In this week’s guest post Coach Toni Knights discusses what she considers to identify when it is necessary to refer clients for additional help.
Identifying When Clients Need Counseling
by Toni Knights
How do you know whether your client needs coaching or counseling? People sometimes come to us under the guise of coaching when they really need therapy/counseling. As coaches, we’ve been told a thousand times over that coaching is not counseling/therapy; but how do we know when our client needs which service?
Dr. Jeffrey E. Auerbach says, “The essential difference most often cited between psychotherapy and coaching is that psychotherapy usually focuses on resolving illness or trauma, whereas coaching focuses on enhancing achievement and fulfillment in a generally well-functioning person.” (Auerbach)
Albeit, whether we have been coaching for one year or twenty years, it is important that we be ever mindful of the differences; and even though coaching and therapy can occur simultaneously, one must not be used to replace the other. Blurred lines can confuse our clients and ultimately would not benefit them. Here are some tips which can help us steer our clients in the right direction:
- During the first contact, clarify the following:
……………………• Why client thinks you can help.
……………………• Explain what coaching IS and IS NOT.
- Review the initial coaching questionnaire carefully. The answers given on this form can act as a catalyst for ensuing conversations. (Note the importance of having a detailed initial questionnaire in your welcome package.)
- Listen for key words/statements during the dialogue which may indicate the client’s understanding of the coaching relationship. His/her answers should cause us to ask ourselves one of two questions – ‘Why does he/she do what he/she does?’ or ‘What life changes does he/she want to make?’ If your question begins with ‘why’ then your client might benefit from therapy. If your question begins with ‘what’, it is safe to conclude that the client is ready for coaching.
- In order to further confirm your assessment, use tact to find out about:
……………………• Drug use
……………………• Depression or feeling down within the past six months
……………………• History of mental illness in immediate family
As coaches, our helping arsenal should include contact information for myriad professionals including psychologists, therapists and/or counselors [and we must not be afraid to use them]. According to Daniel H. Pink, “It’s the coach’s job to help people clarify, to see through stuff and help them become who they really are.” Although there are many therapists who are also coaches, if you are not a trained mental health professional do not attempt to simultaneously counsel and coach your client. To this end, we must trust our judgment and know when it is necessary to refer our clients for additional help.
About the Author/Further Resources
Toni Knights is a Christian Life Coach who runs the coaching practice “Life In Process.” She also facilitates workshops that focus upon self improvement.
You can read her weekly blog at http://justthinking-knightstoni.blogspot.com.