How do I know what would be most useful, therapy or coaching? Is there a difference? Can I do both?
My thoughts around these choices are exactly that. They are a choice that is open to each individual. It will depend on many factors and will be an individualised decision to make. If you are uncertain of which to choose, you might find it helpful to chat with a coach and or therapist. Ask them some questions, tell them what you are hoping to achieve at the end of your time with them. They should be able to guide you and you will also get a sense of who you feel most comfortable with.
A simple differentiation is:
The focus of therapy is around healing. To heal the suffering caused from past or present experiences. Exploring how those experiences have and continue to impact you. Therapy may also support you to identify and work through any challenges or barriers that are interfering with your quality of life. These challenges may be preventing you from creating the change you are seeking. Therapy can provide you with the support, tools and strategies for self-reflection, as well as embracing and working through your feelings.
There are various approaches and specialty areas to therapy. People choose therapy for many reasons, dependant on their needs, preferences and past experiences. They might choose a specialist to address specific concerns or experiences or a more generalist approach. Therapists may support individuals, couples and/or families. They may specialise in specific age groups, such as children, adolescents, adults or elderly.
Examples of other specialist areas of therapy may be:
- Grief & Loss
- Mental health
- Alcohol and drug use
- Workplace issues
- Sexuality and gender identity (LGBTIQA+)
- Chronic pain or health conditions
- Family violence
- Sexual Assault
- Relationship/Marriage counselling
Therapists will have various different approaches to their sessions, utilising a range of skills. Some examples may be:
- Traditional talking therapies, using a variety of approaches (CBT, ACT, DBT, psychotherapy, etc.)
- Art Therapy
- Clay Therapy
- Music therapy
- Equine or animal therapy
Therapy may create space to allow personal growth, improve relationships and introduce or increase a sense of joy and fulfilment in life.
The focus of coaching is about growth and development. It may be personal and/or professional. It may be general or specific. A coach may support you in various areas of your life, depending on your requirements and the coach’s specific skills and experience. There are life coaches, business coaches, parent, health, wellness and nutrition coaches.
Examples may be to increase, introduce or improve some of the following:
- Work-life balance
- General health or a specific health condition
- Reaching your dreams
- Clarity in your life direction
- Business growth and development
- Professional growth. Perhaps you’re looking for that all-elusive promotion. A coach can support you to identify and conquer the barriers.
An important factor of both therapy and coaching is, you are in the drivers seat. Your coach or therapist will be guided by you and support you, in response to what they hear from you and what they observe. They may challenge you or encourage you to explore things more broadly, to enhance your experience or begin shifting away from a ‘stuck’ mindset.
Some questions you might ask yourself whilst deciding between therapy or coaching might be:
(Note: Brackets make suggestions on how you may decide, however, these are not concrete. Remember, it is an individual decision and there are so many other factors to consider)
- What experience and outcomes am I hoping for?
- What stage am I at on my journey? Am I ready to focus on some personal experiences that are impacting my life? (Therapy)
- Have I had some traumatic experiences that I would like to work through? (Therapy)
- Do I have a specific concern or experience I want to work through? (Therapy)
- Do I want to improve my mindset, approach and attitude towards something? Eg relationships, workplace experiences, parenting etc. (coaching)
- Do I want to repair my relationship with my child, or other family members (coaching would be very helpful, if you are ready, though therapy might be valuable if you’re still resistant)
- Would I like to improve my approach to health and wellness? (Coaching)
- Do I want to learn more and improve my nutrition and exercise habits? (Coaching)
- Am I happy with the way I use my time? Does it feel balanced? Am I feeling like I give more time to others than I do to myself? Is there enough ‘me, ‘relaxation’, ‘fun’ time in my life? (Coaching)
- Am I feeling stuck in my life? Am I ready for a job or career change? (Coaching)
Coaching is about having someone walk a journey with you, towards the dreams and aspirations you have for yourself, your relationships, career, and health. A coach will provide you with a sense of accountability, support and encouragement. Your coach will also support you to identify your life’s vision, and the pathway to achieve it. They will encourage you to see and keep in touch with the big picture, whilst identifying the method or plan on how to get there.
It can be difficult to choose a coach or therapist. There are many approaches you can take. You can search the Internet, however, it can also be overwhelming and yet another task on your list. If you decide to search the Internet, it might be helpful to think about some of the points mentioned above. Are you looking for something specific? Do you have a preference around style? Do you feel comfortable just talking, or would you like other options? If you have the opportunity, it can be a lot more reliable to ask friends, colleagues or family members. Word of mouth is often much more reliable.
When you’ve narrowed down your list, you can give your potential coach or therapist a call and have a bit of a chat with them. Trust your instinct. Who feels right for you? Obviously people are busy, but a brief chat with you can make a difference for you both, increasing the chances of a successful relationship. Remember, if, after a session or two, it doesn’t feel right, you are completely within your rights to find a new therapist or coach. It is important that it feels right for you. A professional will not take it personally. They know it is important to feel like there is a connection. It is, after all, a human interaction. We wouldn’t stay friends with someone that we had no connection with. A coach or therapist can also do the same. If they feel like it is not a good fit, they will let you know, so you can get the most out of your experience as possible.
What does this mean for you, if you are a parent of an LGBTIQA+ child and you’re struggling to understand or properly connect with them? If your relationship with them has deteriorated since finding out? Or if you are feeling lost, overwhelmed and out of your depth, and want to do all the ‘right things’, but don’t really know what they are? Well, you may even find yourself someone who is trained in both areas, as I am, and if that’s the case then you have the best of both worlds and don’t really need to decide. However, I would suggest the most important aspect to be looking out for, would be a person’s level of experience, understanding and interest in the LGBT+ community and supporting parents on this journey. Unfortunately, this is not an area that people often include in their marketing, as there is always limited space. Therefore, it may take a little extra research and delve a bit deeper into a person’s strengths. Don’t be put off by this though, it definitely worth asking a few extra questions.
Good luck and remember, trust yourself.
*** Please Note: As a trained and experienced Social Worker, Health and Wellness Coach and Life Coach, I am in the privileged position to be able to offer both coaching and/or therapeutic approaches within sessions, as deemed beneficial. However, boundaries, authenticity and professional integrity are very important to me, therefore, I am very clear to ask permission first, if I feel like it may be of benefit.
If you’d like to know more, please feel free to ask. Send me a message or email and I would be more than happy to answer your questions to assist you in making the right decision for you, your family and your situation. Please also keep in mind, my Facebook group is a great place to find out extra information and perhaps even get some tips on helpful strategies and/or recommendations for professionals. Click on this link to join – Parents of a Rainbow