I described here how I came to counselling and later coaching from a background in philosophy. Today I want to:
Below I have drawn a diagram which distinguishes coaching, counselling, and clinical psychology from one another. It also shows areas of overlap between them. You can see that some counsellors work with issues that cross-over with clinical psychology. And some that some areas of coaching and counselling cross over.
Counselling is a discipline which focuses on insight, on understanding what is going on within you and around you. It is about navigating your emotional life and relationships. It can be relatively brief and practical in orientation, or it can be deep ongoing therapy.
Clinical psychology and psychiatry treat psychological disorders, address trauma, provide assessments and diagnoses, and manage risks. They may involve counselling or psychotherapy as well.
In coaching people are guided to take stock of their life, clarify their goals, and pursue clearly-defined change. Coaching usually focuses on a specific area in which the coach becomes an expert helper. For example I have carried over my therapeutic skills in helping people renovate, so to speak, their thinking and feeling and behaviour, into a coaching format to help professionals better succeed and flourish.
As I mentioned, certain areas of counselling overlap with clinical psychology. Counsellors who work at that end of the spectrum are mental health practitioners. While many counsellors become are funneled into that approach, as I was early on when working with suicide prevention services, I made a decision based on my long-term trajectory that that was wrong for me. Treating mental illness is not what lights my fire. Nor do I engage in deep psychotherapy for trauma, personality disorders or the like. Rather, I work in the zone covered by the green line below. So what do I actually do?
The are four key ingredients: counselling, and coaching - which constitute the framework in which I practice - and philosophy, and positive psychology - which I use to guide my clients and I.
A hundred years ago if you were struggling with some challenge in life you might go see a priest. As a good pastoral carer they would listen with empathy, help you to understand your situation, and use their training and professional experience to offer guidance. In our secular society the counsellor has replaced the priest, just as philosophy and science have replaced religion for many individuals. People come to me for a few sessions or a few months, whether weekly or fortnightly, while some come for years for a monthly reflection. These people do not need a clinical psychologist or deep psychotherapy. They are not coming because of a mental illness. Instead they want to work through the difficult things in their life, just as we all need to. And they want to gain insight into themselves. And into life, in order to live meaningfully. And they want to flourish. And to grow as a person.
Many people see a trainer for their physical strength and well-being. The trainer has the knowledge you need, provides the structure where change actually happens, and may motivate you and keep you accountable. Coaching is like that training, but for your mind and heart, and for your life as a whole. Coaching can be one-on-one, and look rather like a counselling session, however whereas counselling gains its power through a very open exploration of your concerns (because often we do not understand ourselves and our problems as well as we thought, and counselling helps us to see better), coaching is more focused on specific outcomes. As mentioned, I help professionals, including entrepreneurs and project leaders, change their mindset.
Counselling and coaching is the framework for what I do. The other ingredient is the content, the disciplines I draw on to guide people. I use philosophy and positive psychology.
I wrote about philosophy here and here. Philosophy in counselling and coaching is for people who take responsibility for their life but need guidance to improve. Philosophy helps you to develop your vision and your values. It is for people who want to experience a deeper sense of meaning, and develop a better vision for life. It is about living with purpose, creating happiness, flourishing, and benefiting the world around you.
I combine philosophy with its scientific sibling, positive psychology. Philosophy provides the vision and positive psychology offers the what and how to get there. A core practice of mine, which is rooted in positive psychology and philosophy, is helping people to use their strengths and values,and based on that to design a vision and make it real. The beauty of this is that the vision, and the energy to pursue it, come from within you. I am not imposing my own vision on you, even if I challenge you to reflect harder and take certain things into account, based on my professional insight. A decade of therapeutic work has taught me that there is much more wisdom, goodness, and potential in people than they realise, and has taught me how to see it in the person before me. Positive psychology studies such things, and how we can make them real in our lives in ways that are proven to work through research. I find joy in helping people to harness their strengths and values to create something wonderful.
So in summary I practice a combination of counselling and coaching - with the emphasis more on one, or the other, depending on a client's needs - and draw on philosophy and positive psychology to guide our work. People come seeking greater direction and purpose, and wanting to become stronger, better individuals. Some are stuck in various ways, others simply have a positive desire. As with the artwork at the beginning of this reflection, I cannot do the work for you, but if you are willing to carry your pack and walk the miles, I will be there alongside you, working hard with my knowledge and skills to guide you to your goals.