What are some misconceptions of coaching?

Joey Ra, Founder and Head of Faculty

· Coaching,Myths

The awareness of the concept of coaching has grown rapidly over the last few years, which is a welcome development. However, this rapid growth has brought with it some common misconceptions about coaching. We will look to correct some of these myths in a series of posts, including ones about what good coaching looks like.

In this post we focus on some common misconceptions that may lead some people to think that coaching may not be right for them, or they might not be right for coaching.

1. Coaching is only for people with serious problems or weaknesses

While coaching can certainly be helpful for people who are struggling with specific issues or challenges, it has historically primarily been focused on helping people that are doing well already to do even better. One of the primary tenets of coaching is that "people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole", or as we simply put it at CCI, "people are not broken and don't need to be fixed".

This is a refreshing perspective shift from a world that has consistently told us that we're wrong and broken. Many clients report that this is one big reason why they pick coaching over therapy, as it focuses on taking them from "good to great" rather than focusing on their problems and dysfunctions.

That said, it is also sadly a common myth that coaching has no room for dysfunctions or trauma. We all have these, and for us to get from good to great, we need to address them. Some even take it so far as to say (completely incorrectly) that there is no room for emotions in coaching. This is reflective of the incompetence of the coach or coach training school; in fact, this would 100% go against the ICF's Core Competencies.

2. Coaching is only for high-level executives or "successful" people

While a lot of professional coaching does take place for executives and other high-level professionals, coaching can be helpful for people at all stages of their careers looking improve their personal or professional lives. Both clients and coaches ourselves often wish that we'd received coaching much earlier on in our lives, so that we could have been more intentional about our professional and personal lives, as well as be more effective at a younger age. In addition, we find that high potential professionals often look to engage with coaches to accelerate their development.

The only caveat to this is that coaching teens and children will often require a more tailored approach to this age group, taking into account their developmental stage.

3. Coaching is the same as therapy

While coaching and therapy can both be helpful for improving mental health and wellbeing, and their lines are becoming more and more blurred, there are some important differences.

Therapy tends to be more focused on addressing specific mental health issues and healing, while coaching is typically more focused on helping individuals grow and develop. Growth and development will often accompany, or result in, improved mental health and healing.

How the client experiences therapy and coaching will also generally be different. Generally, coaching will not spend much time discussing the details of the past, focusing more on the here and now experience of the client. Coaching will also tend to be more goal-oriented, with clear goals for the overall coaching relationship as well as for each session. As such, coaching will tend feel like it has more forward momentum, whereas therapy will feel more like wading in the waters.

The differences in effectiveness is anecdotal, and our coaching network engage in both therapy and coaching as appropriate and based on personal preference at the time. Many therapists train as coaches and find it highly beneficial to unlock their existing knowledge. Some coaches choose to train as therapists to broaden their specialisms.

One key thing to highlight is that coaching will never treat a mental illness. We may have "increased sense of wellbeing and taking proactive life decisions" as a coaching goal, but we would not have "treatment of clinical depression" / "xxx disorder" as one. This is both because of (a) professional ethics - we do not have the necessary training to treat mental disorders and (b) philosophical stance - we see the whole person, not their labels given based on clusters of symptoms.

Note that these are general differences based on our professional knowledge and personal experience. There are vast ranges of practice both in therapy and in coaching, amongst the different approaches, schools and individual practioners, in terms of philosophy and competence. We also prefer to say: "ask therapists what therapy is and we will tell you what coaching is".

4. Coaching is unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a 'coach'

This is true in one sense. Unlike "doctors" or "lawyers", coaching is generally not a regulated term legally. However, it is a self-regulating profession and has been since 1995, when the world's now largest regulating body the International Coaching Federation (ICF) was created. It sets standards for training, competencies, ethics, and best practices. There are other professional bodies with differing membership numbers and standards.

ICF credentialled coaches have to take trainings from organisations that have gone through a process of review, coached a certain number of hours and have passed both a practical and theory exam. The first level of credentialling is the Associate Certified Coach (ACC), which requires at least 60 hours of training and 100 hours of coaching. (At Cambodia Coaching Institute, our certification program requires double the number of training hours as well as a more rigorous practicum requirement, to take into account the more complex context our clients operate in.)

The second level of credentialling is the Professional Certified Coach (PCC), which requires at least 125 hours of training and 500 hours of client coaching. The highest level is the Master Certified Coach (MCC), that requires over 200 hours of training, 2,500 hours of client experience and a rigorous practicum.

Many coaches at the different levels may have done much more training than required at that level. For example, our Founder Joey Ra is a PCC coach with over 300 hours of coach training from different organisations. Our Faculty Helena Yan is an ACC coach but with over 125 hours of coaching training.

So although legally anyone can call themselves a "coach", to engage with a coach professionally there is sufficient professional rigour available for clients by referring to the various coaching bodies such as the ICF.

Do you have any questions or thoughts on these misconception or any others? Let us know in the comments section below!