A question that always comes up from people interested in becoming a coach is: What is the difference between a psychology coach and a psychologist? The answer to this question falls into three areas: focus, training, and regulation. These are important distinctions with legal implications.
Coaches Are Future Focused
In general, a psychology coach is future focused. They want to know where you are, where you want to be, and how to get you there. They don’t look into the past. They don’t really care how you got here. And while they often help you to get past sticking points, they NEVER try to cure you of anything.
In contrast, psychologists and other psychology professionals usually focus on the past to understand how you got to where you are. Then they often try to help you relive those experiences in an effort to help you draw new conclusions from those old experiences. From these new conclusions, the idea is to build a new present and a new future. There is, of course, a lot more to it than that, but a big difference is future versus past focus.
Psychology Professionals Follow Highly Structured, Standardized Training
In the not too distant past, the science of psychology was highly controversial. As psychology became more accepted as a legitimate science, and different schools of thought were established, formal training programs were established.
Coaching, on the other hand does not have formal training requirements. It is up to the would-be coach to select a training program that addresses their area of interest and to determine if the program they are considering meets their content and quality requirements.
So Is the Psychology Coach Regulated Like a Psychologist?
In many states and for many branches of the psychology professions, state governments test practitioners and license them. A psychiatrist for example is a medical doctor who has specialized in a particular branch of medicine like surgery or cardiology.
On the other hand, the psychology coach is not regulated at all. Hang up your shingle, and you are in business. You are only limited by your integrity. And with that, the burden falls back on you. It falls to you, the would be psychology coach, to choose the match between your interests and your clients; to determine the best ongoing training program that will prepare you now but will also there for you in the future; and to establish your own high professional standards.
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JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach