You’re stressed out. It’s no wonder! Maybe you’re a college student overwhelmed by student loan debt and the existential conflict of trying to find a lucrative profession you’ll love. Maybe you’re a single mother dealing with incredible demands both at work and at home. Maybe you’re grieving a loss and struggling to cope with anxiety or depression. No matter what the reason, when people are stressed we need someone to turn to. A lot of times the people we seek are friends and family, but sometimes we need professional help. Coaches, mentors, and therapists are an incredible source of help in times of trouble. They are trained to provide an unbiased listening ear. More than that, quality professionals have invested in education, licensure or certification to ensure you are receiving the best care. Utilised correctly, coaches, mentors, and therapists can be very different resources in your self-care toolbelt.
Different? But coaching, mentoring, and therapy is all the same isn’t it? You might be surprised to find out that they aren’t! Each has a different purpose and approach to helping you manage your personal and professional needs. This article is designed to help you understand those differences and figure out when to utilize each one.
What is coaching? The International Coaching Federation (ICF) recognises that for many, coaching is a life-changing experience that dramatically improves their outlook on work and life while improving leadership skills. Coaching helps people tap into their potential, unlocking sources of creativity and productivity. Personal and professional coaches create positive change and achieve extraordinary results with clients.Speaking of life, coaches can be a great resource, however, be very careful when selecting a coach. As the International Neuro-Linguistic Programming Center (INLP) asserts, “Unlike mental health counsellors, life coaches are not (currently) regulated by any government organization in the United States.” Certified Coaches are the most reputable as they have made the effort to gain qualifications like education and certification in a field where they are not required. In other words, they’ve already gone above and beyond! Therefore, they tend to be very skilled, reliable and trustworthy in this growing industry. You can find a list of certified coaches on the International Coaching Federation’s website. Take your time picking the best coach for you. Most coaches will give you at least one free session to see if there is a good fit. Also, all training programs that coaches participate in are not the same so consider these hiring tips.
Kent State University says “… mentoring is a less formal relationship between someone who is a Mentor and someone who is a Mentee. The Mentee is seeking to gain senior advice and expertise from the Mentor, therefore the relationship is usually garnered in a professional or academic field. There are many similarities between coaching and mentoring, especially since neither legally require any certification, but the Coaching and Mentoring Network recognises that, “Mentoring, particularly in its traditional sense, enables an individual to follow in the path of an older and wiser colleague who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities.” Therefore, even though certification isn’t required for mentoring, expertise in their specific field is required, making Mentors uniquely qualified to address concerns of the Mentee.
In a holistic practice, clients are encouraged to take advantage of all sources of support because your needs expand beyond just one service or practice. For example, because you have an internal medicine doctor, doesn’t mean you would not benefit from acupuncture or the dentist. Psychology Today explains, “Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or usually just “therapy,” is a form of treatment aimed at relieving emotional distress and mental health problems. Provided by any of a variety of trained professionals—psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or licensed counsellors—it involves examining and gaining insight into life choices and difficulties faced by individuals, couples, or families. Therapy sessions refer to structured meetings between a licensed provider and a client with a goal of improving some aspect of their life.” This is an important definition for two reasons: it clarifies that therapy is for the specific purpose of mental health and that therapy should only ever be conducted with trained certified professionals. When stress becomes distress, a therapist can often be the best help. Counsellors and mentors—regardless of qualifications—can only offer personal and professional advice and a well trained coach recognizes very quickly when therapy is a better solution and talks to their client about this option. The coach may even cancel the agreement if a client is no longer moving forward with coaching services.
Therapists have advanced training and education to help you with your unique mental health needs. There are many resources available to find a therapist, but ultimately they are not one-size-fits-all. Psychology Today addresses the delicate process of finding the best-suited therapist saying, “There are countless compassionate and effective therapists in the world—but not every single therapist is the best person to help every individual seeking
treatment. Though it can be frustrating for patients and professionals alike, finding the right therapist is usually a process of trial and error.” The benefits far outweigh the cost when it comes to taking care of one’s mental health, so if you feel like this is the best option for you remember to do your research. You can find a therapy directory here to start your journey if you feel that’s what’s best for you: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.
Coaching, Mentoring, and Therapy. There are a lot of similarities, but very key differences. Hopefully this article helps to begin the process of gaining more support in your self-care. Remember you are a whole person, so you don’t have to choose one over the other. A combination of professional practitioners, mentors and friends can make a world of difference in your personal and professional journey.