+ How do I know if I need Coaching or Counseling?
Nowadays there are more resources than ever for people who are seeking help. While having access to a diversity of options is wonderful, it can also be confusing and make the decision-making process difficult for people who are attempting to make change in progress in their lives. To help differentiate between the two, I utilize a swimming metaphor that was taught to me by a nurse practitioner years ago.
When to Choose Counseling/Therapy:
Imagine that you are a person who has been dropped into the middle of the ocean and you don't know how to swim. The ocean represents living with whatever mental suffering you are experiencing and you are drowning. It is the only thing you can really think about or focus on because for you it's life or death. This ocean may be a literal possible death scenario or an imagined one; the point is that whatever is showing up for you is keeping you from doing anything else. In this scenario you have tried everything to learn how to swim and you just can't. You might not even know how you've managed to survive this long.
When you're in this place, having the support and guidance of a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional will be most beneficial. There's work that needs to be done and you've come to understand that you can't do it alone. Your therapist is like a swim coach, a competent and compassionate person who can assist you in the growth and healing process until you can swim on your own. You might even be thrown a life jacket by having a doctor or psychiatrist who prescribes you medication to aid in the process. This process is extremely difficult and having a licensed professional can be paramount to your success.
When to Choose Coaching:
Continuing with the swimming metaphor, you might be in one of a number of situations. Regardless of whether you had to learn how to swim or you could already swim on your own, you know there are some things you'd like to change or improve in order to get the most out of your life. Since you aren't focused on not drowning, there are so many paths you can choose and you want to start moving toward something.
A coach is the person who can advance you further. Whether your goal is to become an Olympic swimmer or to participate in a triathlon or to learn different styles of swimming and really develop one or two of them, coaching will serve you better than therapy because you are looking for clarity and action plans rather than emotional healing and possibly insight into your past. Not only will a coach be able to help you see the big picture regarding what your ultimate endpoint it, but they will work with you to develop a plan for getting to that place and accompany you through the process of getting there.
An Important Thing That You Should Know!! (PLEASE don't scroll past this)
There is a lot of stigma surrounding mental and behavioral health treatment, often to the point that people will seek out a coach rather than a therapist or counselor when what they really need is therapy. This is incredibly dangerous because coaches do not always undergo a detailed process of education and licensure before they can begin working with people. For therapists this education, training, and certification process is MANDATORY because it is centered around mental health. There are laws regarding confidentiality and ethics regarding the practice of psychotherapy that just don't exist for coaches. There are also a lot of coaches out there who end up doing shoddy therapy with people (either on purpose or without realizing it). Not only is that detrimental for the person receiving the service but it is also super ILLEGAL! Please make sure that if you need therapy or you think you might need therapy that you seek out an actual therapist. Coaches are not supposed to provide therapy and they are not equipped to do so unless they are also a licensed therapist. Even in those cases they will not provide both to someone simultaneously; the person either gets therapy or they get coaching. I don't provide therapy and if I determine that someone who has sought me out for coaching is actually looking for something that more closely resembles therapy (or is just looking for therapy), I will refer them out.