Text: Agata Kotrys
Psychotherapy and coaching are two disciplines with much in common. Both are professional help relationships, with the objective to create the necessary conditions so that the person can find the best solutions available to overcome the situation they are going through. But when do I go to therapy and when to coaching? To provide the best support based on the needs of each person, it is important to know how to define the line between both disciplines.
The first difference is in the area in which each intervention acts. We will go to psychotherapy when we have the need to solve an important issue for us, which is not allowing us to live optimally or feel happy. It is a treatment aimed at working on the relational patterns and lack of mentalization that affect the problems of daily life and cause emotional suffering. Psychotherapy aims to achieve profound changes, that is why we talk about healing.
Coaching focuses on opportunities for personal and professional growth, development of new skills. We opt for it when we want to achieve a very specific objective.
In psychotherapy we talk about help. The person who asks for this help is normally called a patient. It tends to be a more directed process, in which the therapist takes an active role in proposing solutions to the patient.
Coaching is defined as an accompaniment and the person accompanied is called a client or coachee. On the one hand, it is the client who defines the objective to be worked on, on the other, it is based on the idea that the client has the resources to achieve it. Hence, the role of coach is based on accompanying, asking questions that create awareness and co-designing actions that lead to the desired change.
Another difference between the two processes lies in the questions to which answers are sought. In the case of psychotherapy, it is important to know the “why”, since understanding the root of the problem contributes to finding the solution. For this reason, it is often necessary to work on some episodes of the patient’s past, to be able to solve them and thus improve their current situation. Both present and past life situations are analyzed, starting from the premise that our personality is a dynamic system whose development occurs throughout life. The only way to understand the relational patterns of each person is by analyzing the entire process, taking into account the mechanisms that maintain and strengthen vicious circles or maladaptive relational patterns.
In the case of coaching, the focus shifts to the question “what for“, since it works on the present and the future. Every coaching process starts from defining a desired state, an ideal situation that you want to reach. From there, strategies are worked on to achieve it and to overcome obstacles.
The proportion of reflection versus action is also significant. The reflection will take more prominence in therapy, since it is necessary to understand in order to change. On the contrary, we say that “there is no coaching without action”; the process of change and learning passes not only through the work done during each session, but mainly through the actions carried out between sessions and what they allow us to discover.
Due to the differences mentioned, the time usually required for each of the processes also varies. The duration of therapy is flexible. It is usually of indeterminate duration and depending on the objectives. It usually lasts between 6 and 60 sessions. In the case of coaching, it is a process limited in time. Its usual duration is between 4 and 8 sessions.
From the multidisciplinary approach with which we work at Proyecto ART, we believe that both processes can complement each other. It is possible that a person during the psychotherapy process discovers a skill that they would like to develop or a new goal that they want to achieve. In these cases you can go to the coaching dynamics, both at the end and in parallel with the therapeutic process.