Translating Coaching Into Therapy


Translating Coaching Into Therapy

The Benefits and the Boundaries

July/August 2018


Imagine you’re learning to ride a bike and you’ve asked two people to help: a therapist and a coach. The therapist might stand off to the side, closely observing your attempt to stay upright. She’d be empathic, compassionate when you fall, and give you useful insights about why you’re a little unstable and wobbly. She’d help you express your feelings or frustration about your struggle to move forward on two wheels, and maybe explore why you waited so long to try. Over time, your riding skills would improve as you developed more confidence, armed with new insight and awareness.

The coach, however, would climb on the seat right behind you and ask, “Where do you want to go today?”

This is an exaggeration, of course, but the difference in role is clear. Having a coach right behind you, an ally guiding you and the bike as you both pedal along together, is an example of coaching collaboration. The coach and client work together through intense partnership. Rather than observing from a neutral distance, a coach is at your back, keeping you motivated to continue riding until you can do it on your own, like a pro. You’re in the steering position, and her only agenda is to get you where you wish to go, in the fastest, most focused manner possible.

At its best, this collaborative position can reduce the friction of hierarchy and promote faster behavioral change. You may have experienced it with a fitness coach who’s run alongside you as you’ve jogged…

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