All too often in the field of coaching does the client mistake the coach for a psychotherapist. A therapist, by definition, is a practitioner that helps a client to ‘feel’ better through ‘healing’ or ‘curing’. This being the case of psycho-therapists who are charged with the responsibility of healing and curing the mind of its disorders, dysfunctions and/or dysphoria, often leads to confusion about the role of a life coach.
A coach, by definition, is a vehicle that transports from one place to another, meaning the Life Coach, is responsible for assisting or facilitating a client from where they are presently, to where the client wishes to be, a destination specified and agreed on by both from the initial engagement of coaching.
With these distinctions in mind, it is important for a coach not to fall into the realm of psychotherapy, which can often lead to being caught up in trying to ‘fix’ the client. From the perspective of a coach, the client should not be seen as ‘broken’, but instead should be seen as being in a location, a place, a state, that there is a desire to move from, towards another place. The coach need not concern themselves with the clients fantasies of how they have come to be where they are, or stories the client tells from the near or distant past, as the coach is not there to interpret unresolved issues or make sense of any perceived past.
The coach, at all costs, seeks to avoid getting caught up in the ‘content’ of a person’s ‘story’ or ‘narrative’, instead listening to the client as they speak and paying more attention to the language and communication of the client. A coach will watch the body language being used as the client accesses various states of consciousness as they answer questions or describe situations the coach has enquired about. The coach will listen selectively to metaphors used, patterns of words, grammatical structuring of sentences, tenses used to describe the past, present and future and even the emphasis used during the discourse. The coach listens more then they speak; only speaking in order to observe the processes that the client uses in order to communicate, as it’s these processes that maintain the client present state.
So it is posited here in this article that one of the key distinctions between a psychotherapist and a Life Coach, is where the practitioner’s attention is paid. Therapists need pay more attention to the content of a person’s memory events and perceptions of their state and coaches, attention to the processes used to maintain the current state.
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