Different Forms of Healing: Therapy, Coaching + Peer Support (Part 2)
Written by: James Bosch and Cindy Rutter, BSN, AMFT
This article is a continuation of a three-part series on therapy, life coaching and peer support. Read part one here.
Many times, after a tragic event in our lives things just don’t naturally settle back to how they were before. These events can often become even more challenging if we had emotional trials in our lives before. There are many roads to healing, and usually, the hardest part is taking the first big step of asking for help! Many of us just can’t do it alone. The purpose of this article is to help you understand what kind of help is out there on your path to healing, and when you may want to consider getting assistance from a trained therapist, a life coach, a peer supporter, or a combination of the three.
Some of us have a hard time admitting we need help and can no longer get through the difficult parts of our recovery alone or by sheer willpower. Many of us grew up with messages that asking for help is a weakness. Some families and cultures have myths or stigmas that seeing a therapist or other professional means we are somehow crazy, broken or more commonly “weak.” In contrast, we the authors believe that the act of asking for help on your healing journey is a sign of great strength and wisdom, and yes, even courageous. So, we will outline three types of help; Therapy, Life Coaching, and Peer Support. In Part One, we will discuss therapy as one potential means of healing.
What is a life coach? Life coaching is a profession that is very different from therapy, consulting, mentoring or advice giving. A life coach is responsible for guiding people that are confused about what to do in their lives. They support goal-setting, personal growth, and behavior modification of their clients. A life coach can help you tap into your full potential.
While each of the important people in your life plays a significant role in your happiness, a life coach can provide unique value by helping to mirror your true self, unjudged by the values, thoughts, and views of another person. By assisting the client in committing to action and by being a sounding board for their experiences, coaching provides the personal space and support clients need to grow and develop. The coach's key role is often is assisting the client in maintaining the motivation and commitment needed to achieve their goals. Life coaches are not therapists, and they do not work on past based issues or trauma. Life coaches focus on the present and the client’s goals for the future.
Life coaching works for several reasons. The coaching process addresses specific personal projects, general conditions, and transitions in the client’s personal life. , including relationships or professions. By examining what is going on currently in a client’s life, a life coach discovers what the challenges might be and chooses a course of action to make life be what is desired. The coaching relationship continually gives all the control back to the client. Life coaches help you connect your heart and head to transform your passion for your dreams into action for your life.
Who would hire a life coach? Individuals looking to grow and want more out of their life. Life coaches provide positive support and encouragement to their clients. Both coaching and therapy create a positive, healing relationship between the coach or therapist and client that is the medium for which change can occur. Coaches and therapists are trained in understanding human behavior and motivation, helping clients set and achieve their goals.
The purpose of coaching is to help the client gain clarity about what they want, improve confidence, overcome obstacles, fears and insecurities, implement goals and recognize the possibilities for life. This involves either enhancing current skills or acquiring new skills. Once the client successfully acquires new skills, the coach is no longer needed. A good coach offers support and assistance to those he or she is coaching to help them implement change and achieve desired goals. Professional development is a team effort.
Some ways that a client can make the most of the coaching session is to identify their goals or area of focus, be open, expect and accept change, be prepared to be challenged and keep a journal.
Many people wonder whether they would benefit from coaching, psychotherapy or counseling. If you’re confused about the difference between coaching and therapy, you’re not alone! Coaching and therapy serve two distinct purposes but there is a fair amount of overlap, so it can be confusing. Coaching and therapy both create a positive, healing environment that can be a catalyst for change. Coaches and therapists are trained in understanding human behavior and motivation. Both help clients set and achieve their goals.
Below you will see the distinct differences in Coaching and Therapy:
- Focuses on both the past and the present
- Therapy can help heal wounds from the past
- Treats a mental health or substance abuse problem (which includes everything from severe issues such as PTSD to minor, short-term issues such as adjustment disorders)
- Because therapy treats mental health or substance abuse problems, it may be covered by insurance and health savings accounts
- Providers are licensed and regulated by the state, which helps insure proper training and ethical and legal standards are followed
- Unfortunately, there is a stigma for many individuals, cultures, and families in seeking psychotherapy or counseling
- Confidentiality (with certain limitations) is protected by law
- Focuses on setting and achieving goals in the present and future (doesn’t deal with the past)
- Coaching does not involve a mental health diagnosis
- Coaching helps mentally well people function at a higher level
- Typicalluy Is NOT covered by insurance or health savings accounts
- There is no licensing or particular training or credential required to work as a coach
- Coaches often work online as they aren’t limited to working within a state-issued license like a therapist
- Generally, more acceptance of coaching, less stigma
- Confidentiality not protected by law
So, which would best meet your needs? If you know that you have a diagnosed mental health problem such as depression or anxiety, therapy is probably the better choice, at least initially. On the other hand, if you’re looking for focused help in reaching specific goals in the present, then a coach would be a great choice. Coaching tends to focus on the present and future rather than the past. Coaches help people identify their goals and the obstacles they are facing. Like therapy, coaching involves guidance and support but also places a great deal of emphasis on accountability, enabling people to do more than they might on their own.
Coaching is also an appropriate choice if you’ve previously worked with a therapist and your depression, anxiety or any other mental health symptoms are well managed. For some, it will be important to first work with a therapist to resolve some core issues and then work with a coach later for help achieving particular goals. It is important that you consider your own needs and goals, the professional’s training and experience, and whether there is a good “fit” with the professional’s personality, approach, and values
In Part Three, we will explore what peer support is and how it can be beneficial for healing. We will also discuss a variety of peer support programs and resources.
Cooper, M, O'Hara, M, Schmid, PF, & Bohart, AC. The Handbook of Person-Centered Psychotherapy & Counseling. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; 2013.
Lilienfeld, S. O., & Arkowitz, H. (2012). Are All Psychotherapies Created Equal? Scientific American Mind, 23(4).
About the Authors:
James Bosch was burn injured as an infant. He has dedicated much of his professional life in the service of helping other burn survivors and their families heal and find meaning after a burn. Acceptance of new life, new body, and finding new meaning are at the core of his work. He speaks and facilitates at burn meetings in Canada and the United States. He has a private practice and telemedicine practice in California.
Cindy Rutter has been an advocate for Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and involved in the burn community for more than 30 years. She recently completed her masters degree to become a marriage and family therapist. Cindy has been a burn survivor for 57 years and is the former nurse manager of the burn unit in San Diego.