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Does a Psychotherapist Need Coach Training to Become a Coach?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Do Psychotherapists Need Coach Training

At School of Coaching Mastery, we get tons of inquiries from people interested in becoming coaches. Quite a few of those inquiries come from psychotherapists. Questions from psychotherapists about coach training fall into two types.

The first type of question, from psychotherapists who are interested in coach training, are from therapists who assume that coaching and therapy techniques are the same and therefore their degrees and years of practicing therapy should exempt them from coach training, or that they should take the shortest and cheapest route to coach certification. Those coaches often mention that coaching is unregulated and that they already coach their therapy clients with skills such as, training, education, and support. Usually, they're looking for confirmation that they can just call themselves coaches, or they're looking for a fast, easy, and inexpensive course for therapists.

This group of therapists are sometimes surprised to discover that "not regulated" does not equal "anything goes" in professional coaching. Coaching is well-researched; we know what techniques work best (often not those used in therapy), we have codes of ethics and well-defined standards of certification. The reason we're still unregulated is because we don't target vulnerable populations or people in crisis. Never-the-less, we may become regulated eventually, and approval and certification from well-established professional organizations, such as the ICF, will likely be beneficial for professional coaches.

This group is also sometimes surprised to discover that they don't actually understand what coaching is, what it is for, or how to do it. Coaching is not practicing therapy without a license, nor is it therapy without a diagnosis. It is neither training, nor education. It is not advice giving nor consulting. It is not a way to practice something you're not licensed for, just because you call yourself a coach. I'm reminded of the woman who told me she called herself a coach, but was actually practicing conversion therapy (an attempt to convert a gay person to straight), which she couldn't get licensed to do, because being gay isn't an illness and therefore no one can be "cured" of it. I told her what she was doing violates coaching ethics.

The second set of questions come from therapists and counselors who also have advanced degrees in psychology or psychotherapy, including holders of doctorate degrees and professionals who have been practicing for years. This group is usually well-informed, has high standards, and is genuinely excited about becoming coaches. A sizable percentage of these coaches join our Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program, because they love the focus of coaching, which is on flourishing rather than healing, and because they're excited about the new direction positive psychology is taking, away from pathology and towards well-being. This latter group fits in perfectly at School of Coaching Mastery and we encourage them to join.

We have an application to join the Certified Positive Psychology Coach® Program, which helps us weed out people who aren't likely to succeed as coaches. You don't have to have a professional degree in psychology to be accepted into the program, but if you do need to be excited about becoming the best coach you can be, so you can offer maximum benefits to your coaching clients.

If you're a psychotherapist, or anyone, who thinks you may want to become a coach, ask yourself why. If it's mainly because coaching is trendy and well-paid, but you have no deep passion for it, no amount of money or time spent on coach training will be worthwhile for you. However, if you love the idea of helping people reach their full potential and attain exciting goals or dreams, this may be the profession for you. Apply to the program to find out.

Interested in becoming a positive psychology coach? Get the free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook here:

Free Become a Positive Psychology Coach eBook

 

 

 

Topics: coach training, become a coach, ICF, coaching vs. therapy, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, psychotherapy, Positive Psychology, life coaching vs. psychotherapy

7 Concerns About the New Board Certified Coach (BCC) Credential

Posted by Julia Stewart

BCC - Board Certified CoachYesterday, I received a letter in the mail congratulating me on my new BCC (Board Certified Coach) credential from CCE (Center for Credentialing and Education).

 

It was nice to get, but no surprise.

CCE, a non-profit which has been certifying a variety of counselors for years, recently stepped into the realm of business, executive and life coach certification, with this very impressive-sounding new credential. But any executive, business or life coach who was previously certified by the ICF or IAC and who could demonstrate that they already have coach-specific training, got grandfathered into the BCC for $100. The only catch was that we had to take a norming exam to help CCE establish appropriate exam questions for future coaches who test for the BCC.

Even though I have reservations about the new BCC life coach certification, I decided to take the plunge and get it for the following reasons:

  • Life coach certifications from independant not-for-profit certifiers are generally the most respected in coaching, because with no regulation, coach training schools (at least the ones that are disreputable) sometimes have very low coach certification requirements (or no requirements other than a fee). 
  • I think competition between not-for-profit certifiers is good for coaches, their clients and the coaching industry, because it forces the certifiers to listen to us and upgrade their services in order to stay relevant. So a new not-for-profit coach certifier may be positive for the profession.
  • At this stage of the game, no single life coach certification organization is the recognized leader, worldwide. The ICF claims this distinction, but most coaches do not agree, especially in fast-growth markets, like Asia. So it may be a good idea to be certified by more than one not-for-profit life-coach certification organization.

