professionally qualified in both. You should keep your coaching practice as a separate and distinct business from your therapy practice – maybe even with a different name whilst be open about the connections between the two. Coaching is a legitimate and fledgling profession which requires specific education and training. There are too many untrained coaches causing potential problems with clients.

The Performance Solution ( offer conversion courses for therapists to become professionally qualified coaches through the International Coach Federation. This development route acknowledges the similarities and difference of the two professions, gives credits for the overlapping techniques where they are used in a coaching style, enhances your offering and causes you to reflect deeply on your practice. You may think you don’t need coach training in order to practice coaching – what does this say about you and your professional standards? ‘Opportunity misses those who view the world only through the eyes of their professions’ (Gerald Celente). If you only view the world through the eyes of a therapist you are resisting reality (Steele, 2011).

Professional coaches are trained to refer clients to therapists if there is the slightest sign of therapeutic need. Therapists need to understand the transition and what prompted the ‘unpeeling’ of the need. So you can take everything you know and all that you are and enrich it through further professional development which then allows you to expand and enrich your practice in this ever more complex world.

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