[Ken Edelston, MS is a Business/Life Coach for Edelston Coaching Group, Monroe, ME and an Instructor in Psychology at Eastern Maine Technical College, Belfast. He has extensive experience as both an addictions counselor and a clinical professional counselor, and is licensed in the state of Maine.]
After working as an addictions counselor and clinical professional counselor for over 15 years, I am delighted to move into the direction of life and business coaching. Though I respect the mental health professions and the addictions treatment field, I have become increasingly more disillusioned. When I first started clinical practice, the field was open to innovations such as new methodology and insurance companies did not control how counseling or therapy was structured. Nor did psychopharmacology dominate the types of possible interventions. Low and middle-income people still had access to comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment programs. Families received treatment along with the identified patient and medications were only used during detoxification. In addition, counseling and therapy were not overwhelmed by the oversight of government agencies that are mostly concerned with forms rather than substance.
For over 25 years, I have worked with adolescents in a variety of capacities, including teaching and counseling. It is my experience that many times clinicians do not have the required skills to work with teens. These skills include communication of direction, structure without shaming, respect of the teen's intellect and knowing how to increase trust without giving in to immature demands. I experienced these kinds of unskilled professionals when I was a teenager, and I promised myself that I would not forget what it was like to be a teen. Yet, often a parent would come into my office and ask me to change their teen so they (the parent) could be more comfortable. It is common for parents to blame their teen for being ill- mentally, emotionally, spiritually or chemically dependent.
Most teens do not want to talk to a counselor. For them, talking to a counselor is equivalent to admitting there is something deeply flawed in you. Teens, for the most part, walk around thinking there is something wrong with them. When their parents cart them off to see a counselor, it confirms their inner fears, thus enhancing their resistance to counseling or treatment.
Coaching is a different animal altogether. Teens are used to the concept of coaching. Needing a coach does not mean you are sick. Unlike the concept of going to a counselor's office, talking to someone on the phone is a relief. The coach wants to know what's right with you, rather than what's wrong with you. Therapists are supposed to remain neutral and clinically detached. Coaches on the other hand, have no such restrictions. We may act like personal cheerleaders, mentors and surrogate parents, because coaching is collaboration, whereas in therapy, the therapist directs the work.
I treat people as equals. I help, but I do not take responsibility for their actions. I help people understand the consequences of their beliefs and actions. I offer choices, but I do not direct. I am essentially powerless over another's actions; however, I have no hesitation in challenging what I believe are obstacles that get in the way of identifying and expressing who you truly are.
Does coaching really work?
Yes! This is why:
Some of us don't know where we're going, what our lives are about, and how our values affect us each day. Coaching helps clarify our purpose, values and goals.
We may know where we're going and what we need to do, but we forget or simply get stuck in our limiting belief systems, ineffective habits or inability to focus. A well-trained coach gets us back on track by helping us identify those limiting beliefs and ineffective habits; then we may find more effective ways of living and enjoying life.
Many times we resist change because it's easier and more comfortable to stay the way we are. Any change we make causes resistance and backlash within ourselves as well as from other people in our lives. A coach helps us move beyond that resistance with greater ease and flow. In the coaching relationship you may decide to work on all areas of your life at once or just focus on one.
Distinctions between Coaching and Counseling/Therapy
Psychotherapy deals with disruptive emotional and behavioral problems. The underlying assumption is that clients come to therapy with some kind of deficiency. The goals of therapy are to remediate the dysfunction with face-to-face therapy, psychotropic medications, or a combination of both.
Coaching deals with functional persons who want to move toward a more fulfilling and effective life. Coaching is a process similar to solution-focused methods that therapists use for less serious psycho-emotional problems and life stresses. However, coaching is qualitatively different from any mental health services. The coach does not assume that he/she has a specific kind of expertise, which must be taught to the client. Rather, the coach provides a relationship that focuses on the following characteristics:
Exploring and perceiving the specific needs of the client
Exploration of the goals that would facilitate the client in reaching his/her potential
Collaboration with the client- taking the client's lead rather than imposing the coach's philosophy and values
Supporting an atmosphere of encouragement in which there are no failures; rather, each step the client takes helps him/her to know more about them and to take the initiative to move in a more effective direction
Reaching into ways to help the client truly know his/her "Self" better and to find more meaning
Using methods that are relevant to the client's personal, vocational, social, emotional, financial and possibly spiritual goals.
April 22, 2007
Woow!!! Incredibly put, written, expressed. I am thankful for your not forgetting your experience/s as a teen for without doubt your 'Coaching' career choice exemplifies. Your Essay on the difference between a "Counselor" and a "Coach" have opened my eyes and therefore my choices and expectancies being currently experienced by what my daughter's counselor is doing versus what can be done with a "Coach" which will have a more positive, direct and long lasting life impact. Thanks for your insight.
Travel Spanish Instructor
Cuyahoga Community College
Encore Campus West
Spring I & II 2007