I am often asked what the difference is between coaching, counselling and psychotherapy and which type of help is best for what type of problem. Having spent most of my life with individuals in either a therapeutic or coaching capacity, I know only too well how important it is to get the right help at the right time.
For the average person it can all seem like a bit of a minefield – coaching, counselling, cognitive-behaviour therapy, psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry – how are you supposed to know? I have come across people in counselling who were obviously coaching clients and also those who had signed up for coaching but whose emotional baggage meant that counselling was the only really useful option.
Let’s look at the type of people involved in the various forms of helping, what they can and cannot do and how coaching, counselling and psychotherapy can help.
So what’s in a name?
Psychiatrist – you can become a psychiatrist only if you are a medical doctor who has undertaken further specialist training in psychiatry. Psychiatry is concerned with the diagnosis and drug-treatment of mental illness. What often surprises many people is the fact that a psychiatrist is not a therapist and does not have to undertake any training in psychological therapies. A psychiatrist needs to satisfy him or herself of the type of mental illness a person is experiencing and may, after the initial assessment, refer the person on to a therapeutic practitioner such as a clinical psychologist or counsellor.
A number of psychiatrists do undertake additional training in one of the psychological therapies but do so as a matter of personal choice. You cannot assume that all psychiatrists have such training. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is the professional body for psychiatrists in the UK.
Psychologist – is normally used to describe an individual who has obtained an academic psychology degree. A Psychology degree does not equip an individual with the practical skills to help people. Once an individual has obtained his or her degree the next step is to choose a vocationally based qualification such as counselling. This is why you will hear terms such as clinical psychologist, educational psychologist and counselling psychologist as each term acknowledges that the person concerned has undertaken further specialist training in a given area. The specialist body for psychologists is the British Psychological Society.
Counsellor – is the name given to a person who practises one or more of many different types of therapeutic intervention. Counselling training can vary from a basic two-year part-time diploma up to higher level degrees. Many counsellors build on basic diploma level qualifications with advanced certificates such as MAs. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy is the main professional body for counselling and psychotherapy in the UK.
Psychotherapist – is the usual term to describe a person whose training has equipped the individual to work with deep-seated emotional difficulties. In many instances you will find that a psychotherapist may also be a counsellor as it is not uncommon to train in counselling first and then to move on to more advanced forms of psychotherapy training. There are a number of bodies that represent psychotherapy in the UK, the two lead bodies being the BACP and the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP).
Coach – a coach is a person who seeks to assist an individual set and achieve their own personal goals. A coach may use one of a number of names to denote the type of coaching offered such as Life or Executive Coach. There are currently three major general bodies for coaching: The Association for Coaching, the International Coaching Federation and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council.
Next time I’ll talk about the different types of help offered by each person.