The big difference: can coaching replace psychotherapy?

The big difference: can coaching replace psychotherapy? KNOW YOURSELF

Sometimes we feel that we could feel better and live more interesting than now, but what can we do? Someone is immersed in psychoanalysis, someone is helped by meditation, someone is carried away by travel. And someone turns to coaches – they help determine life goals and teach them how to achieve them.

Business coaches increase our efficiency. Wellness coaches help tidy up the body and “tame” healthy habits. Life coaches teach you how to find a balance between family, career and hobbies. There are specialists in weight loss, relationships, or oratory. Will working with a coach replace psychotherapy? And how to understand what suits us best?


Psychotherapy is a system of therapeutic effects on the psyche of an individual. Only those who have received a higher psychological or medical education can conduct it. We seek help of this kind when we feel bad, sad and hard, when we feel lost and need support. “The doctor’s task is to help the patient find … his own worldview and his own value system,” wrote psychotherapist Victor Frankl.

How is this different from coaching? The coach has a different task: he inspires the client “to maximize their personal and professional potential,” as the Code of Ethics of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) says. We go to such specialists when, on the whole, everything is in order with us (with a world outlook and a value system as well!), But we know what could be better. When we have motivation to work on ourselves and we are ready to make efforts.

The coach does not set the direction for the client, but helps him get where he wants

“The word” coach “(coach) originally in English meant” crew “, a device with which you can get from point A to point B,” says wellness coach Anastasia Chigarinova. “This very accurately describes our work: we do not set a direction for the client, but help him get where he wants.”

But what about clients with personality disorder, depression or crisis? In such cases, it is this condition that becomes the problem that should be solved in the first place, and the coaches will send the wards to specialized specialists.

“In my practice, it happens this way: a client notices that he is avoiding some products, actively divides food into“ good ”and“ bad, ”says Anastasia Chigarinova. – This question is outside the scope of my competence as a coach. And I recommend contacting a therapist who deals with eating problems. ”

I see the goal

We come to a coach when we want to improve business skills, build a new lifestyle or change our image, that is, we have a goal, we are ready to act and we have the strength to do this. “A correctly posed question is already half the answer,” says Olga Kozlova, a coach. – The right goal is already a big step towards achieving it. But the key task of our work is to teach the client in the future to independently cope with such life challenges. ”

We turn to a psychotherapist in a different situation: when it is not about problems for which we need to find the right tools, but about conditions that reduce the quality of our lives.

When a client turns to a psychologist, he does not always have a specific goal

“No matter what fantasies swarm in the patient’s head, no matter how he presents himself, he came for help because he is experiencing an existential crisis, that is, he cannot satisfy the psychological needs with which he identifies himself, he cannot receive something he needs as air, ”wrote the founder of gestalt therapy, Frederick Perls, in his book“ The Gestalt Approach and Witness of Therapy ”. In a state of crisis, it can be difficult for us to formulate our wishes and expectations.

“When a client goes to a psychologist, he doesn’t always have a specific goal,” explains Anna Reznikova, a specialist in solution-oriented short-term therapy. – Rather, it is about a wish, a request. It can sound quite abstract, for example: “I want to change my life.” Or “I want my relationship to be different.” To others – which ones? He himself does not really understand. And the task of the therapist is to begin with helping him discover what exactly and in which direction he wants to transform. ”

The big difference: can coaching replace psychotherapy?

On equal rights

We turn to coaches and psychologists when we realize that we cannot “fix” something in our life with our own hands. But does this mean that we can fully rely on the one who works with us? Coaching experts believe that we ourselves know our strengths and weaknesses better than others.

“The coach relies on the life experience and expertise of the client, and not on his understanding of the processes occurring with the one who asked for help,” Olga Kozlova explains. – If the coach becomes the “leader”, it means that the client will have problems with taking responsibility for the elections and decisions. And if the client becomes the leader, the coach turns either into his secretary or into “free ears”. This strategy will not succeed. ” Effective coaching is based on an equal relationship.

Of course, the specialist reserves the right to a point of view, but talks about it only if it can be useful to the client. “If a coach wants to share how he sees the situation, offer something to the client, he uses what coaching calls direct communication. That is, it expresses its view solely with the permission of the client, and does it pricelessly: without feeling its own right, ”summarizes Olga Kozlova.


In therapy, roles are distributed differently. “At first the client“ relies ”on the therapist,” Anna Reznikova emphasizes. – Moreover, we, like coaches, cannot appeal to our own personal experience, because everyone has his own. And it’s not a fact that my experience will be relevant and right for another. ”

The coach’s skills will be useful to us when we have already dealt with global problems, got rid of anxieties, and got out of depression. If we have so little strength, and we still set ourselves a serious task, it can play the role of the very straw that broke the back of a camel.

“At the same time, psychotherapy will not replace coaching,” Anna Reznikova continues. – As a psychologist and as someone who used the services of a coach, I can safely say that this technique perfectly solves concrete, clear tasks. And if I see that in the process of psychotherapy the client has coaching requests, I recommend that he turn to a specialist in this field. ”

“I have denied my health problems”

Before you demand achievements from yourself, it is worth evaluating how much power we have to do this at the moment. 29-year-old Andrey tells how working with a coach aggravated his depression:

“I was going through hard times. My business – trading in interior items in social networks – developed very slowly, I went into debt. Relations with my wife deteriorated: she was tired of supporting my aspirations at the expense of the family budget. It seemed to me that I was not trying hard enough, but if I put efforts in the right direction, then everything would work out. And I turned to the coach.

He gave the first task: to keep a diary of the actions that I perform to achieve success, and the results that I get. But I did not find the strength to even create a file for this on a laptop. The same story happened with the rest of the exercises. The feeling of guilt in front of my wife and partners added the feeling that I let the coach down without showing any results. The realization of my own insignificance made me even worse, even suicidal thoughts appeared. My wife found me a therapist, and he diagnosed clinical depression. I started to be treated.

Now it’s clear that coaching was then not only useless for me, but also exacerbated my serious condition. On the other hand, this experience worked like a litmus test. If it were not for the failure with the coach, I would have denied for a long time that I have serious health problems. ”

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