The Emergence of Personal & Professional Coaching
An Alternative Career Path for Therapists

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

In the last several years, personal and professional coaching has emerged as a recognized career. It has created new options for people who seek help with life transitions and who want to find a guide to partner with in designing their desired future. While coaching has grown to incorporate a variety of specialized applications, the case can be made that, at its foundation, coaching involves a whole-person, client-centered approach. All coaching is life coaching, whether it be executive, leadership, or personal coaching.

What is Coaching?

Coaching is collaborating with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches help people improve their performance and enhance the quality of their lives. (International Coach Federation)

  Why Therapists Can Make Great Professional Coaches

Dr. Patrick Williams, MCC, Founder and CEO of Institute for Life Coach Training, and author of the online course articulates the following:

Successful coaches come from a myriad of professional backgrounds. Business and professional consultants, human resources managers, organizational consultants, entrepreneurs, and marketing specialists are a few of the careers that coaches might have had before adding coaching to their résumés. In this course, we will discuss why trained and experienced helping professionals would find the coaching relationship a perfect addition to their practice. Below is a highlighted list of why therapists are uniquely qualified to make the transition into life coaching.

  • Skillful listening: Deep and empathic listening is at the heart of the therapeutic relationship, and helping professionals have had much professional experience honing their listening skills.
  • Listening to the “unsaid”: In addition to listening, therapists are trained to hear what is not being said and to detect nuances of expression, voice, and energy that either confirm or contradict the client’s verbal and nonverbal cues.
  • Gift of reframing: The skill of putting a positive or less innocuous spin on a statement or belief expressed by a client is critical to effective life coaching. Turning problems into learning opportunities is one way to use reframing as a coaching skill.
  • Ability to suspend judgment: Helping professionals have heard it all! They can listen to “truth telling” from their clients and not be shocked. Most of the time, what clients need to be truthful about is not earth shattering, except to them. Having a place to “release” frustration or anxiety and express their deepest desires or fears, as in the coaching relationship, is very freeing.
  • Experience with confidentiality and ethics: Professional therapists already respect confidentiality and have strong ethical guidelines. In fact, the boundaries and professional guidelines in therapy are so strong that coaches will actually find that coaching clients, who generally are not emotionally fragile, allows them to be looser with their own boundaries around privacy and confidentiality.
  • Ability to seek solutions and think of possibilities: Trained and experienced therapists are typically good solution seekers and possibility thinkers, and their professional training and experience has undoubtedly enhanced these skills.
  • Knowledge of paradigms: Therapists, who have embraced humanistic and client-centered paradigms, including the recent advances in solution-focused therapy and positive psychology, will adapt quickly to problem solving as a coach.
  • Assessments: Coaching typically begins with a personal interview (either face-to-face or by teleconference call) to assess the individual’s current opportunities and challenges, define the scope of the relationship, identify priorities for action, and establish specific desired outcomes. Therapists are very comfortable with this initial process. And there are specific personality assessments that fit the coaching paradigm well.
  • Sessions conducted in person or over the phone: Subsequent coaching sessions may be conducted in person or over the telephone. Having these options expands therapists’ opportunities to work with clients who are out of state or out of the immediate area.
  • Fieldwork: Therapists are familiar with issuing ‘homework’ to their clients. Coaching clients are accustomed to receiving fieldwork, to completing specific actions that support the achievement of one’s personally prioritized goals.
  • Length of relationship: The duration of the coaching relationship varies depending on the individual’s personal needs and preferences. Together, the coach and client can come up with a mutually comfortable time to end the coaching relationship or not. The coaching relationship is one that is co-created between the client and coach. Therapists may find this a welcome change in their practices.
  • Familiar with administering assessments: Depending upon the needs and circumstances of the individual, there are varieties of assessments available to support coaches.
  • Comprehensive knowledge of the behavioral sciences: A variety of concepts, models and principles drawn from the behavioral sciences, management literature, spiritual traditions, and/or the arts and humanities may be incorporated into the coaching conversation in order to increase the individual’s self-awareness and awareness of others, foster shifts in perspective, promote fresh insights, provide new frameworks for looking at opportunities and challenges, and energize and inspire the individual’s forward actions.


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