Go & See Someone!

You need help!

Let’s be honest, someone, at some point in your life has told you that. And when they said those words, they meant in the kindest possible way that you would benefit from a professional person who would give you a kick up the backside, shake you by your shoulders and get your head right. Your (perceived) warped or distorted thinking was not helpful and they wanted you to do something different, to change in some way.

And let’s say they were right. What then?

Who would you see to sort your thinking out? Coach? Psychologist? Counsellor? Counselling psychologist? Psychotherapist? Psychiatrist? Mentor?

I am a qualified coach and been the helping profession/industry for thirteen years. I too get confused sometimes with the variety of help available; all the different modalities. I imagine how bewildering this must be for everyone else thinking about investing in some mental/emotional support so I thought I would speak on behalf of professional, accredited coaches to give an overview of how what-we-do is different to what-others-do.

I have had some inner conflict for a while about the use and understanding of some of these words; how they are similar and/or different but it seems to boil down to perception. For example, many people use the word coach to replace the word consultant i.e. someone who is an expert and who is being paid to give an opinion or advice. This is in fact the exact opposite of coaching.

Officially speaking, there are some definitions which might help like the one from the International Coach Federation Coaching is a partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”. COMENSA (Coaches and mentors of South Africa) defines coaching as “a professional, collaborative and outcomes-driven method of learning that seeks to develop an individual and raise self-awareness so that he or she might achieve specific goals and perform at a more effective level”.

The essence of ‘true’ coaching is a forward moving force. A coach is an agent for change; he/she facilitates a conversation that helps the client to figure out for themselves their best way forward.

A properly trained coach gives no advice, ideas or suggestions and they illicit the wisdom of ‘what to do next’ from the client, who is the expert of their own lives.  The coach is the expert of the process and asks the kinds of questions that support the coachee to figure out their most appropriate next step or giant leap. This is where coaches can become specialized or niche. Understanding a specific context well allows the coach to ask questions based on/from a framework of subject matter expertise. A ‘business’ coach understands the questions they need to ask to draw out the best in a business context. A ‘health’ coach enquires based on their knowledge of holistic wellbeing.  A relationship coach knows the dynamics of a team and how to create shifts within that small system. The expertise guides the choice of questions, not the advice to give.


Much of the skill in coaching is in the listening. Knowing which pieces of information to select and inquire about and which pieces to let go. Coaches listen for competencies, qualities and abilities in the hope of helping the client notice their own resources for solving problems. This is how we differ from therapists. We listen for resources rather than deficits, we explore possible and preferred futures and then we explore what is already contributing to those futures. If the coach has had a successful session the client has more clarity about probable choices and possibilities. It is almost like creating space in the mind to be able to move more freely instead of feeling trapped, stuck or overwhelmed.

Coaches address each issue separately and with each agenda a coaching contract with well formed outcomes is formed. In other words, we define upfront how we will both know the coaching has come to an end. In therapy, the end is not well defined.

A therapist listens very differently. They are listening for clues about the problem, who caused it and why it exists. They give the problem a label and then prescribe how to manage or fix it. The therapist is the expert, or consultant in mental health.

Therapy sessions can last for years whilst coaching tends to be short-term (although many clients return for years to get a mental rinse or fresh perspective on a different issues).

At the end of the day there is a place in the world for any and all kind of healing. Any person who can facilitate growth in another, provide peace of mind or be a midwife to healthy change is contributing to the greater good of the world. There is no better or worse way of working, only what resonates for you.

If you need help, get the right kind of help.

Do some research on the options available and listen to your gut. Your body has its own intelligence and if you tune in, it will guide you to some things more than others. There is no silver bullet. No one size fits all approach. What works really well for some may not work at all for others. The same is true for most things. Whether you are shopping for music, food, cars, houses, schools, life partners or emotional/mental support- do your homework. Investigate properly the choices available and discern that which is most compatible with your budget, personality, lifestyle and belief systems.

If you are intrigued to explore coaching further- inbox me.