• What is coaching and how can it help you?

  • Coaching can help deal with the complex issues of life, says psychology researcher and coach Nick Brown

  • Explore our coaching directory here

Coaching, counselling, and psychotherapy arguably exist on a continuum; Julia Bueno has given a good explanation of the differences in her article Who does what? Talking therapies explained on this site. Compared to the more emotional focus of psychotherapy and counselling, coaching is typically addressed at specific issues in a person’s life which may be perceived as dilemmas, conflicts, or simply “being stuck”. These issues very often appear at first sight to be mostly practical in nature, but a little investigation frequently reveals deeper truths. It would certainly be wrong to suggest that emotions don’t enter into coaching practice!

Examples of situations where it might help to work with a personal coach include decisions about life choices, such as taking voluntary redundancy or early retirement; problems with motivation or performance at work, especially after being promoted (or not); interpersonal conflicts with specific colleagues or family members; and more general questions about the direction your life is taking.

Coaching is less regulated than psychotherapy, which makes it all the more important to shop around and ask more than one potential coach critical questions to see if he or she is right for you. For example, some coaches adopt a technique-based approach, and will aim to give you practical suggestions for how to make progress; others prefer to start by helping you to simply explore your world, believing that the right choice will often become clear once all the possibilities have been revealed. Ideally, your coach will either be a member of a professional association such as the Association for Coaching or the International Coaching Federation, or committed to following a professional training path leading to membership of such an association.  A coach should also, like a psychotherapist, have a supervisor with whom to discuss issues that may arise during their work with clients.

Coaching can help anyone to deal with the complex issues and paradoxes that life sometimes puts in front of us.

Some people find it easier to go for coaching because they wish to avoid any possible social stigma associated with “seeing a therapist.”  Provided their issues are suitable for the training and expertise of their coach, this is fine. However, a good coach will know his or her limitations and will be prepared to refer a client to a counsellor or psychotherapist if it turns out that the emotional issues brought by the client are too great for the coaching process to be appropriate.

Coaching is big in the business world, with many companies spending thousands of pounds annually on coaching to help senior executives perform better and cope with stress. However, at a more modest level, coaching can help anyone to deal with the complex issues and paradoxes that life sometimes puts in front of us. Personal coaching need not be expensive; many coaches offer preferential rates to non-corporate clients, and schools of coaching often provide supervised coaching by their students at very reasonable prices. Coaching can work very well via Skype and even by phone, so you might also consider working with a coach who doesn’t necessarily live near you.

Further reading

What's the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?

Learn more about stress

Learn more about motivation