August 15, 2018
Every now and then I get the question:
“How can we tell if someone needs counseling and not coaching?”
In the beginning, I think it’s really difficult for new coaches to tell. After all, most individuals – even hurting ones – look the same from the outside.
But it’s imperative that coaches learn to distinguish who is a good candidate for coaching from who would be better served working with a counselor or therapist. (Please note that while there is a difference between counseling & therapy, I will use those terms interchangeably to simply this post.)
Before I share some quick clues on what to look for, let me stress a few things:
This is a slippery slope because coaches aren’t trained as counselors, and it opens a can of worms. When a coach slips into territory that requires specialized training & licensing to evaluate and treat mental problems, disorders, etc. or gives advice in any capacity, the door is opened for a lawsuit should something arise that harms that individual.
Stick to coaching and stick to coaching healthy individuals, and you’ll keep yourself safe and free from these issues.
Sometimes we might find a client who’s reasonably healthy but they’re having some marriage issues, and they could use a helping hand. In that case, I’d say refer that issue that needs counseling to a professional and work with the client on the things you’ve been trained as a coach to support.
I will say there are a lot of licensed counselors/therapists who enlist the support of coaches to team up for the support of their patients, and that is the only way I’d recommend coaching someone who’s currently healing from trauma. Even then, their therapist as determined that they have gotten to some degree of healing where the help of a coach could be utilized.
Generally speaking, I highly recommend steering clear of people with trauma, disorders, anxiety, addictions, etc.
There are plenty of people – I’d guess 90% of the population – that are good candidates for coaching. Seek those people out.
Everyone has hurts and pains. Many people have had trauma. No one has all their ducks in a row. An individual isn’t ruled out by what has happened to them. That’s not the point. We simply want people to get the kind of support that they need. Trauma needs to be healed before moving on. So we base whether or not we can help someone on their current state of wholeness.
Here are 11 quick clues that might indicate that a person needs counseling, not coaching:
1) A fixation over a past event that keeps them from moving forward.
2) Conversations sound more like venting anger, frustration, stress, or anxiety.
3) Suffering from depression that is more than just the blues.
4) Suicidal thoughts or any form of behavior that is a threat to themselves or others.
6) Recently or currently in an abusive relationship.
7) Physical problems related to stress, anxiety, or trauma.
8) Any sort of victim mentality or perception of powerlessness.
9) Vicious cycles and lack of progress blamed on the same issues.
10) Fears and phobias.
11) Patterns of bad lifestyle choices (binge & drinking that is excessive; losing jobs, etc.)
This list is not meant to be exhaustive but meant to give you some indicators of what to look or listen for when pre-qualifying potential clients.
I should add that even with due diligence, some of these things might not surface until a few months into a coaching relationship. Since these behaviors can be cyclical, it’s possible for an individual to do very well for a time, and then slip back into their disorder. Recognize the warning signs and confront them.