Pick Your Teachers Carefully – Choosing a Coach or Therapist

choose a coach or therapitI have hesitated all week about writing this but I keep getting messages that reinforce my message, so please indulge my personal story. You see, I have a goal that I need help and support to achieve. I reached out to a coach that specializes in that area. We held an exploratory call that I thought would determine if we were a good fit. Looking back, he said it was to see if I qualified for his program. That should have been my first clue of what was to come.

To make a long story short, I told him what I thought I lacked in experience and information and he asked what problems that caused me. Because I was puzzled by the question, he rephrased by asking how it made me feel. I thought a minute – curious, excited, motivated to change, maybe a little frustration. I said, “I think I know what I need, I know I will find a solution, and I’m hoping you are part of that solution.” His response, “Well, I don’t think I can help you; you have what you need.”

Wait. What?

I tried to rephrase and explain I did not have the answers and I was hoping his program could provide them. Then I said I hoped I could learn from him. But I did say I was not in pain. I felt hopeful I would find a solution. He said again, “I can’t help you. You seem to have all the answers.”

This time, I agreed. He could not help me. I can’t speak for his thinking on the matter but I believe I encountered someone who needed me to need him desperately. Up to that point, I think he tried to put me in a state of need – trying to qualify for his program – and not once had he qualified himself to me.

Coach or Therapist?

There is so much noise in the media by coaches and other gurus who promise success, wealth, fame, love, and more. You have a problem, there’s someone selling the solution. Be very careful of big promises – you don’t always get what you want. They’ll have a solution alright, but it might not be the solution you need.

A Good Coach

A good coach can help you reach a specific goal through action – they have a plan for you to follow – you follow their steps, you should achieve your goal. If a step doesn’t work for you, a good coach will help tailor it to your needs. An inadequate coach will insist you conform or possibly shame you for failing when in actuality, the coach failed you.

A Good Therapist

A good therapist also can help you reach a specific goal but has the skill and training to explore more deeply to help you root out core issues that are getting in your way.

Here’s an example of the difference:

I came across a newsletter by someone whose books I have read. This person’s post said, “The antidote to anxiety is action.” That’s true – sometimes and, maybe. If I worry about what I owe on my taxes this year, the best thing I can do is get my paperwork in line, send it to my accountant, and get it done.

Sometimes, however, quelling anxiety by taking action “feeds the beast” and reinforces anxiety. A person with an anxiety disorder can relieve their immediate anxiety by taking action but that relief is temporary and it only reinforces the belief that action is THE antidote. For people with an anxiety disorder, learning to manage uncomfortable feelings, which naturally come up from time to time, is more helpful. A therapist can help you explore tools for managing uncomfortable feelings and also help you root out the core beliefs that might be the source of your pain. In addition, a good therapist listens to you, learns about your goals and aspirations, comes to understand your strengths and weaknesses, and builds a plan tailored to you and you alone.

I’m not saying there are not bad therapists; unfortunately, there are. And not every good therapist is good for every person. But therapists have to qualify by getting licensed by state governments. We have to train for years during internships and residencies before we practice independently. Even after beginning independent practice, we answer to governing boards to oversee ethical practices and discipline ethical complaints.

How to Choose a Coach or Therapist

How do you find a good therapist, coach, or teacher?

  1. Check their credentials and background. Are they licensed? In what capacity? How long have they been in practice? Do they have specialized training for your specific needs? Do they answer to an outside governing board? Do they have a proven record of success with others?
  2. Look for someone with whom you have some rapport, someone you feel comfortable speaking with, someone you trust to maintain your story in confidence.
  3. Consider the nature of the relationship. Do they ask relevant questions? How well do they listen to you? When they respond, do you feel heard and understood? Over time, do you feel challenged to grow and change without feeling shamed? Are you safe to disagree with them? Do they seem open to hearing your thoughts and opinions that differ from theirs?
  4. Finally, as therapy proceeds, are you learning and growing? Can you apply what you learn outside of therapy? Are you given advice or are you encouraged to find your own answers?

If your answers to these questions indicate you are in a collaboration with someone who is open to and respectful of your needs and that you are growing in a way that allows for your own independence, you likely have a good fit and are in a good place.

In our office, we have excellent therapists who are GA-licensed and board certified. Our therapists follow the ethical guidelines of our professions and the Licensing Boards of the state of Georgia. We work in collaboration with each other and other peers and seek ongoing training to insure we can provide evidence-based. state of the art cutting edge therapies that work. Please give us a call if you would like us to help you or your loved ones.