That said, I have plenty of reservations about the new Board Certified Coach credential and don't plan to use 'BCC' after my name in most situations - at least not yet. Here's why:

  1. As one of my colleagues, who is certified by both the IAC and ICF, recently commented, a certification from an organization that mainly certifies counselors may further confuse the public about the difference between coaching, therapy and counseling. Appearances to the contrary, business and life coaching are completely different from either counseling or psychotherapy. Coaching is based on different paradigms and does not target clients who are mentally ill or in crisis. A decade or so ago, when I became a coach, the profession of coaching was under attack by psychology professionals, who claimed we were practicing therapy without a license. Then a landmark lawsuit in the state of Colorado established life coaching as a separate profession from psychotherapy.  Furthermore, the reason coaching is still not legally regulated anywhere is because coaches don't work with vulnerable populations. Since that landmark case, therapists and counselors have jumped on the coaching bandwagon in large numbers, because they aren't hamstrung by regulations, they've seen how effective coaching can be and because they can charge more for it. As another coaching colleague commented: The confusion between coaching and therapy isn't because coaches are practicing bad therapy; it's because too many therapists are practicing bad coaching. One of the reasons I decided to get the BCC anyway, is so I can watch from the inside how CCE's influence plays out and can speak up as needed. If CCE does its job well, it could actually cut down on the confusion and erroneous assumptions that counselors and therapists sometimes make when they hang out their Life Coach shingles.
  2. CCE bases the BCC credential solely on college degrees, coach-specific training and passage of a multiple-choice test. Reputable life coach certifications always require demonstration of coaching skills. Why? Because unlike virtually any other profession, including counseling and psychotherapy, efficacy in business and life coaching is not based on expert knowledge, but on the skill of assisting coaching clients to leverage their own knowledge, thoughts, actions, gifts, etc. In other words, coaching is a skill set, not a knowledge base. A degree has little or nothing to do with competency in coaching. Coach training is a very good thing, but doesn't automatically ensure a skilled coach.  And multiple-choice tests measure knowledge, not coaching skills. To get my stamp of approval, CCE needs to add an oral test to their certification requirements.
  3. CCE claims its multiple-choice test is the first scientifically-based measurement of coaching knowledge, but is it really? The 'science' is based on the answers to test questions that coaches who are certified by the 'less scientific' IAC and ICF gave on BCC norming tests. In other words, it's piggy-backing on knowledge collected by thousands of non-science-based coaches and calling that scientific. In any case, one of the reasons coaching has rocketed to the forefront of human development is because coaches have been free to mix findings from neuroscience and positive psychology with ancient wisdom traditions, plus their own insights and intuition, to create new approaches to human growth. Science is good, but results are what matter.
  4. CCE claims to be the first certifier of coaches that is itself 'accredited'. That's good, but it may not mean what you think. Usually, when we talk of accreditation in education, what we're referring to is the 'gold standard' in accreditation, which in the United States (which influences education around the world), means that your educational institution is accredited by a not-for-profit regional accrediting agency that is in turn, approved by the U.S. Department of Education. CCE is not accredited by such an agency. I tried to trace its accreditation back to the USDE, but only got as far back as an agency that accredits engineers (not exactly related to coaching). To my knowledge, no not-for-profit coach certifier, nor educator of coaches, possesses the gold standard in accreditation. That doesn't mean they aren't good, it just means they don't have the ultimate stamp of approval in education. (Beware though, of phony 'associations' that are invented by un-scrupulous 'coaching schools' or more-aptly, certification mills, just so they can claim to be 'accredited' by somebody.) CCE's accreditation doesn't make it a better source of life coach certification. In fact, they may not understand the profession of coaching as well as either the ICF or IAC.
  5. There has been some suggestion (unconfirmed) that the CCE may require its Board Certified Coaches to administer a psychological profile that measures the mental health of new coaching clients, in order to refer them out to psychotherapists. This would be no more appropriate than requiring Certified Financial Planners to test the mental health of their clients (after all, behavioral economics is the latest hot specialty for therapists), or requiring bartenders to test their customers for alcoholism (shouldn't some of those barflies be in rehab?). I know many psychologists believe 90 - 100% of all people are at least neurotic and could benefit from therapy, but coaches aren't in the mental health business, are untrained in the area of diagnosis and in many locations it would actually be illegal for an untrained professional to try to diagnose a mental illness. What coaches are responsible for is helping their clients reach the clients' desired results. If coaching isn't effective in reaching those results and the coach suspects psychotherapy could help, they can best serve their clients by sharing that observation and declining to waste the clients' money by continuing the coaching. But coaches testing for psychopathology? That won't serve coaching clients (but might serve counselors and therapists), because the real test of whether coaching will 'work' for a client is not the client's diagnosis, but whether or not the client is ready to take full responsibility for his/her own life. If it comes between keeping my BCC or succumbing to a requirement to administer  psychological tests, I may give up the credential and I'm sure I'm not alone. But I am so far taking a 'wait and see' attitude towards this.
  6. CCE's ethical standards for BCCs are more appropriate for counselors and therapists than for life coaches. That's not automatically bad, but suggests that CCE itself, is confused about the differences between counseling and coaching. For well-written and appropriate ethical standards for coaches, view the ICF's ethical standards.
  7. The BCC hasn't yet stood the test of time. Thus far, the Board Certified Coach credential is not widely recognized, nor is it the the gold standard in coaching. At this writing, Master Certified Coach credentials from the ICF and IAC share that distinction. For the time being, I would recommend the BCC only as a provisional certification, on the level of the ICF's ACC (Associate Credentialed Coach), that a new coach might want, while they work toward a more recognized coach certification.

