Coaching and Therapy for Improved Performance
Psychotherapy has been around for many years; however the concept of coaching has gained increased recognition in the last 20 years, coming into common usage in many areas of our personal and professional life.
Some will say that the primary function of therapy is to create a context in which healing may take place. The idea that therapy assumes is the following: “symptoms or behavioural patterns need to be changed, which means that something in the client needs to be healed.” While the primary function of coaching is: “to create a context in which life and performance enhancement may take place,” the idea behind coaching is that it assumes the client to be already high functioning and is capable of taking consistent action steps towards their life vision. Nonetheless it claims that clients with a psychiatric diagnosis can also benefit from coaching, as long as they show the ability to make progress toward their coaching goals as well as actively managing any symptoms. (Source: Benham, Kathey).
In our rapidly changing world many professionals are learning to recognize the importance of combining therapy with coaching, thus are able to provide their clients with a well-rounded approach that is more suitable for our century.
The ability to combine well-established therapeutic methods with the ongoing evolving coaching ones can help many therapists to better help their clients. Nonetheless, integrating coaching methods into the therapeutic tool kit may help the client feel less of a ‘patient’ with a mental disease and feel more hopeful towards the path to healing.
The idea behind both concepts is to adopt a tailored approach, whereby two individuals come to an agreement to work together in order to achieve a desired outcome(s). It is not confined to a single track, and can take the most appropriate route to the desired destination. It focuses on the individual's needs and requirements, aiming to create the most flexible and tailored 'program' possible.
The term ‘Coaching’, as you may imagine, is borrowed from sports, where successful sports figures hire a personal coach to closely work with them on becoming the best they can be. This requires a close and intense psychological and physical training, and the results speak for themselves.
It is not surprising, therefore, that people have recognized the need for a similar approach in the business environment as well. In a rapidly changing world and increasingly unpredictable financial markets, there is much focus on generating ongoing improvements. As our opportunities develop so do expectations; it has become, in the perception of many, crucial to our success that we become the best we can.
Pros and cons
There is enough supporting evidence to show that when a person engages himself in working with a therapist or a coach to improve performance in the area of their choice, the benefits are:
- Increased level of performance
- Reduced level of stress
- Achieving things that were considered impossible
- Develop a level of mastery over behaviour and produce results
-The individual will develop more awareness for their thoughts and emotions
- Body - postures, movements, position, walking and so on
- Instincts, intuition, gut feeling and body sensations
- Improved ability to relate to people in a more positive way
- Improved ability to communicate better, to express feelings and thoughts and to have open, direct end authentic conversations
- Improved ability to be more comfortable and at ease with self and others
The coaching and therapy approach have shown that engaging in any one of the methodologies can be used as a motivational tool. It causes the individual to develop a greater sense of his goals and desires; while the coach provides a sounding board to the person he coaches.
The effectiveness of coaching and therapy (counselling) has caused companies to hire therapists and coaches for various reasons, primarily due to the understanding of how important it is to maintain the mental well being of their executives. Coaching and Counselling Programs have been praised by many individuals as a safe place to vent and talk about pressing work problems. This is particularly the case for those who are isolated in their organizational hierarchy and feel pressed into a role that belies their true feelings. Outwardly they have to be a model for the company, but inwardly, they could be seething at injustices, unethical behaviour and consequences from emotionally immature people that they have to work with. Spouses and friends seldom understand the complex processes of the management task, and probably do not have the expertise to advise the right course of action.
Sharing anxieties or concerns with colleagues or subordinates however, can be fatal for career development within the organization. It has been shown that unless properly addressed, the results of this stress can accumulate, which can lead to physical and mental ill-health, depression, poor judgment, premature aging, and unemployment, involuntarily or voluntary – sometimes euphemistically referred to as ‘early retirement’.
Having a safe place to go to is crucial for executives. Company Human Resource departments and Employee Assistance Programs are offering more and more executive counselling and coaching has become so popular that HR departments hire coaches and therapists in order to increase productivity, reduce stress, increase performance and maintain a satisfying level of success over time. A manager utilizing this service can usually be more effective with staff and learns/uses coaching skills that work in the corporate setting. An executive wants to extend his/her ability to sense and see trends and opportunities that lie beyond the reported data.
However despite the great advantages of life coaching there are some 'pitfalls' one has to recognize:
1. Coaching or therapy may require an element of confrontation between, and for, the coach/therapist and the client. If not careful, for example, in many coaching areas, coaches reinforce inquiry into 'what is missing', leaving people with a feeling that there is something wrong with them or in their life.
2. Another aspect can be using different kinds of manipulations (in most cases unconscious) by the coach/therapist, to carry on the work.
3. A danger in becoming dependent upon your coach is focusing on present and past situations without recognition and acknowledgement of the past. Inadequate coaches who may engage in a power struggle, be opinionated, or 'know-it-all', or not aware of the necessary key insights and success principles.
4. Some see coaching/therapy as time consuming but this is a huge misconception. True, change and adjusting to new way of thinking and being, takes time. However, a time well spent in coaching can help the client save wasted hours and wasted energy in the future –not to mention the increased ability to reduce and monitor stress and work performance. However, having a coach/therapist requires a recognition that we are not omnipotent, sometimes we cannot do it all, and it would be nice to have someone to have therapy with, or be coached by in order to resolve life challenges or become the best that we can.
There are many components to look for when considering the use of a therapist or a coach. These can be grouped into three broad categories.
Does the person you choose to work with have good listening skills, empathy and rigour in balance? Do you feel comfortable with them? Do you feel you can share personal and professional information? Is s/he focusing on helping you achieving your desired outcomes, as well as your personal development? Is the person you choose to work with aware that s/he doesn't know it all, but still has the skills to facilitate your progress? Ensure s/he doesn't impose his/her opinion or ideas and above all makes you recognize the things about yourself that are in the way of achieving your goals. These are only some of the qualities your coach/therapist should possess.
This part relates primarily to coaching:
As yet there are no rules and regulations with regard to becoming a coach. These are some very good coaches who do not have a degree. However, it may be useful to know that your coach has a degree. This is because of all the implications, learning and experience that are attached to it. In terms of life and work experience is the person a living example of his work? Is a/he experienced in his/her field of coaching or at least have the relevant skills, knowledge, key insights and the principles of success? Experience should include previous coaching experience
I.e. is this person actually facilitating you in taking the necessary actions (this is usually referred to in the coaching process) or in getting out of the state you are in and helping you feel and be better (this is usually referred to in the therapy process)?
There is no hard science to choosing a coach/therapist. In an exploratory interview ask questions based on the experience and qualities you want, listen to the answers, look at the body language and don't be afraid to follow your intuition.
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