What is Life Coaching?

icflogocolorAs described by the International Coaching Federation, "The focus of coaching is the development and implementation of strategies to reach client-identified goals of enhanced performance and personal satisfaction. Coaching can address specific personal projects, life balance, job performance and satisfaction, or general conditions in the client's life, well-being, business, or profession. Coaching utilizes personal strategic planning, values clarification, brainstorming, motivational counseling, and other counseling techniques."

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It is important to clarify the distinction between life coaching and psychotherapy because there are strong similarities and differences. Life coaching and psychotherapy both utilize knowledge of human behavior, motivation/behavioral change, and interactive counseling techniques. The major differences are in the goals, focus, the client/service provider relationship and the level of professional responsibility. Psychotherapy is a health care service and is a state licensed profession. Life coaching is not a licensed profession and is provided by experienced and/or certified professional coaches.

A great coach does not focus on "blocks" or providing solutions but helps the client to generate possibilities, agendas and plans of action.

The primary purposes of psychotherapy, as defined by professional psychotherapists, are identification, diagnosis, and treatment of mental and nervous disorders. The goals of psychotherapy include alleviating symptoms, understanding the underlying dynamics which create symptoms, changing dysfunctional behaviors which are the result of these disorders, and developing new strategies for successfully coping with the psychological challenges which we all face.

Most research on psychotherapy outcomes indicates that the quality of the relationship is most closely correlated with therapeutic progress. Psychotherapy patients are often emotionally vulnerable. This vulnerability is increased by the expectation that they will discuss very intimate personal details and expose feelings about themselves about which they are understandably sensitive. The past life experiences of psychotherapy patients have often made trust difficult to achieve. These factors give psychotherapists greatly disproportionate power that creates a fiduciary responsibility to protect the safety of their clients and to "above all else, do no harm."

Putman life_coachingIn contrast, the best way to describe private life coaching is to say that it focuses on discovering, harnessing and expanding on the strengths and tools a client all ready possesses. A great coach does not focus on "blocks" or providing solutions but helps the client to generate possibilities, agendas and plans of action.

The relationship between the life coach and client is specifically designed to avoid the power differentials that occur in the psychotherapy relationship. The client sets the agenda (sometimes with assistance from the coach) and the progress of the plan depends primarily on the client.

The relationship is designed to be more direct and challenging. You can count on me to be honest and straightforward, asking powerful and specific questions and using challenging techniques to move you forward. If at any time either of us recognizes that you have an issue that would benefit from psychotherapy, I will refer you to appropriate resources.

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