In the London Underground, “Mind the Gap!” is the constant warning to “see and beware of” the space between the platform and the train door…literally a matter of life and death! Boarding my blog however, “Mind the Gap” is a 2-minute focus on the “valuable difference” between words or concepts that are otherwise used interchangeably.
Since 2012, I’ve been on a mini-MISSION to “Mind the Gap”…to bring light and attention to “that difference”…to examine that “space in between” the two distinct things that “mindless communication” would otherwise offer as the same. However similar, NO TWO THINGS are the SAME!
What IS the difference, for example, between: Sacrifice and Compromise? Hearing and Listening? Confidence and Arrogance? Having a Friend and BEING a Friend…or Jealousy and Admiration!
Other “Mind the Gap” Blog Posts you can find on my website include:
Happiness vs. Joy!
Being Anxious vs. Being Nervous!
The Fear of Public Speaking vs. The Fear of Death!
Being Paralyzed vs. just plain Stuck!
“Playing to Win” vs. “Playing not to Lose”?
Goals vs. Resolutions?
Success vs. Achievement?
The VERY GOOD PEOPLE at Click Funnels Magazine have invited me to contribute an extended “Mind the Gap” regarding Coaching. I’m a world class coach. I know, live and breathe what Coaching IS…and am also challenged when people fail to understand it or think they understand it when they are actually confusing it for other things. So:
What IS the Difference between Coaching and ANYTHING else it might be mistaken for (Part 1)?
FIRST: Coaching is not Psychotherapy!
Integrity DEMANDS my very best efforts to establish that Coaching is not Psychotherapy. This demand is legit and for many reasons:
1) Coaches and Shrinks have different credentials, goals, methodologies, and other “objective” (non-political) differences. Among these differences, it would be very difficult NOT to see similarities “overlap” or “parallel” among them.
• Credentials: Here I claim an “inferior” posture because I admire and respect what is required of psychotherapists… from the M.D. or Ph.D. (or combination) to the “third degree” imposed by the state, to get and retain a “license to practice” that, to date, is not required of coaches. One day, I may be both, but for now, I’m “just” a coach… based on credentials alone! A fact that may be disturbing to credentialed psychotherapists is that coaches need only call themselves a coach in order to “practice” coaching… for better or worse. I understand, empathize with, and respect this, and am at the same time, PROUD to be a true threat to those standards. I’m NOT saying that coaching is INFERIOR to psychotherapy, but I AM saying that a great majority of people who call themselves “coaches” have not a SLIVER of “credential” that is required of psychotherapists. Put simply: to be a coach, call yourself one…to be a shrink, earn advanced degrees and pass state exams. Big difference!
• Goals: Another reason coaching is NOT psychotherapy is that the goals/objectives for each “service” are different.
◦ The “promise” of a shrink is to go into the PAST in order to “heal” your “wounds”…psycho-emotional wounds that are now manifest in a myriad of ways/addictions in adulthood. The past and the wounds are the “goals/objectives” and a ”Diagnosis” is formed. I’m generalizing here and I do believe that some psychiatrists or psychotherapists ARE concerned about the future of the client, but “tense” aside, it’s the healing of wounds that remains the focus/goal of psychotherapy.
◦ The “promise” of a coach is to go into the FUTURE to “visualize” a client’s “goals”…tangible/measurable RESULTS that one could achieve in one’s life (that most likely have already been achieved by successful people). The future and the “life people really want” are the goals and objectives for the coach. Therefore “diagnosis” is focused on comparing a dissatisfying PRESENT to a desired FUTURE, achievable through setting and actualizing GOALS!
◦ The “promise” I make as a coach is that DESPITE YOUR WOUNDS, you can have the life you want! If your wounds are in the way, we’ll address as much as we can including my recommendation that you see a SHRINK if I cannot help you past/through your wounds to your goals! I love when clients “fire me” (discontinue service) realizing that we’ve gone as far as we can and now it’s time for true healing…when coaching has been successful in getting someone to take a step to therapy that they weren’t taking on their own.
