Many mental health professionals are transitioning to coaching or adding coaching to their therapy practice. And there are a lot of good reasons to do so which you’ll find listed below.
This has been such a popular topic in our community that we recently hosted a Business Meetup covering it. We want to share a few main takeaways in this blog post, as well as some extra useful resources, in case you’re thinking of adding coaching to your therapy practice, too.
The Differences Between Coaching and Therapy
Before exploring why therapists switch to or add coaching to their practice (and why you may wan to consider it), we should define what coaching is and how it differs from therapy.
Therapy practices and the education it takes to become a therapist varies from country to country and because of that it’s difficult to give one general definition of what therapy really is. However, we’ve tried to outline some differences below of how therapy generally differs from coaching.
What is the Focus of Coaching vs. Therapy?
A therapy client might need help with a specific problem, while a coaching client wants to achieve a particular goal. A therapist is a highly trained professional employing tools from the science of psychology and implementing a treatment plan. Whereas a coach often relies less on expertise and more on the client’s capacity to solve their own problem.
David Skibbins is the author of the book “Becoming a Life Coach: A Complete Workbook for Therapists“. In this book, he states that “therapy focuses more on what’s holding the client back, whereas coaching focuses on knowing where somebody is headed.”
Healing the Past vs. Achievement of Goals
Therapy and coaching can both have many faces. But generally, you can say that the practice of therapy goes more in-depth than the practice of coaching. Therapy focuses more on past experiences and healing, whereas coaching is more oriented towards the future and achieving goals.
Coaching is generally more about partnering with your clients, whereas therapy is traditionally more hierarchical. However, this distinction really depends on each individual practitioner. Ultimately, it’s up to the professional how they shape and structure the session and what kind of relationship they have with their client.
LIT co-founder Melissa Parks shared more about how she differentiates between therapy and coaching and her switch from therapy to coaching in this blog post.
12 Reasons to Adding Coaching to Your Therapy Practice (or Switch to Coaching Completely)
There are many reasons why a therapist might be interested in taking on coaching or switching to it completely. Here are just a few of them:
- To reach more people
- Freedom with location
- Focus on client strengths
- Interact more as partners with your client
- Be more flexible with what tools/modalities they can integrate
- Social/racial justice reasons (to avoid association with the colonial field of psychology/privileged licensure)
- Work internationally
- Work online
- Not work with insurance
- Move away from 1:1 sessions
- Make more money
- Move away from the medical model
What to Consider When Adding Coaching to Your Therapy Practice
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before jumping into coaching:
Will I need additional trainings/certificates?
You may not need a specific certificate. Technically anyone can call themselves a “coach.” However, before you jump straight into coaching you should read more about it first and even consider doing some additional training to better understand the differences and be able to communicate this to future clients.
What skills do I already have that I can adapt to coaching?
As a therapist, you can transfer many of your skills to coaching. For example, empathetic listening, mirroring, and helping clients with goal setting.
Do I need to make my coaching and therapy companies separate?
In the U.S. it’s recommended to have two distinct companies for your therapy and coaching, so you’re not blurring the lines between these two fields. For countries outside of the U.S., the best thing to do is consult with your licensing board or relevant organization to find out if you need to keep coaching and therapy separate.
Who is my ideal client?
Defining your ideal coaching client will be similar to defining your ideal therapy client. However, you’ll want to think more about the specific outcome they want from you. For instance, becoming a more mindful and engaged parent, or helping them gain clarity about what direction to take in the next chapter of their career. Many therapists who provide coaching choose a different ideal client for each service to be clear about the differences between therapy and coaching.
Resources for Adding Coaching to Your Therapy Practice
And lastly, here are some valuable resources if you are considering adding coaching to your therapy practice:
- Coach with Clarity Community (formerly “From Therapy to Coaching”) Facebook group
- Quiz: What is Your Coaching Style
- “Becoming a Life Coach: A Complete Workbook for Therapists” by David Skibbins
- Life Coach vs Therapist – a blog post
Here are some useful podcasts:
And some resources on applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) with coaching clients:
- Applying your Acceptance and Commitment Training to Workplace Coaching (a free ebook)
- Acceptance and Commitment Coaching: Distinctive Features (book)
- ACT on Your Business: Braving the storms of entrepreneurship and creating success through meaning, mindset, and mindfulness (book)
- International Coach Federation (ICF) guidelines on when to refer to a therapist
There are many good reasons to add coaching to your therapy practice (or for switching to coaching altogether). However, the most critical question you should ask yourself is whether or not you can see yourself enjoying it.
Have you ever thought about adding coaching to your therapy practice? Why or why not? And if you are already practicing as a coach, how did the transition go for you?
Let us know in the comments below!
And if you’d like to delve into more topics like these, the LIT Community is the perfect space to connect with like-minded mental health professionals around the world.
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