Inspirational Articles

An Introduction to Coaching

An Introduction to Coaching

By Gord Riddell & Kathy Ryndak

Throughout the nineties a wonderful new approach to people helping people called Coaching took wings and grew throughout North America. Now a well established profession, it can be utilised in almost every possible area of our lives personally, professionally as well as organizationally including Corporations. We are probably most familiar with the idea of a Coach from the world of sports. Both teams and individual athletes have coaches to help encourage, motivate and exact the best possible performance and outcome for each athlete. The new Coach does just that for individuals in motivating and directing those who choose to have guidance in changing their lives and realizing their goals.

There are coaches for very specific areas such weight control and sobriety through to Life Coaches who guide people through to achieving the life they may envision for themselves. Coaching can be, and is, a profession unto itself. It is also shares a number of overlapping qualities with psychotherapy. In fact many of today's Coaches are trained therapists who have additional training in the world of coaching. It can provide a great balance to have both skills professionally allowing practitioners to have both therapy clients and coaching clients in their practice.

In order to better understand what each profession does we thought we would give an overview of each to better educate people as to their differences and similarities. Due to the limitation of the size of this article, it is far from a comprehensive analysis but intended to help people know a bit of the difference between the two professions.


Psychotherapy is, itself, also a very young profession, being barely over a 100 years old. It deals primarily with issues and emotions which are causing levels of distress and discomfort. In all probability they are interfering with the full functioning and enjoyment of our life. Therapy will focus on the past in order ascertain how your past is impacting your present life. Time may be spent examining childhood issues, traumas and relationships, such as with our parents. Current day problems for which we are seeking some understanding and clarity will examine not only how we can better deal with the situation but will also look for underlying patterns, believes and feelings which may be exacerbating the situation.

There are many schools of psychotherapy and as a result many approaches to helping people come to terms with their past and clearing a space internally for better enjoying their present. Usually, therapy takes some time. For some schools of psychotherapy it can take years, for others it is a much shorter period of time. Variables, such as, working on a single issue without going much further in depth, will have the shortest time frame. The deeper you look inwards the more time it will take, not only to process information and feelings but also integrating different possibilities into your present life. In developing a greater awareness of your self through therapy, your view of the world can begin to change. Your values and what you hold as important in your life may shift, giving you a much more open and freer interaction with the world around you. This does not happen in a couple of sessions. It requires time and work on the part of the client to elicit the results they would realistically like to see.

The role of the therapist is firstly to determine what the individual wants to explore and to guide that person through experiences and feelings which may have been painful the first time around. To gently challenge old believes that interferes with or is at odds with their current life and encourages them to let go of old feelings. To keep the inner exploration feeling based not intellectually based, as many of us would like to do. Feelings are crucial in the therapeutic process. Therapy is also educational. We can learn new ways to interpret the world and new ways to communicate. If the expression of anger was learned as a shouting match, we can learn new and calmer ways to express our anger to another without having to yell and scream. So therapy often teaches us skills that we did not learn growing up. A good therapist will blend the emotional, the intellectual and the spiritual into a complete experience all the while encouraging us to go further into our own awareness.


As a new profession Coaching is making a big impact in helping others. If Psychotherapy can be described as examining how our past is influencing our present, then Coaching can best be described as to how our present is affecting our future. Coaching per se does not deal with the past; it deals with moving a person from the present into their future. It is very goal oriented. In other words, a person outlines and then details what it is they are hoping to achieve and the goal they are shooting for. The Coach's role is to encourage and guide the individual through any number of processes to get them to their vision. Coaching will be very specific and work with often one major goal. Getting a new career, enhancing your relationship, controlling weight and getting fit, staying sober are just a few of a myriad of possibilities for which an individual may seek out a Coach.

A good Coach motivates, encourages and is a cheerleader for an individual moving toward their goals. The Coach also challenges and continually helps the person define and re-define the clarity of the goal they are shooting for. A Coach must be able to determine how realistic is the goal as well as discerning whether old feelings and believes from the past are stopping the person from moving forward. If the past is a factor then referring the person for psychotherapy will help them get clear enabling them to return to their work in achieving their desired goals. It is usually best, for a number of reasons, to be either a person's therapist or coach but not both at the same time.

Coaching usually takes less time but can be a bit more expensive on a per session basis. While Psychotherapy is internally focused, Coaching is externally focused. Coaching focuses on action and making external changes. Coaching does not deal with childhood issues as that is the realm of Psychotherapy. Coaching will get you to move into action in spite of your internal resistance.

Both Psychotherapy and Coaching are valuable experiences. In determining which one to choose you need to be objective enough to see whether what you are experiencing today is either your present being affected by your past or you are in need of external support to stop being stuck and get motivated to really make changes externally. Both the Coach and the Psychotherapist need excellent listening and communication skills, the ability to clarify and motivate, be compassionate and challenging at the same time, and have a genuine regard for the human experience.

Time frame is a good indicator as to which profession you may wish to explore. Is your past creating too many problems in your present to really enjoy your life or have you had enough of your present live and it is time to move into your future? Perhaps you may be just like most of us; Psychotherapy to put some old feelings and issues to bed and then Coaching to get you moving into your future.