What is coaching?

Coaching is often misunderstood because the word “coaching” has existed longer than the coaching profession.  Also, many well-intended folks call themselves “coaches” without actually providing professional coaching. Therefore, many people think they’ve experienced the unique power of coaching when they haven’t, or they’re looking for something professional coaching doesn’t provide.

Coaching, as defined by the International Coach Federation, is a partnership between coach and client in “a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximize their personal and professional potential.” I often describe coaching as “the facilitation of self-discovery” in the client.

Professional coaches don’t tell — we ask.  We facilitate our clients’ growth through powerful questions, insightful observations and partnered accountability. Coaching is based on the notion that the client holds the insight and information they need – the coach simply helps them unlock or access it.

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? Or coaching and consulting?

In both consulting and mentoring, the consultant or mentor is the expert, and holds the power. They use their superior knowledge to provide advice to the client or mentee. In coaching, the power and knowledge lies within the client. You can read more in this article I wrote:  Coaching Is Not Mentoring: Underrepresented Employees Need Both.

Furthermore, I was trained in an approach that takes the idea of equity even further – that the coach can be just as transformed by the coaching relationship as the client! This doesn’t mean that a coaching session with me becomes about you helping me do my personal work!  It means you might notice me disclose personal information or express emotion more than some other coaches.

We may also do more therapeutic or transformational work than you might get with other coaches. This is driven by my gifts, my training as a trauma-informed practitioner, my training in Parts Work (based on Internal Family Systems) and my commitment to lasting change by addressing what’s really under a client’s current problem.

Is coaching like therapy or counseling?

Yes and no! I find that the best therapists are very coach-like, and the best coaching sessions feel like good therapy.  My style of transformative and therapeutic coaching can feel more like therapy than some other coaches’ style. In fact, one client describes my coaching as “work therapy”!

There are two main ways that coaching can differ from psychotherapy:

  1. Coaching is usually focused on the present and future; therapy is often focused on the past. (I tend to delve more into the past than many other coaches.)
  2. Coaching sessions typically end with an exploration of clear next steps and partnered accountability; therapy sessions usually doesn’t end with action items.

Here’s more detail from Kathy Benham and Susan Fox:

Primary Function: 

  • Therapy creates a context in which healing may take place. Therapy assumes that symptoms or behavioral patterns need to be fixed – that something in the client needs to be healed.
  • Coaching creates a context in which life and performance enhancement may take place (which, to be fair, can be healing!).  Coaching assumes that the client is high functioning and capable of taking consistent action towards realizing their goals.

Time Frame:

  • Therapy tends to work in the past to promote emotional healing or resolve psychological pain, or in the present to reduce symptoms or destructive patterns.
  • Coaching works in the critical gap between the present and the envisioned future.   In coaching, history is viewed as the map that brought the client to the present.

Do I have to be free of mental health issues or out of therapy to receive coaching?

Heck no! If that were true, I wouldn’t be able to receive coaching myself! Clients with a mental health diagnosis can benefit from coaching if they demonstrate the ability to make ongoing progress toward their coaching goals while managing symptoms.

If you choose to work with me, I’ll ask whether or not you’re seeing a therapist (or other healing practitioners), and it’s your choice whether or not to disclose. If you like, or if it seems important during our coaching relationship, you can give me written permission to connect with your therapist, but this is voluntary. If you express, or imply, an intent to harm yourself or others, I am required to report this to the proper authorities.

Coaches sometimes refer clients to other professionals for issues that are better suited to a clinical therapeutic relationship – but coaching can be an excellent supplement to coaching!  I also have a style of coaching that can go deeper, and be more therapeutic, than some other coaches’ style.

What do you mean, you’re a certified and credentialed coach?

I’m a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) and an Associate Certified Coach (ACC). To earn certification, I completed 125 hours of training by an Accredited Coach Training Program, was observed and graded by a mentor coach, passed an exam, and completed hours of experience. To earn a credential, I had to be mentored, observed, pass another exam and complete 100 coaching hours – this time, overseen by an international body called the International Coach Federation.

