Friday, May 29, 2015

A Psychiatrist Becomes a Life Coach

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.

9 comments:

Dennis said...

May be I have a strange sense of humor, but it strikes me interesting that "therapists" breaks out to be" the rapists" when one adds a space after the e. After the "recovered memories syndrome, et al, the number of people who have been sent to jail over crimes they did not commit and the damage done by the profession as a whole one might see how this applies especially given Freud's obsession with sex as the reason for much of human interaction. I wonder if there is something very freudian about that?

Ares Olympus said...

It does seem being a coach offers a better possibility of job satisfaction than a therapist.

Is there a certification process? At least it seems the requirement for being a life coach might be to have a business card that says "Life Coach".

I wonder if you want to hire a life coach who has a lot of personal success in life or one who has a lot of personal failure in life? Arguments could be made both ways.

I might consider you want a coach who has made lots of little mistakes and scoped out the possibilities and can save you time by predicting most likely consequences of certain actions or inactions. And even if you don't follow the advice, you've got a road map to explain why you failed once again.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, what do you do for a living?

Anonymous said...

Thomas Szasz published The Myth of Mental Illness, Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct, in 1961. He correctly observed that mental disorders are diagnosed via methods that resemble moral judgments rather than via methods that resemble the valid identification of medical disease. Szasz, a champion of individual liberty and opponent of coercive psychiatric intervention, made his observations by comparing the methods applied in law, medicine, and so-called mental health treatment.

In so-called mental health treatment, as in law, there are patterns of behavior and moral interpretations of what these patterns of behavior mean. In medicine there are signs and symptoms of disease, tests for the presence or absence of disease, and the effort to confirm the presence or absence of a known disease, injury, or impairment.

In law the killing of another, described by a pattern of behavior resulting in a another person's death, is homicide. The meaning of this behavior, a normative judgment, can be an accident, negligence, criminal negligence, murder, defense of others, or self-defense. Thus in law, as in life, there are patterns of behavior and normative moral judgments concerning what these patterns mean.

In law the person who files a complaint is called the Plaintiff. Courts attempt to resolve complaints by providing remedies for acts of Defendants that are considered morally wrong or harmful to others.

In medicine the person who feels impaired, injured, or ill complains to the doctor.

In so-called mental health the complaint can be about oneself or about others.

In these complaint scenarios Szasz observes the cause of pain (motivating the complaint) can be a valid medical disease, or prevailing social conditions that would cause pain (domestic abuse, etc.), or painful personal memories. If you rule out medical disease then we are back to the legal model of patterns of behavior and an interpretation of what these patterns mean. Szasz says the mental health profession just invents names for certain patterns of behavior and calls them disorders to usurp the prestige of medical doctors, and when psychiatric treatments are coercive without due process of law, to usurp the moral authority of law.

Szasz said that people have problems in living and seek help from doctors and social workers in law and psychology. Social work (coaching, communicating) can be done without inventing the stigma of mental disease.

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, I'm a computer programmer, or software engineer if you believe my business card. I'm surprised I'm still needed after more than 20 years. At least I know who to blame if my code doesn't work.

Understanding systems makes for a good hobby while professional worrier might be closer to my true calling. Debugging human hubris would definitely be above my pay grade, but fact-checking is sometimes within my skillset.

Maybe I'll add "Life coach" and "Fortune teller" to my next business card, but I don't think I have the heart to charge any money for my expert services.

My free advice never seems to change "Get out of debt fool!" but this at least seems to be incompatible with parenthood.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ahh, yes. That explains everything. Are you certified?

Ares Olympus said...

IAC, Yep, I have an B.S. degree, and graduated debt free, unlike most of the current generation of BSer's going to college.

How about you? What's your expertise? OCD? Let's see, I'll guess Officer of Civilian Defense.
http://www.acronymfinder.com/OCD.html

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Naw, I never served in the military or civilian defense roles. I was half expecting you'd peg me with a Wikipedia reference for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Keep guessing...

In the meantime, you have a B.S. degree, which is a credential, but not a certification in anything. For example, I know lots of people with a B.S. in mechanical engineering who I wouldn't want working on anything mechanical. It's a degree. I have a B.A. in history. I am quite interested in history, but I wouldn't call myself a historian.

You see, my question was about whether you were certified in anything. To my mind, a college degree isn't a certification in anything -- it is merely a credential that you completed a field of academic study. For example, a law student may earn a J.D., but cannot be a practicing lawyer until he/she has passed the bar exam. There's a license to practice law, which may be viewed as a certification contingent on passing the bar exam. But it's difficult to "certify" an attorney, because it's mostly a subjective field that pretends to be objective. It's about presenting arguments, but a judge or jury is hardly "blind justice." That's why people don't know if they'll win a case even though the law is "clear."

So if you have "software engineer" on your business card, I assume you're a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) or some other acronymistically similar somethingerother for your field of expertise, right? Or that you're certified for programming at some threshold of accuracy or mastery in some programming language or system standard. Am I correct in that? You could have a bachelor's in horticulture for all I care. You asked about certifications... what are yours? I'm not aware of any certification in worrying, and I'm confident you cannot "debug" human nature. And your comment about comfort in knowing "who to blame" befits your commentary on this blog, often snide and small. Blaming is about being right, which is the booby prize... because one still has to lead their life, with all its attendant human zaniness. Yes, you could add "Fortune Teller" to your business card, but I suspect you'd fail quickly because (a) those in your professional interactions would see you as a quack and (b) any paying mystic clients seeking your insight into the future would walk away finding your worldview is quite bleak, which will likely not yield long-term customers.

So what are your certifications, Ares?

Ares Olympus said...

Hey IAC!

I'm surprisingly not certified in anything, and my employer never actually checked my degrees as real or completed, and I agree degrees don't tell much at all. I guess for small startup companies competence is measured in results, and I actually started by doing contract work for 6 years before being hired, so I could have been a High School dropout with a library card. I accidentally snuck through some gate in life that said I had to conform to succeed, so I try to remember others took a harder path. Maybe its white privilege for all I know.

And for my fortune teller skills, it's relatively simple in some areas. Like people who say they just need 20% more income to be happy I'd say are not very smart and most will end up unhappy. Is that too bold of me to predict?

On the other hand, I know if everyone lived like I do, the economy would collapse, and I'd lose my job.

Can you imagine if Reagan hadn't saved us from Carter's "Crisis of Confidence"? What if my home state of Minnesota's Walter Mondale had been elected on the promise to raise taxes to balance the budget? How would we have been able to delay our day of destiny for 40 years without Morning in America's debt economy?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morning_in_America

As Churchill said "The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." and "Never was so much owed by so many to so few"

Oh, right, he was predicting war, and then had to inspire his people to fight, so they would abandon him when the war was ended.

Do we really have to fight a war to unite?

Anyway, I'm still wondering how to get certified as a Life Coach. But I found it, although it's a school in California, big surprise!
http://www.lifepurposeinstitute.com/