The goal of my service is to help you increase your direction and purpose in life. It is also to help you develop your strengths and character to flourish and to serve others better. I do these things by helping you to build a vision based on your strengths and values, and helping you draw on those to create those things. My way of working is determined by what best achieves those goals. I wrote here about my work, and I described how I came to counselling and later coaching from a background in philosophy here, and today I
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 - say a few sessions or a few months. Or it can be deep ongoing psychotherapy, weekly sessions for years to address structural psychological problems or deep trauma.
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.
As I mentioned, certain areas of counselling overlap with clinical psychology. Counsellors who work at that end of the spectrum are mental health practitioners. The first point I want to make is that I am not a mental health practitioner. Nor do I engage in deep psychotherapy. I set out in the opening three sentences what I do as a counsellor and coach, and if you read that again you will see that it is different. 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 has 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. 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 life, and they want to create change in order to flourish and improve 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 may spend a lot of time on your emotions, in coaching we focus on using my knowledge and skills to find direction, and create structure and change, while being led by clearly defined goals. In coaching I also design guided courses for small groups of people, to change specific areas of their life.
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. Philosophical 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 be drawn forward by a better vision for life. It is about living with purpose, creating happiness, 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, 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. A decade of therapeutic work has taught me that there is much more wisdom, goodness, and potential in people than they realise. Positive psychology studies such things and how we can make them real in our lives. 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. Those who are suited to my help are willing to do the work, and from me they seek guidance and support to make that happen. 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.