To see a Coach or a Psychologist?

I often speak to people who are having some difficulties in their lives and are not sure whether they should see a psychologist or a coach, so I thought it might be helpful for me to explain what each does and how each may be able to help you.

Coaches

There are many different types of coaches out there, from life coaches to executive coaches to health coaches and they all offer something unique. One of the things that most if not all coaches offer is that they focus on goal attainment. When you see a coach, they will focus on what you need to do to achieve your goals and help you figure out what your goals are if you haven’t got that far yet. They won’t tend to spend a lot of time talking to you about the past and how you got to where you are because they are very much future-focused. Coaching sessions are often slightly longer than psychology sessions, but there is usually more time between appointments, often 4-6 weeks. The coaching session is seen as the planning stage and the real transformation happens between appointments when you set to making the changes you agreed upon.

Unfortunately, the coaching industry is not regulated so anyone can call themselves a coach. Because of this it is important that before you engage with one you make sure you check their qualifications and ask them about their experience in working with someone in a similar situation to you.

You should see a coach if you have a goal in mind such as increasing good habits like exercise or decreasing bad habits like smoking, or you feel stuck and believe you could be doing more with your life. Coaches can help if your career has plateaued and you want help in getting to the next level or if you need functional support in getting a business off the ground.

Psychologists

Like coaches, there are ‘types’ of psychologists – clinical psychologists, organisational psychologists, sports psychologists to name a few, but there are also a lot who are general psychologists. This doesn’t mean they haven’t specialised in a particular area in their studies – they may have completed their master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, for example, but have just chosen not to become endorsed in that area. Most of the psychologists you will go to see will either be clinical psychologists or general psychologists. Psychologists have to have completed 6 years of study and the Psychology Board has strict criteria for maintaining registration, so you can be sure that if you go to see a Psychologist, they definitely have the qualifications.

Psychologists tend to use a lot of talk therapy, meaning they will allow you the time to talk about the problems you have experienced, and sometimes this is the most beneficial thing we can do. They will then use validated tools to help you deal with the issues from the past and move forward. Unlike coaching, most of the work happens within the session, which is why regular sessions weekly or fortnightly are most beneficial.

Hopefully that clarifies somewhat the differences between the two professions. Whilst there is some cross-over, there are also a great many differences so it’s important for you to know what you need before making the decision.

As for me, I’m both a psychologist and a coach. I was always much more interested in mental wellbeing than mental illness, which was why I studied Organisational Psychology where I was able to learn about positive psychology and coaching. I have the goal-centric approach of a coach, with the qualifications of a psychologist, which means I bring the science of psychology to coaching. If you’re interested in finding out more, or need help in deciding whether a coach or psychologist would be best suited for you, feel free to give me a call for a confidential discussion, or book in for a free 15 minute session through my website.

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