Somebody recently asked me why I don’t become a licensed therapist. The short answer is, I just don’t want to. But a few years ago I spent some time wondering if I should. I was never really drawn to it, the field of coaching was always my interest, but the analytical me wondered if it would be a good idea to have another instrument in my tool box. I read some books on being dual certified. Having a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology I know the differences between coaching and therapy. Primarily, coaching focuses on the here and now, looking to the future, and therapy is a walk into the past to hopefully find healing there. Coaching is a detachment from our stories, and therapy is a walking into our stories with hopes to shift them. But there are those who remain in those stories for three or four decades never to find the other side… and there are some who don’t believe that talk therapy (which is only one modality for therapy) is useful for transformation at all.
I feel an enormous energetic difference in the two. Although I know the importance of therapy, I’ve engaged in it myself, I am not aligned with the energy of it. In other words, it’s a great place to visit, I just don’t want to live there with my work. So I made the decision to pursue no licensing in psychotherapy.
To me, coaching is not simply about putting our attention onto something (the wounds of the past) but creating a novel intention for building a new story. Any story we choose. It’s active, not passive. I have clients who also have psychotherapists, a great combination of tools I believe, and when they’re with me I don’t want to hear about their American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV diagnosis… It’s not relevant to the work we do together. An attachment to a label (“I’m bipolar” or “I’m ADHD” or any number of others) is an attachment to a story. And attachments keep us stuck, possibly within the very disease we’re trying to transcend. So I believe that seeing the therapist can be critical to well-being, but detaching from the story, even if for only an hour a week, can be critical to transformation into something beyond a label. That’s my personal point of view and that of many transpersonal psychologists.
Deepak Chopra in his book, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, writes:
Consciousness orchestrates its activity in response to both attention and intention. Whatever you put your attention on becomes energized. Whatever you take your attention away from dwindles. On the other hand, intention is the key to transformation, as we have seen. So you could say that attention activates the energy field, and intention activates the information field, which causes transformation.
It’s up to us, and transformation requires both.
A few years back, when I was considering the therapy piece, I read something in a book comparing the two. Can’t remember the name of the book; I’ve read too many. It said, if you’re a therapist and you see your client in the grocery store, the ethical thing to do is to pretend not to know them. You shouldn’t touch them on the shoulder or let them know you care for them. There are no such restrictions with the field of coaching. I suppose because the field isn’t regulated by a national licensing board (yet) so there isn’t the cover-your-ass mentality. But the author said with coaching, if you see a client in the grocery store, go ahead and give them a hug if that’s your thing! Let them know you care for them. There’s nothing unethical about it in coaching. It’s no different from running into your accountant or your interior designer or your veterinarian. There’s no societally mandated instinct to hide the relationship with a coach…
It’s simplistic, I know, and I’m sure everyone has their own guidelines for how they run their practices. I’m certain there are psychotherapists out there who use the “L” word with their clients and I’m sure there are coaches who don’t say hi to a client in a grocery store. But I love being able to tell my clients I care for them! And that was the little concept that tipped the scales for me in my decision. It’s all about energy for me. One feels open and the other feels closed.
So, on this Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for work that is a pure expression of my energy, heart and soul. And I am so grateful for all of the incredible people who have worked with me over the past year. I’m thankful for YOU! You inspire me, you evolve me, you constantly affirm the magnificence of humanity. And I’m so thankful that I’m totally free to say it.