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  • Writer's pictureFanny Baert

Do I see a therapist or a coach? Or both?


People often ask me how a coach is different from a psychotherapist. I really value this question, especially in today’s world where you have so much choice between different types of therapists and coaches. As a professional coach, I find it important to explain clearly what I can do and what I cannot do and make sure my client understands this. This question was also discussed during my training. I have spoken with several therapists since then to receive their point of view as well. Here are my thoughts.


In general, both therapists and coaches want to help a person to be happier, find peace and inner strength. Psychotherapists tend to have a focus on the past and present, while coaches help people to achieve future goals.


Therapists will help analyse emotional problems and fears and they might explore how these are linked to experiences in one’s past. They will help a person to become more aware about why they act in a certain way and why this might prevent them from happiness and self-development. Coaches will also help people tackle their emotional problems and fears but in a different way, I will come back to that later.


One of the most important distinguishing factors between psychotherapists and coaches though, is that psychotherapists are trained to help people who are facing mental health problems while coaches are not. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder, you should go and see a therapist.


So how do I work with my client's emotional problems and fears?


Every one of us has fears, belief systems and negative emotions. If those prevent you from moving forward, I, as most coaches, call them obstacles. A person might be aware of them or not. In any case, in my view, obstacles are there to be faced and overcome!


Every coaching journey starts with defining a general objective (to be fine-tuned later). My task is to accompany my client to achieve their objective through a series of coaching sessions. With the help of a variety of tools, I will help my client to identify the obstacles that have a direct impact on their objective and could prevent them from reaching it. For example, if my client wants to change career, they will probably have to invest a lot in self-promotion. However, if my client has a lack of self confidence, this is something we will have to work on. We will draft a mini plan of action with small steps to increase their self confidence and integrate these steps in their day-to-day life.


With regard to mental health problems, I have been trained to identify them. If the mental health problem of my client is so severe that it does not allow them to maintain emotional stability during coaching sessions, then I would prefer to refer my client to a psychotherapist. It is of course always possible to work with a therapist in parallel and this can even be part of my client's strategy to reach the desired objective. For example, they can follow coaching but also see a therapist to address anxiety or sleep problems.


So to conclude, everyone has to face obstacles. If one day you decide you want to be coached by me, I will help you to identify those obstacles that have prevented you to live the life you truly want to live. Together we will draft a plan of action that will 1) take into account the entire you with your personal needs, values, beliefs, fears and emotional problems and 2) allow you to reach your objective with the resources you have at your disposal. It is this human and holistic approach that drives me as a coach! ❤️


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