Apparently, life coaching is coming of age. In the course of an article explaining how mental health professionals, and psychiatrists in particular could learn from life coaches, Dr. Steven Moffic (via Dr. Joy Bliss at Maggie’s Farm) told of a psychiatrist who had turned to coaching:
A psychiatrist colleague recently retired but he turned to coaching as a second career because it emphasized the relationship he had valued most in his work as a psychiatrist. As an example, he finds that coaching is particularly relevant for dieting and exercise needed to reduce obesity. A late-career psychologist switched more and more to coaching techniques. Those who have had mental health care training can add depth to coaching that others may not be able to obtain.
Coaching seems to be a variant of what is called supportive psychotherapy. In the day, insight-oriented psychodynamic psychotherapy was considered the more prestigious treatment. It was obviously a derivative of psychoanalysis.
Moffic defined the two forms of therapy:
One of the overlapping skills these disciplines required was supportive psychotherapy. In contrast to insight-oriented, psychodynamic psychotherapy, supportive psychotherapy did not try to examine underlying conflicts that contributed to symptoms. Rather, it emphasized a casual and conversational interaction that focused on everyday life. The therapist could provide realistic praise, advice, guidance, and, at times, confrontation.
Supportive psychotherapy was most commonly provided for persons with severe and chronic mental illness in order to help such patients develop, or re-develop, life skills in relationships, work, and daily living. It was sometimes thought to be “second-rate” psychotherapy, especially compared with psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Moffic believes that an association with coaching might help psychiatry to overcome the stigma that is currently attached to it.
If stigma there is, it must have to do with two facts. First, that psychiatrists emphasize what is going wrong. They seem to believe that once they eliminate a mental pathogen all will be well. Second, psychiatrists increasingly limit their work to running a checklist and writing prescriptions. They do not really connect with their patients.
As Moffic noted, psychiatry directs its attention to mental disease and defects. Coaching works to help people to improve their ability to function in the world. It belongs to the realm of positive psychology.
In his words:
Curiously, mental health care services were available, but perhaps those seeking help felt stigmatized for therapy that seemed to address the normal challenges of life. Coaching focused on positive psychology rather than mental dysfunction.