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CHOOSING A COACH

"When choosing a personal or executive/business coach, clients should ask questions about experience and expertise."

-- Pat Seaver, Feb. 2003

Life Coaching: A Resource for Positive Changes

The practice of professional life coaching emphasizes action, growth and utilization of personal strengths. Many theories and techniques used in coaching to achieve more functional and satisfying lives are drawn from psychology, clinical social work, mentoring, and organizational development. With the focus on the future, a coach works with a motivated client to identify and clarify important goals and to create a strategy or "action plan" to reach these goals. In partnership with the client, the coach provides a framework for support, education, and skill-building. A successful outcome is positive and sustained change in the client's personal or professional life and an increased sense of balance and satisfaction.

Coaching and psychotherapy differ in many ways. Coaching focuses on mental health not on treating mental illness. The assumption in coaching is that the client is able to take actions which will move him/her further in a positive transition process. Much of coaching takes place on the telephone not in an office setting. The coach may teach skills in communication or problem-solving and suggest tasks to gather information needed for decision-making or behavioral change.

Psychotherapy is a health care service. Its primary purpose is to identify, diagnose and treat nervous and mental disorders. The goal is to alleviate symptoms by understanding the underlying illness or personality dynamics and to change dysfunctional behaviors.

Like a psychotherapist, a coach should have professional experience and credentials, and training to be a coach. Professional ethics, strict adherence to confidentiality, and a good rapport are also necessary qualities. When choosing a personal or executive/business coach, clients should ask questions about experience and expertise. Confidence in the coach's knowledge and interpersonal skills is a strong foundation for a successful outcome.

Editorial published in newspapers in Essex and Union Counties February, 2003 by Patricia J. Seaver, MSW, DCSW