THE PROBLEM WITH COACHING AND THERAPY
and where these professions sometimes fall short
Having the skills, tools and knowledge to help people is a wonderful thing and one that many of my friends and peers in the profession put to very good use and to great effect. Unfortunately, I think the profession also has its fair share of ineffective coaches and therapists or those that abuse or exploit their position.
I see this many times in my office - hearing stories of clients who have been in therapy for months or even years, or individuals employing the services of life, executive or business coaches who's seemingly biggest accomplishments are keeping the client continually paying for their services, to little or no effect.
This may sound quite harsh, but I honestly don't think it is at all.
Time and time again I encounter clients who think that it is the 'norm' to accept ongoing therapy or ineffective coaching as part of an valid, indefinite and open ended 'thing' or, at the other end of the spectrum, are so cynical of either that a great deal of work has to be done to build up their trust to re-buy into the process.
I may not be conventional, but I am honest and ethical.
The fact is whether coaching, mentoring, acting as a therapist or counselling, or effectively merging all of them, you and the client have to always be working towards a goal, towards measurable and sustainable improvement and towards passing complete and full responsibility back to the client in a timely fashion.
Below I highlight some of the issues I believe exist in much of the coaching and therapy work being offered to clients and why I think they exist:
COACHING (and mentoring):
As mentioned earlier, the biggest problem the profession faces is that of unnecessary coaching or a relationship or dependency or expectancy being developed between client and coach and vice versa, which disappointingly often appears to be deliberate.
A lesser problem with coaching is the rigidity in which it is often employed. Some coaches are far to wary of crossing into the realms of mentoring, preferring to let clients continue with a coach/coachee relationship to discover the answer themselves (and pay for more sessions as a result), than simply tell them what they need to know or offer advice that would allow them to move on.
Another concern I have is that within the profession, coaching has become too complicated, over thought, over developed and over intellectualised to such an extent that most people can't relate to it and many coaches cannot utilise it effectively. Unfortunately because people are so often swayed to believe that 'if something sounds so intelligent it must have some substance and value to it', many in the corporate world and rich clients have bought into that notion when it comes to choosing coaches.
With over twenty five years experience working in, or with the corporate sector I am acutely aware that there often is very little correlation between those that go to great pains to sound overly intelligent and intelligence itself. Regrettably it seems the onus now, especially in some quarters of 'executive' and 'business' coaching, seems to be the same - style over substance and an emphasis on how coaching is presented over how effectively the client can be helped.
Ultimately, the coach or mentor should talk in the language and at the level of the person they are working with. The fact that some coaches are not receptive enough to not just what the coachee is communicating to them, but also how they are doing so, is often indicative that coaching has become a process that is as preoccupied with monitoring the coaches self reflection as it is at listening to the client.
As much as over qualifying the coach at the expense of the client, or failing to communicate effectively with the client are, the biggest and most detrimental aspect to coaching is the coach that sets himself up with no experience at all. I personally believe a life coach needs experience in life, similarly an executive or business coach needs to be able to call on a certain level career knowledge of experience, yet time and time again I hear of individuals fresh out of school or fresh out of a three day course setting themselves up as gurus, coaches and mentors.
Just as in coaching, one of the biggest problems I have with the therapy professions are those small number of 'therapists' who find it right and proper to keep clients in therapy for months or even years while making little (or occasionally no) effort to resolve issues and fortify the clients to independently move forward. I routinely encounter individuals who have been seeing a therapist for quite some time to little or no avail, with neither the client or therapist questioning if that particular therapeutic relationship is actually achieving what it was originally intended for. Having studied a number of therapeutic approaches and with a thorough understanding of many more, I strongly believe a client should be aware of measurable progress, ranging from very quick in some instances, to steady progression depending on what that therapy is. Too many times have I asked clients about what they are doing or have done with their other therapists only to be met with a response that tells me the answer is in fact very little. There is no one specific reason as to why this happens more than it should, but the reasons will range from a client simply being exploited (one client was told some people need to be in therapy all their lives), incompetence, not understanding the problems or the processes being used, a therapy being passed off as something else, through to the fact that the client wants to keep coming back and as a result the therapist allows them to dictate the agenda.
Almost as bad, are the therapists who lead clients to believe that everything can be fixed in a thirty minute session. Don't get me wrong, there are things that can be resolved rapidly, but I am referring to those therapists or change workers (often to be found in the hypnosis or NLP communities), that pass off a single session 'fix-all' approach for most presenting problems. Change work can be very quick and should always be done cost effectively too, but in the real world many of these therapists are doing nothing more than generating temporary placebo (or benefitting from confusion and compliance), which will wane within a short space of time and occasionally, actually add to a clients problems.
Similarly, the actual approach itself can be oversold or misrepresented, with many of the quick techniques mentioned either promising more than they deliver, or being packaged in pseudo-science and unsubstantiated BS to sell to the client as cutting edge or thoroughly researched.
Lastly, there is one problem in therapy which never gets mentioned, but becomes apparent very quickly and that is that there are many therapists who are in need of therapy themselves. On the whole the profession is a rounded and well-meaning bunch, but if you have any concerns that a therapist is not in a good place themselves or should not be helping others at that moment in time, don't hesitate, change therapists.