• Methodologies: The first two distinctions between coaching and psychotherapy are “cleaner” than this third distinction. I say that because information is so widely available that many of the methods that were discovered, practiced, and proven in the field of psychology/psychiatry are “accessible” and “learnable” via the Internet. The Pioneers of Coaching and Personal/Professional Development like Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins have been very good about citing the “literature” and “experts” from which so many “coaching” methods, exercises, and strategies derive. Techniques like “future pacing,” “identity theft,” “erasure,” and “pattern interruptions” are all BORN from the efforts of psychiatry, psychotherapy, and psychology! Coaches have methodologies all their own as well such as goal setting, motivation, accountability, and task management to be broad about it while naming a few.
2) Other notable differences between Coaching and Psychotherapy might include how each service can be “packaged and delivered.” Length, interval between, or location/form of sessions (by phone or in person) could be the same in each modality. However, they will most likely differ in that coaching has more flexibility (I can coach at someone’s home, office, Starbucks, or by phone, for example).
3) Another difference between the two services can be found in HOW clients are acquired for each profession/service. Coaches must also have some business development acumen and an ability to market themselves like any other sales professional might. Those in the therapy fields most often get their clients as referrals from other healthcare professionals. The fact is that coaches must learn how to enroll their own clients in order to earn a living as a coach.
4) Finally, shrinks and their services are more clearly and appropriately identified with “Health and Medicine,” whereas coaches fit more clearly in “Personal/Professional Development” when it comes to an “industry” label or category. Coaches cannot prescribe drugs. Coaches, at best, “prescribe” activities that produce “positive emotions” (the natural chemicals that represent positive thoughts or “natural drugs”). The prescribed activities carry out some of these “techniques” I referred to above, like future pacing, visualization, affirmation, goal setting, language choice, belief construction, and others. The final distinction may be that psychotherapy is the jurisdiction of the “mentally ill or those unable to achieve” whereas coaching is the jurisdiction of the “mentally healthy, but simply under-achieved.”
It’s amazing to me how DIFFERENT coaching is from psychotherapy and psychiatry, and yet I am STILL SO sensitive to the similarities AND VERY CAREFUL to make sure people know that my coaching doesn’t compete with or substitute for psychotherapy or psychiatry.
I simply NEVER want to mistake or confuse coaching with psychotherapy, at the same time I ALSO NEVER assume one can effectively coach another without tapping in to the drivers of their inner psychology and emotional needs fulfillment… which is more purely and appropriately the “jurisdiction” of licensed/credentialed Medical Doctors of Psychiatry.
SECOND: Coaching is NOT Athletic Coaching!
Once again, the similarities between these branches of coaching can throw us off, especially the label “coaching” which has long been used in athletics, way before anyone even called themselves a life or business “coach.” Athletic Coaches do so many of the same things that Life/Business Coaches might do: help athletes set goals, learn skills, exercise those skills, motivate massive action, hold accountable, establish punishment/reward systems, and so forth. However, unlike sports coaching, Life/Business Coaching is NOT competition based. We strengthen the client’s own skills to improve their lives rather than help them “beat” the other team.
There are more similarities but this point is best made by focusing on the KEY differences.
1) The Athletics Coach is most often an expert in the sport, frequently a former successful player who uses knowledge and experience to guide the actions of individuals (as in figure skating) or teams (as in football).
2) Sports Coaches focus on poorly or improperly executed behaviors more often than determining opportunities for improvement based on strengths and abilities.
3) Athletic Coaching focuses on “beating an opponent” or “winning” which only occurs concurrently with another person “losing.” It’s the win-lose model. By focusing on “competition” and pursuing an “end” that includes a loser…ideally the “other” team, one team always has to lose. Life/Business Coaching focuses on win-win solutions that are empowering beyond the client alone.
5) Can we call Athletic Coaching a “service” and/or coaches “vendors” or business people? Yes, in some cases of specialization that applies, but in general those are supplemental to the kind of athletic coaching that’s the norm.
THIRD: Coaching is NOT Friendship!
Unlike psychotherapy and athletic coaching, both of which I’m happy and careful to distinguish from life/business coaching, friendship is a bit different.
For one, unlike coaching, psychotherapy, and athletic coaching, there’s no International Friends Association to regulate, standardize, and advance the practice of friendship (not a bad idea as I think about it, but it doesn’t exist at this time). Friendship is not an industry or profession, and while I’ve seen “relationship” coaching or “interpersonal communication” workshops, I’ve never known anyone to get “trained,” “degreed,” “certified,” or “licensed” to be, operate or do business as…a friend.