The process of certification and credentialing is similar to the way a counselor or therapist completes their training.  First they earn their Master’s degree, then have to pass an exam and accumulate hours to be licensed. Or how an attorney earns their JD degree, then has to pass the bar. However, not all certified coaches are credentialed, and coaching is unregulated, so neither coaching certification nor an ICF credential are required by law. (You can read more in this article I wrote: Coaching Is Not Mentoring: Underrepresented Employees Need Both.)

However, according to the latest ICF Global Consumer Awareness Study, clients who worked with an ICF credential holder were more likely to be satisfied with their coaching experience and recommend coaching to others, and 83% of coaching clients reported that it was important for coaches to hold a credential.  Discerning clients prefer to work with certified and credentialed coaches because of the training and evaluation requirements, the continuing education requirements, and the fact that we are held to the professional standards of the International Coach Federation (ICF) Code of Ethics.

I completed Leadership that Works’ year-long Coaching for Transformation program in 2014. It was an excellent fit for me, since (at the time), it was the only major coach training program that included diversity, equity, and social change in its curriculum and core values. Between classes, study, mentoring, and practice, I invested about 500 hours in my training alone! I earned my ACC credential in 2016 and successfully renewed in 2019.

What do you mean, you’re “trauma-informed”?

As a Certified Facilitator of The Resilience Toolkit, I am a trauma-informed practitioner. “Trauma-informed” means that an approach, modality or program adheres to six key principles outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The six principles are:

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness & transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration & mutuality
  5. Empowerment & choice
  6. Cultural, historical & gender issues

You can learn more about trauma, and how a trauma-informed approach can benefit you even if you don’t have a trauma history, on my trauma-informed coaching website, or on my Resilience Toolkit page.

Can you help me with stress, anxiety and resilience?

Yep! In fact, I’m a Certified Facilitator of The Resilience Toolkit, a body-focused, trauma-informed set of eight practices that can calm the nervous system in under a minute. The practices are informed by 13 different scientific models, including research that is still ongoing. And they changed my life! You can learn more on my Resilience Toolkit page. I often incorporate Toolkit sessions into coaching, and I’m happy to explore this with you.

Can I talk about controversial things, like race, sexual orientation, religion and politics?

Absolutely! I’ve coached White people, BIPOC, LGBTQ, gender non-conforming, Republicans, social justice warriors, Mormons, Catholics, New Agers and atheists. I’ve also coached people who don’t explicitly share any of their identities with me. Whatever you think is important for me to know to create trust and facilitate your growth is welcome, and our sessions are confidential. (However, if you express, or imply, an intent to harm yourself or others, I am required to report this to the proper authorities.)

How is coaching done?

Individual coaching is usually done over Zoom, but can also happen on Skype, by phone or in person. Some clients like to do at least one in-person session, and the rest over video. Sessions typically last 45 or 60 minutes, and are scheduled weekly to monthly. It’s all up to you, your goals, and how quickly you want to shift! Most of my clients start out with a session every two weeks unless they want to move quickly. Sometimes we start out with frequent sessions and switch to less frequent over time.

What does coaching cost?

Coaches charge a wide range of fees for our services. You can learn more about my packages on my website, and I’m happy to set up a 30-minute “chemistry call” to see if we’re a fit! If so, I can provide you with my current pricing, and explore a custom package that fits your schedule and budget.

View Coaching Packages

How do I get started?

Super easy!  Email me at susana@wordswisdomwellness.com or complete my contact form to schedule a complimentary “Chemistry Call”. We’ll talk about whether coaching is right for you and discuss current pricing.  If the chemistry is right, and you decide you want to move forward, the next steps include signing a written agreement, completing your online discovery questionnaire, and scheduling your first session.

Ready to explore working together?

Contact me now to schedule a complimentary “Chemistry Call.”

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