What do you think? Share your comments and concerns about the new Board Certified Coach credential in the comments area below.

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Topics: Coaching, executive coaching, certification requirements, Coaches, coaching clients, ICF, coach, Become a Certified Coach, CCE, life coach certification, certified life coach, certified business coach, future of coaching, coach training schools, coaching vs. therapy, Master Certified Coach, BCC, IAC

Coaching and Emotion: The Godfather Syndrome

Posted by Coach Training

Coach David PapiniGuest post by David Papini.

There is a famous scene in the first movie of The Godfather trilogy, when the four Corleone brothers meet right after their father has been shot and is struggling between life and death in a hospital. The topic they discuss is if and how they have to retaliate against Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo who ordered the shooting. At a certain point in the discussion, Michael Corleone/Al Pacino, the youngest brother, the only brother not involved in his family mafia business, proposes himself as the avenger in a plan where he manages to shoot Sollozzo. The elder brothers explain to him that the issue at stake, retaliation, “it’s not personal, it’s just business”, meaning that it has nothing to do with emotion, family values, the need of justice, the father-son relationship: it’s only a tool to protect the business and send a message to the “business community”.


What struck me (apart the fact I am Italian and I know that business better than the Godfather’s screenwriters ;-), is that for these guys family is not affect, emotion, relationship; it’s “just business”: this is why Michael’s brothers do not consider appropriate (and even harmful) the intention of avenging his father following an emotional reaction (while of course the killing itself can be an appropriate tool, but without emotional involvement).


Last week a client, struggling with her career, was talking about having a “professional demeanor”. To her, this was synonymous with “professional mask”, as opposite to “personal authenticity”, which she was patently not allowed to show at her workplace. Further inquiry led us to discover that for personal authenticity she intended “expressing emotions”, that is, the mask was intended to hide her emotions from her colleagues, because expression of emotions in general was not very welcome at her workplace. Basically, she and her firm were adopting a variant of the Godfather philosophy: it’s business, no emotion or affect needed per-se.


The step from “not expressing emotion” to “believe that you can stop/ignore feeling emotion” seemed closely related for her, while I had in mind what Antonio Damasio (Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, 2010) says: “The expression of emotions can doubtless be modulated voluntarily. But the degree of modulatory control of the emotions evidently cannot go beyond the external manifestations. Given that emotions include many other responses, several of which are internal and invisible to the naked eyes of others, the bulk of the emotional program is still executed, no matter how much willpower we apply to inhibit it. Most important, feelings of emotion, which result from the perception of the concert of emotional changes, still take place even when external emotional expressions are partially inhibited.”


That led me to think of how many times I challenged these limiting beliefs about emotions, all variants of the Godfather syndrome: when it comes to emotions and business, clients often found or put themselves in a mafia business, implicitly negating reality, unavoidability and the value of emotional states. Over time I collected a list of common misconception of emotions in the workplace (and, more in general, in organizations) that I call “storytelling about emotions”. Here is it, with the “false” part in bold:

  1. You are/I am too emotional (I credit this one to Jim and Michele McCarthy, in their book, Software for your Head)
  2. It’s wrong to feel like this
  3. There is no reason I/you feel like that
  4. You make me feel …
  5. Expressing emotion can be disturbing
  6. One must be rational
  7. One cannot think and feel at the same time
  8. Emotions are dangerous
  9. Emotions are not thoughts
  10. Emotions cannot be changed
  11. Emotions can be masked


Every belief in the list favors detaching between parts of the self in a person, which in turn prevents development, change for the best, growth and happiness. This is why I consider part of my job as a coach to help clients with mafia-like emotional approaches to explore how the world can be outside the Godfather mindset.

