It’s a major concern for life coaches. If you have clients, you want to coach them and not venture into the realm of counseling or therapy. But how can you be sure that what you do with clients falls safely within the scope of practice for life coaches?
This is no easy question to answer, especially given the lack of precedent in the industry. In other words, there seems to be little to go on as to what distinguishes therapy from coaching. So take this as a casual opinion.
The key is to avoid doing key things that therapists are known for. Here’s a list:
It goes without saying that life coaches should never diagnose clients with mental health disorders. However, life coaches with personal or professional experience in coaching might be tempted to mention this or that disorder. Don’t.
Don’t treat anything.
If a client mentions an mental health disorder or diagnosis, stay away from any conversation about it that might be interpreted as offering solutions. After a client mentions a clinical diagnosis, the first words that come out of your mouth should be, “Of course, I do not treat ____________.”
Don’t lead a client into a discussion about childhood.
Clients may mention their childhood and discuss their history but coaches should avoid asking clients about early life experiences. This can easily (and perhaps legitimately) be construed as counseling work.
There is no way to avoid referencing the past, however, when you coach people. When you think about it, all of our present experience, including our perception of the future, is based on past learning. Think long and hard about this one and you’ll soon realize that you can’t do much of anything without drawing upon past learning.
Even opening the door to your house and walking through it is accomplished because of what you learned in the past. Every word we speak was learned in the past. If we couldn’t draw upon past learning experience, we’d be utterly helpless.