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4 Reasons It's Harder for Psychotherapists to Transition to Coaching

Posted by Julia Stewart

Therapist to Coach

Written by Julia Stewart

I've worked with thousands of coaches in the decade, or so, that I've been training coaches and most of them think they already know how to coach before they get training. That's true only in about 1% of cases.

That 1% applies to psychotherapists, counselors, social workers and other "helping professionals", too. People from these backgrounds can make terrific coaches, but usually they need to unlearn a few things and unlearning often takes longer than learning from scratch.

A story: One day, a member of our Certified Coach Training Program, a licensed psychotherapist, used a therapy technique to extract some info from a resistant client during a practice coaching session in class. He got the tidbit he was after, but the client was insulted and shut down the whole session. His classmates were likewise offended. I had a WTF moment, listening to this travesty, but the coach seemed to think he'd done something clever!

Lesson #1: You NEVER have permission to practice therapy on a coaching client. They are high-functioning and you'd better fully respect that. Use a therapy technique and you will destroy the trusted relationship you need to coach them well - and you'll be violating professional ethics, and possibly the law, as well.

Another story: I worked for years with a psychotherapist whose communication style was serious, cerebral, and analytical. It was perfectly suited to the type of therapy she did, but it hurt her coaching sessions and she had a real challenge learning an effective coaching style to qualify for IAC certification. When she finally achieved it, I literally had tears in my eyes!

Lesson #2: Coaching is light. A big part of what we do is validate the client. It sounds easier than it is for a lot of coaches, but the goal is for the client to be resourceful, so serious, cerebral, and analytical won't cut it.

A third story: I worked for a while with a counselor who had trouble transitioning to coaching. Whenever she got stuck, she asked the client how they felt: "How do you feel?...How do you feel, now?...How do you feel, now?" Argh! I'm pretty sure this wouldn't be great counseling, but I can tell you with authority that constantly focusing on the client's feelings is lousy coaching!

Lesson #3: Coaches don't heal people's feelings. We don't ignore them either, but they are an adjunct to the conversation, not the main topic. It's far better to ask a more specific question, such as, "You don't sound excited when you talk about that goal. What's up with that?"

Final story: I had a former child psychologist show up to a live certification event, but each time she coached, her clients (fellow participants, who were coaches and open to the process) got irritated and shut down. Hmmm, what's up with THAT? Answer: she communicated with her coaching clients in a voice that may have been appropriate for frightened children: soft, gentle and high pitched. In other words, she was talking baby talk to her clients. Ugh. No wonder they were irritated!

Lesson #4: You probably wouldn't use baby talk with your clients, but a communication style that worked for you, as a therapist, may still undermine your coaching. In fact, it may be a train wreck. And you might assume your clients are the problem, rather than your communication style, if you don't get feedback from a good coach trainer, because resistant coaching clients act a lot like therapy clients who have issues: mistrusting, closed mouthed, uncooperative, etc. 

Don't hobble your transition into coaching. Get training on coaching communication and make sure you get lots of in-class practice and feedback from experts. Otherwise, you'll repeat the problems above, or worse.

Better yet, if you want to coach and you're just getting started, you may want to skip the psychology degree and just get coach training, instead. You'll save a ton of money and time.

Get Certified Coach Training

Topics: professional coach, become a coach, Coach Training Programs, IAC Certification, Certification Practicum, Certified Coach Training, psychotherapy, Certification Prep

The Evolution of Coach Certification

Posted by Julia Stewart

Certified Coach LogoThe Certification Preparation course at the University of Houston's Executive Coaching Institute last weekend was a transformative event - not just for the participants, but for Mattison and me! Twelve coaches spent 24 hours together over three days, teasing out the meaning of "great coaching" and courageously stepped up to the plate again and again. It takes heart to do that and when you bring together fearlessness, generocity and a love of coaching, you get magic.

Mattison and I are recovering from our writer's cramp and are just now fully realizing how big an impact this event has had on us. It's still just sinking in.

A minor downer is an email I just received from a former client who is an absolutely brilliant coach. She just got her certification results back from IAC and they didn't pass her. She scored above 80% on both sessions, but too low on one Proficiency. Bummer! She'll have to submit one more recording.

The thing that bugs me is that I know another fantastic coach who had the same experience recently - and same Proficiency! I asked to listen to her two recordings and from what I heard, I would have been thrilled to pass her. The sessions weren't flawless, but they were truly masterful.

Whoa! Is the IAC raising the bar? Fortunately, Mattison and I knew they were taking a pretty strict view of this Proficiency. and we coached our participants around it. About half the sessions passed our standards. It'll be interesting to see what the IAC does with them.

After spending a long weekend with the Proficiencies and new Masteries, I'm more blown away than ever at the power of great coaching to transform both the coach and client and literally create a new world. I'm so thankful that the IAC exists, because it gives coaches a wonderful incentive to become the best they can be. Here's what one coach, whose two sessions passed the IAC, wrote:

"Anyone who is committed to his or her own greatness as a coach needs to take this course. The profession will be enhanced immeasurably as a result and the way this would effect humanity is awe-inspiring!" - Kristi Arndt, IAC-CC

I've listened to a lot of coaching sessions since I did the "Lead Certifier" thing in 2004-5. Coaches are getting better and that's a very good thing!

Here's what I'm curious about: Is the IAC raising the bar because the quality of the applicants has improved? Some time ago, they revealed that they only pass about 25%. Is that still true?

Coaches adapt pretty quickly, so I don't have a problem with the IAC raising the standard, as long as they don't narrow down the style of coaching that is acceptable. I'm all for high standards, which reflect well on all of us, but narrow standards could reduce the number of clients who can be helped.

And of course, all of this is subjective. Nobody's right or wrong. The perfection is in what we learn from each other.

As long as we're all free to be ourselves, while practicing our brilliance to transform the lives of others, coaching will grow as a force for positive change. I hope the IAC will fully communicate with us on any changes in their standard. ;-)

Here's my favorite testimonial from last weekend:

"Go do it! It will change your life & those you work with! Hold on to your pants and shoot for the stars :)" - Jan O'Brien [Update: Jan is now an IAC-CC]

The question we're getting is when will we do another Certification Prep? We honestly don't know, but we're thinking about it.

In the meantime, the Seven Secrets of Certification practicums are going strong. they are basically the same thing, but in virtual form. A new group will start next month.

Topics: Coach Certification, IAC-CC, Kristi Arndt, Mattison Grey, Certification Practicum, IAC, Certification Prep

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