David was born in Florence in 1966 just a few months before the deluge, and that's a kind of destiny. As an executive is in charge for general management in a IT Firm, as a certified NLP counselor helps clients to explore their life experience, as a Coach helps clients getting what they really want , as a conflict mediator witnesses how tough and creative a relationship can be, as a trainer helps trainees in stretching their brain, growing and learning, as a public speaker enjoys co-creating experience on the fly, as a dad loves his two children. As a man he is grateful and worried that he’s got this wonderful life. And he’s fond of categorizing his professional roles :-). More about him at http://papini.typepad.com/lifehike/

David is a member of SCM's Certified Coach Training Program.

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Topics: Coaching, coaching clients, Certified Coach Training, coaching vs. therapy, Coaching Tip

Coaching vs. Therapy: The Ick Factor

Posted by Julia Stewart

Life coaching vs therapyThe "coaching vs. therapy" issue has been debated by coaches and therapists for years.

It came up for me in two completely different episodes, recently. One was in a coaching session that I observed where a coach/therapist brilliantly used a therapy technique and got the response they were after, but elicited considerable resistance from the client, in the process.* It took me by surprise, because it clearly wasn't part of the coaching "rule book" and it became a catalyst for some reflection, on my part, about what actually defines a boundary between coaching and therapy, because as you know, they are very different professional services that do overlap in a number of areas.

The other situation was with a coach/therapist who I had reason to talk to for a few minutes, who was clearly not happy that I hadn't done more of something that they thought I should be doing.* It was a really icky conversation that reminded me of how there are times when neither coaching nor therapy is appropriate.

Why therapy and counseling don't work with coaching clients: This is simple. High-functioning people hate being put in too small a box and in most cases therapy or counseling feels way too small to them. The exception to this is when someone gives permission to a therapist to counsel them. Permission is everything in relationships. Coaching clients do not give permission for therapy. Period.

People with therapy or counseling backgrounds often assume that coaching will come easy to them, because of the communication skills or techniques that they have already mastered. In some cases this is true. In many more, it is actually a hindrance, because the style of communicating that may have served them well within counseling situations, irritates coaching clients. I remember observing a coach who had previously been a child counselor.* Their clients, who normally were quite open to coaching, kept shutting down. It was because they were using their "child counselor" voice, which was offensive to their high-functioning adult coaching clients!

Subtleties make all the difference.

Even when the communication style is completely appropriate, therapy techniques will feel manipulative to a coaching client, because in therapy there tends to be a bit of a "one up, one down" relationship, where the client has agreed that there is something wrong that they need the therapist's help with. In coaching, the relationship is always between equals and the client doesn't need to be fixed. Get tricky with a coaching client and, even if you succeed in the short run, you'll pay for it down the line with a less open and less trusting client. 

That brings me to my icky conversation. The person I talked with tends to communicate with me from a coaching/counseling approach, even in emails. This is alwaysinappropriate, unless the person you're communicating with gives permission. It is presumptive and rude. Virtually always, when a coach thinks someone needs their help, their ego is getting in the way. The other person will sense this and shut down.

It's like that old saying about why one should never try to teach a pig to sing. It doesn't work and it irritates the pig.

In this case, calling the coach on what she was doing didn't help. To make matters worse, she seemed to be using her "therapist voice". Yucko. When the conversation was over, I remember thinking, "God I hope I never run into her again!"

I was one irritated little piggy.

After later reflection, I realized that while there were many reasons I chose the path I took, which this person clearly wasn't satisfied with, there was another, more subtle reason: I had gradually shut down over a period of months, because of their meddlesome, coach-y, I-know-what-you-should-be-doing-better-then-you-do style of communication. By the time we came face to face, it was already over.

Why coaching people without their permission doesn't work: High-functioning people hate being "helped" unless they've given permission. It implies they're incompetent. Don't try to coach them and definitely don't try to counsel them, unless they've told you they want it.

The Ick Factor will get you. Clients will shut down. Friends and acquaintances will avoid you. People will do less of what you want, instead of more. (They might even blog about it! ;-)

*I purposely made these stories vague, because the details aren't important, but the ramifications are.

 

Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2008

Topics: coaching clients, coaching vs. therapy, psychotherapy, Life Coaching, communication

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