Never mind the obvious question: “Why not?”! I mean, why NOT create some standards that advance friendships? A very simple reason: There’s no money in it! In fact friendship would not BE friendship if people paid money for it. Let’s look at some other reasons that coaching is NOT friendship.
Effective coaching and effective friendship require “rapport” and some degree of “liking” between members of the relationship for them to want to “work” or “spend time” together. And, in the course of working together, good coaches learn things about clients that “only their closest friends” might know...or very intimate, private, and certainly confidential information. It’s this intimacy that tricks us into relating coaching to friendship, but there are two main reasons coaching is NOT friendship:
1) Professional coaches are encouraged to set “boundaries” that protect the integrity of the service. If either coach or client treats one another AS friends, the coaching is in jeopardy of losing its objectivity, accountability, and purpose. What I mean is that coaching is a ONE-WAY STREET. Everything that takes place in coaching should be about the CLIENT. Friendships that are one-sided don’t last or they live on as a source of toxicity for one or both friends. Coaching, on the other hand, that serves the coach in any way other than being paid for the service and perhaps being referred to others, is “stealing” time and money from the client. Clients pay for coaching in ways that they would never pay for a friend. My best friend working at a BMW dealership simply cannot give me a free car no matter how much he loves me. Why should coaching be any different? If coaching is being given for free (not even a trade or service exchange is in place), in my opinion is NOT coaching. It might be the generosity of friendship, but it’s not coaching!
2) Friendship, on the other hand, is about serving the social needs of both parties. And to preserve the serving of those needs, friends will often ignore, overlook, or simply fail to confront each other when the opportunity for growth and learning is there. Having friends is about US. BEING a friend is about the OTHER. And sometimes our desire to “keep” a friendship prevents us from actually BEING a friend. Examples are endless, but suffice it to say that friends and peers often ENABLE or PROMOTE each other’s destructive behaviors or limiting beliefs. Even when friends DO attempt to disable and discourage destructive behavior of other friends, they’re not trained how. They most likely don’t have permission and could risk losing the friend if the friend isn’t ready or willing to change. They’re further compromised by the “history and patterns” of communication in that friendship that allow each other to “get mad,” “hang up the phone,” “storm out of the room,” or resort to a “what about YOU” deflection! They know too much about each other to have a good chance of keeping the conversation about the one thing that needs to be addressed.
It would be too easy to just say, coaching is a profession and friendship is not. It would be too easy to say that it’s not coaching UNLESS you pay for it and it’s not friendship IF you pay for it. It’s funny AND easy to say that there’s no Professional Friends Association that advances the “practice, purpose, or profession” of friendship (that’s why I said it twice…in case you didn’t laugh the first time). Those distinctions are enough to make the claim that coaching is NOT friendship..
What’s difficult is knowing how alike friendships and coaching could be if they WERE allowed to merge or be equated. It’s difficult knowing that our best and closest friends have no idea what pain we’re in or how to empower us to achieve more. That not even our spouses/best friends will pay 100% attention to US and ONLY OUR NEEDS for 60 minutes straight. It’s difficult to know that as a coach, I know my clients better than their closest friends and most historic relationships. And it’s difficult to earn that knowledge and trust because I believe that to enroll clients in coaching you must befriend them. If you can enroll them without befriending them, I challenge you to support them on their goals without their feeling befriended OR motivated to befriend you, their “coach.” When you help someone the way Get a Klu Coaches are trained to help, your prospects and clients will truly feel loved and find the word “coach” to be inadequate for what you mean to them.
While I maintain that coaching is NOT friendship, I hope I’ve been clear to AVOID saying that coaching CANNOT BE friendship or that coaching is NEVER friendship! It would be wonderful if they could “be a little more like each other.” And the love required of both Coaching and Friendship brings these two relationships into valid comparison.
As we “Mind the Gap” of differences between Coaching and other things it could be mistaken for we have begun with Therapy, Athletics and Friendship. If asked, I’ll love to produce a Part 2 for Funnel Magazine that compares Coaching to Mentoring, Consulting, and Training.
In the meanwhile, if you’re curious to experience what “Get A Klu Coaching” is all about, please visit our website and look for the “Two Complimentary Sessions” link and we will LOVE to hear from you!
To Your Success!
Jeffrey Klubeck, M.A.
Founder/President, Get A Klu, Inc.
Articles By The Author