Seeking help from a coach (life coach or executive coach), psychologist or counsellor does not mean you have to have a specific problem, but can be a proactive way to make positive change, increase personal or professional success and make the most out of life. Of course life also brings challenges, problems and at times stress which can be a great reason to seek help too. But who should you choose?
In this post I have outlined the training each professional receives as well as the experience they are likely to offer you. All can be effective in different ways depending on their training and corporate and life experience relevant to the type of support you are looking for.
While there is no one-size fits all, Psychologists generally complete a research based science degree and learn about different topics such as cognitive psychology, developmental psychology and social psychology while undertaking their own scientific research.
Once a bachelors level degree is achieved (usually with honors), Psychologists are able to apply to complete supervised training if they wish to practice with clients.
The majority of psychologists have not worked in other professions or industries and as such have only experience in the field of psychology. Some psychologists go on to specialise, often in clinical psychology which is more closely aligned to medical diagnosis of mental health and offering assistance based on such diagnosis.
Some Psychologists have studied different counselling therapeutic methods, while some also work as Life Coaches.
Psychology is a regulated profession in Australia.
Although I do not practice as a Psychologist, I completed a Masters of Science, Psychology in the United Kingdom and use much of what I learned in my work.
Counselling has long been established in Australia, however, is not currently a regulated profession. There are many bodies such as the Australian Counselling Association where counsellors can register their credentials although there is no mandatory legal requirement.
Many counsellors have diplomas, degrees and other training, while others use personal and lived experience as their basis to help others.
I worked as a counsellor for several years in the UK helping people with stress, panic and related anxiety disorders including OCD, social phobia and agoraphobia.
Life Coach or Executive Coach
Similar to counselling life and executive coaching is not a regulated profession in Australia. There are, however, several organisations where coaches can train or register their credentials, although it should be noted that criteria can vary greatly.
Some coaches do train in courses, diplomas or certificates such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) or use a combination of life, business and other experience in their quest to help others. Some Psychologists and Counsellors also often work in the coaching field.
Many coaches will offer more corporate experience to help their clients in areas of management and leadership development, however, may have less experience in helping people manage and understand stress, anxiety as well as other personal issues.
So who do you choose?
The boring answer is to do your research. Traditionally psychologists and counsellors help people with mental health issues, bereavement and relationship problems, for example. Life coaches are often associated with more motivation styles of coaching and often skew to helping people achieve greater success or results in both their professional or personal life.
However, I know coaches who are fantastic in helping people cope with anxiety for example and psychologists who are fantastic in helping executives be better corporate leaders.
Why I choose to work as a Counsellor and Coach?
While I have studied psychology and it has many benefits, at times it can be rigid in how it requires psychologists to help their clients. This is why why I work as both a Counsellor and Coach.
In Australia, there has been a gradual shift towards clinical psychology, which is more reductive in it’s approach which can limit the teaching experience offered to psychologists, and in turn the options for different therapeutic approaches to tailor to their clients unique circumstances and needs.
My clients do not come to see me in order to be ‘fixed’, rather, most come to in order to step out of their busy work or home life and take time and space to talk through problems, opportunities and new directions.
Most of my clients are high functioning professionals who are able to find their own solutions with guidance from someone who offers understanding, non-judgement and is able to leverage a range of experience and knowledge gained from corporate leadership roles, psychology education and counselling practice.
If you suffer from anxiety, panic or related disorders please read my pages on how counselling can help you overcome and manage this.