LJ (LifeJournal): I know that the practice of hiring coaches for professional and personal growth is a growing trend. Would you describe briefly what coaching is and what kind of work you do.
AS (Adam Seaman): Yes, coaching is an extremely hot growth industry. There are an estimated 10,000 coaches and an industry profession organization called the International Coach Federation (ICF at www.coachfederation.org) that has laid out a set of ethical guidelines and has an intensive certification process. Individuals may hire a personal or life coach for relationships, health, financial and education goals–to name a few of the uses of a personal coach. Businesses are increasingly using coaches to work with executives, managers and performance-level employees.
A well-trained coach can help a ready client achieve a great deal of personal progress. The reason is that it often helps to have the perspective of another person, especially one who will be honest, insightful, and committed to your success. It is important for people to find a coach they feel comfortable with and in whom they have confidence in their skills and ethics.
As a coach, I work with people on a personal level and in their business, depending on that person’s desired outcomes. I find that personal coaching often leads to focusing on career and business issues and that, conversely, what starts as business coaching often leads to self discovery and progress on personal goals.
LJ: How does coaching differ from psychotherapy?
AS: Since I am not a therapist, my responses may garner some correction from your readers who are. Coaching is often associated with psychotherapy because both professions work with an individual in a highly personalized manner around issues of deep significance to the client. The difference between coaching and psychotherapy is in terms of professional training requirements, the focus of the work being done, and the manner in which it is conducted.
Professional training is more intense for therapists than it is for coaches. Therapists must be licensed in the state they are practicing. Although therapy is still a relatively young profession, it is decades older than coaching and has withstood more “tests,” both legal and professional. A therapist and a coach often focus on different issues. Coaches are not qualified to provide therapy.
When I told a friend, who is a respected therapist, what a coach does he said, “Then 90% of what I do is coaching.” When I asked what the other 10% was he said “pathology.” (Defined by Webster’s as “any abnormal variation from a sound condition”). The therapist is trained to deal with issues of a pathological nature, and the coach is not. It is important to recognize the difference. For example, working on financial goals is not pathological but addiction to gambling is. Working on fitness goals is personal but not pathological. Working on eating disorders is. I once heard it said, and this is admittedly a drastic oversimplification, that if you were lost in the woods a coach would help you find a way out and a therapist would help you discover how you got there. There is much discussion in coaching and therapy circles about the difference between them, but no clear answer. Some therapists are against coaching as a profession and others have transitioned to become coaches. Still others do both.
Another difference is that therapy usually occurs in an office and the therapist does not partner with the client outside of the session. Coaching can occur in an office, at a bookstore (one of my favorite places) and over the phone (another one of my favorites). As a coach, I sometimes spend the day with the client in his or her environment to observe and provide insight. One time, I sat with a client in his office on a Saturday and helped him organize and set up systems to be more productive. That is not something I believe most therapists do.
Three colleagues of mine, Vicki Hart, John Blattner, and Staci Leipsic are trained therapists and coaches, and have written an excellent article on this topic entitled Coaching Vs. Therapy: A Perspective. The article will be published in the spring/summer edition of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.
LJ: How does journal writing fit in with your coaching practice?
AS: Journaling is an excellent complement to coaching because both activities are about self-awareness and growth. Journaling is a much more introspective process-it’s just you and your pen or keyboard-whereas coaching is very interactive. Journaling is less expensive and more convenient (especially with the help of LifeJournal; I’m a big fan). Personal coaching usually costs between $200-$500 per month. (Corporate coaching can be up to three to four times as much, and even more!).
Used in tandem, coaching and journaling are a powerful combination. Sometimes I keep notes when coaching over the telephone and send them to a client. (I serve as a sort of journal writer based on what they say). Other times, the coaching may reveal some topics that require further internal contemplation. For those that do it, journaling helps keep my clients on track and perpetuate the value of their investment in coaching.
Coaching parallels journaling in the sense that coaching sessions encourage deep introspection. Often conversations with another person spark penetrating personal insights. Coaches are trained to pose questions that can unearth powerful revelations. Often an invested and skilled journaler can ask him or herself such questions.
One thing that’s very helpful for growth is to have someone else observing. I know that if someone read my journals they would see patterns that are too ingrained for me to notice. In coaching, it’s much the same thing. I’m trolling for golden nuggets of wisdom for my clients, looking for patterns of behavior that they might not be able to see.
LJ: Do you keep a journal? What benefits do you enjoy from journal writing?
AS: Yes, I’ve kept a journal for about 10 years-with sporadic time off. I use my journal as a conversation with myself. I’m sure that different people have different mental “audiences” for their journal. When journaling, I record key events, struggles, and insights. I’ve come to realize that a good sign of whether or not I’m “on track” is if I am journaling. Journaling, for me, means that I’m attentive to what’s going on around me.
LJ: How do you, as a coach, enhance the client’s journal writing experience, and how does the journal writing enhance the coaching experience for your client?
AS: Most of my clients do not journal regularly. Even so, by the end of the session, I often recommend writing about the key topics that emerge. From a coaching perspective, I consider journaling as a form of self-research. Looking inside ourselves to define our goals and recognize the things hindering us requires reflection. Coaching is often just the start of a valuable realization process. Journaling provides the chance to complete the experience of self-research to discover important truths and values. Often I am stealthy in my approach to recommending journaling to my clients. I don’t use the word “journal” but I may say, “What if you answered this question and send me your response before out next session?”
Adam Seaman is a personal and business coach who also likes to work one-on-one with clients and launch other coaches through his 10-week program called The Coaching Course. For more information, Adam can be reached at Adam@SeamanAssociates.com and his website is http://www.SeamanAssociates.com.