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Life coaches can enhance therapy

May 5, 2015
by H. Steven Moffic, MD
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On your organizational staffs, do you have any life coaches? Do you have any relationships with life coaches outside of your organization? Consider the potential benefits.

Behavioral healthcare is a multidisciplinary field. It includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, addiction counselors, peer specialists and business people. Each has specific and overlapping sills designed to provide comprehensive care for patients' needs. One of the common overlapping skills is that of supportive psychotherapy.

Yet, over the last 20 years, another field has rapidly developed outside of behavioral healthcare that provides some related services: life coaching. It provides something like our traditional supportive psychotherapy to help people develop their skills and talents.

It took off during an economic downturn. Businesses started to do less in-house training, job security became more precarious, self-help was inadequate, and traditional mental healthcare help was perhaps too stigmatizing. The focus was on positive psychology rather than dysfunction.

Coaching is not considered to be a medical or psychiatric discipline. Being separate may be the major reason why coaching is not stigmatized like our field. In fact, specific sports coaches have long been valued by both the sports teams and the public for their on- and off-the-field guidance.

The drawback in this separation from state healthcare licensing and oversight is that the coaching field still functions a bit like the Wild West. Credentialing and training can vary enormously. There are several international organizations that have developed solid professional standards, such as the International Coaching Foundation and the International Coaching Association, which can be used to try to verify the professionalism of a life coach. For now, some degree of due diligence is indicated.

If we are open-minded and curious, maybe coaching can be of help to our field. Learn more about it if you are unfamiliar.

Here are some of the possible benefits:

  • Though coaches generally work in private practice, perhaps we can hire some of them, at least part-time, or at least use them as consultants;
  • Use coaching to help prevent or address the high rate of burnout in our clinicians;
  • Adapt some of their flexibility and positive goal setting for those we serve;
  • Reframe supportive psychotherapy as coaching; and
  • Ask them how we can make our field less stigmatized.

Perhaps we have not realized what we have been missing.


H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic

H. Steven Moffic, M.D. retired from the clinical practice of psychiatry and his tenured...

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