Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Coaching Arrives at Harvard

For those of us who believe in the value of coaching, and who are frankly excited to be part of a burgeoning field, the moment is well worth noting.

An Institute of Coaching, the first within an academic setting, has been founded at the McLean Hospital in Boston. Affiliated with the Harvard Medical School the Institute will conduct research into the effectiveness of coaching. Link here.

The Institute is being supported by philanthropist and coach Ruth Ann Harnisch of the Harnisch Family Foundation.

While executive and business coaching does not really need academic credentials, life coaching does. A profession's credibility and prestige determine who will and will not seek it out. If coaching can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the academic community, that it is effective, people will be more likely to trust the advice that coaches offer.

In the past psychotherapists never gave advice. Their focus was relentlessly inward... toward the mind, its fantasies, thoughts, and feelings.

In fact, if your therapist offered advice, the conventional wisdom declared that this was suggestion and manipulation and that you should run, not walk, to the nearest blank screen.

As long as the practice of psychotherapy limited itself to exploring the past and pretending to accumulate insights into why things were going wrong, it did not really work. And yet, its practitioners often had advanced degrees, either in medicine or psychology, and used those credentials to pretend that what they were doing was science and medicine.

When it came to psychoanalysis, they used their credentials to convince patients that if they did not get well then they were simply bad patients.

More than that, until recently psychotherapy was the only game in town. Life coaching is a relatively recent phenomenon; it has had difficulty establishing itself because most people have thought it was simply a rehash of New Age nostrums.

Now that is changing. This blog has tried to keep you all apprised of the movement in the direction of coaching.

I am happy to link Boston Globe article by Elizabeth Cooney about the new Institute of Coaching and the way that coaching is beginning to be taken seriously as an alternative to therapy. Link here.

As you will see in Cooney's article, coaching is beginning to receive a better and more precise conceptual focus.

As I have often mentioned, and as Cooney's interlocutors affirm, coaching directs people to the future, not the past. It concerns changes in behavior and conduct, not insight into psychic conflict. It is about getting you into your life, not getting you into your mind.

As Coney reports, when you undergo a drastic life-change, whether it is a psychic trauma or a bad medical diagnosis, you will need a coach to help you navigate your way through your new life.

The practice works well as an adjunct to medical treatment because physicians recognize that it is one thing to tell a person to get fit and to eat well; quite another to help them to effect the kinds of lifestyle changes that will make this a reality.

When a patient receives a soul-shattering and life-changing diagnosis, physicians are more than happy to refer to a coach who can help the patient reconstruct her life and navigate her new reality.

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