By: Pankaj Dixit
Executive & Life Coach, INDIA
Feelings do play a part in the coaching relationship and may involve fears of failure, frustrations, avoidance behaviour, and loss of confidence. These feelings can be dealt with in the course of the coaching, in terms of what motivates the client’s behaviour and helps or hinders goal achievement. The client’s experience of overcoming impediments to success in the past, and achieving a series of successes, may in itself produce some benefits in terms of heightened self-esteem and a reduction in stress, anxiety, and worry. Certainly these may be viewed as therapeutic benefits even though the intent was not to provide therapy.
Both coaching and counselling deal with feelings and beliefs to some degree, but at very different levels. A counsellor usually helps the client work through very painful feelings and negative or self-defeating beliefs and behaviours. A coach does not get involved with emotional, cognitive, or behavioural problems of clinical intensity (depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, addictions, etc.) and must refer the person to a therapist to help deal with these issues.
The overlap between the two approaches could depend upon where the client is. For a completely healthy client the overlap could be very large and for a sick and mentally disturbed client the overlap could be little.
There is a noticeable trend of coaches training themselves in basic counselling techniques to deal with their clients holistically and similarly professional counsellors are increasingly training themselves in using coaching methods and techniques to motivate their clients towards action.
We are in no away suggesting that these two are not specialised fields requiring their own dedicated practitioners. In fact we fully recognise, support and respect the need for special education and certification of each of these two disciplines. We are merely pointing out what we can learn from each other and how can we collaborate for the benefit of the client.
In this paper, we argue that even though counselling and coaching are two different disciplines, they both deal with human behaviour and emotions. There are a lot of common techniques and skills between these two disciplines and a practitioner of one will be helped greatly by the knowledge of other discipline. To a large extent these can be seen complimentary to each other. A practitioner of one discipline will be helped greatly by knowing the basics of the other and will be in a better position to know when to refer to the other practice.
This paper tries to see the differences from client’s perspective and explores if the coaches should be open enough to use some of the techniques of counselling for a healthy client.
We also explore if the coaching training should include some of the basic technique used in counselling. Similarly how some of the coaching techniques and training may help the therapists to help their clients.
For the purpose of this paper we limit the scope of counselling as non-directive counselling only even when it is referred as therapy.
One of the very first lessons in coaching highlights how coaching is different from other disciplines like counselling, consulting, mentoring etc. In this paper we will focus on comparing coaching with counselling especially to highlight the commonality and overlaps.
Let us examine some of the definitions of these two disciplines by the respective organisations/authorities. These definitions reveal how much these two have in common.
What is Counselling
The British Association for Counselling (BAC), now the BACP, may have been the first professional association to adopt a definition of professional counselling. In 1986 it published the following definition:
“Counselling is the skilled and principled use of relationship to facilitate self- knowledge, emotional acceptance and growth and the optimal development of personal resources. The overall aim is to provide an opportunity to work towards living more satisfyingly and resourcefully. Counselling relationships will vary according to need but may be concerned with developmental issues, addressing and resolving specific problems, making decisions, coping with crisis, developing personal insights and knowledge, working through feelings of inner conflict or improving relationships with others.”
In 1993, Feltharn and Dryden included the following definition of counselling in their specialized Dictionary of Counselling:
“Counselling is a principled relationship characterised by the application of one or more psychological theories and a recognised set of communication skills, modified by experience, intuition and other interpersonal factors, to clients’ intimate concerns, problems or aspirations. Its predominant ethos is one of facilitation rather than of advice-giving or coercion. It may be of very brief or long duration, take place in an organisational or private practice setting and may or may not overlap with practical, medical and other matters of personal welfare.