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Counselor or Coach? Different Approaches for Different People (Part 1)

by Craig Gross on April 6th, 2016 in Favorites, Men, Women, Students

coachI went to a counselor the other week.

Someone I know and love has been in counseling for over a year, and I was starting to think they were manipulating their counselor. So I made an appointment and requested that I would be able to talk about this person. The counselor got permission from his client and a few hours later, I was in the counselor’s office.

So, let me back up.

I have great friends who are great counselors. Part of what makes them great counselors is that they’re nothing like me at all. I would make a horrible counselor. I am more of a coach. Not just in sports, but in general: my take is usually to try to fix things, and when I hear about people problems, I do the usual. I’m not good at just listening. I want to share my thoughts, give some advice, and help them make some progress.

My daughter and son both have coaches. One for dance and one for acting. For what they are doing, they don’t need someone to just sit and listen, they need someone who will work with them and give them instruction and accountability. You know: coaching.

So, back to my counseling session. I set it up because I was tired of continuing to hear this counselor’s name in all my conversations with my friend. I Googled him and discovered that the counselor specialized in OCD and anxiety, which are the exact issues my friend deals with. I wondered what the counselor had suggested to help my friend, so we sat down and started talking.

Here’s what I found out: after seeing my friend once a week for a year, this counselor had no clue of the issues my friend actual deals with. The counselor looked at me like this was the first time they’d heard any of this, then said, “Well some of what you’re saying makes sense now.”

I sat in there for 90 minutes before a bell rang, my time was up, and my credit card was swiped for $200.

I went in wanting to know why my friend hasn’t gotten any healthier after a year of counseling, and though I didn’t leave with any advice or input, I did leave with my answer.

If a counselor pushed you like a coach pushed you, would you go back?

If a counselor spoke more and chimed in more, would you be as inclined to go back?

We started a coaching program called X3coach because we know our audience. We know that if you are at the point where you sign up for coaching, then you need help. You are hiring us to track you down, get in your face, ask you tough question, put together a plan for you, and hold you to it. It’s tough and challenging, because that’s what is needed and why I think people sign up for it.

Counseling is different. In fact, as I write this, it’s been over three weeks since I saw that counselor and I’ve heard only silence since. They didn’t call me to ask how I was doing or if I wanted to come back. They didn’t call me to say they had a session with my friend or suggest we all come in together for a joint session. They didn’t even seem to be grateful or thankful for the things that I shared about my friend, their client.

Do they really care about my friend?

Do they really care to see my friend healthier?

or

Do they just want my friend back in the couch each week?

I’ve tried to get updates from this counselor, but haven’t gotten any responses to my calls. I sent an email and got a short, uncomfortable reply where the counselor said their client—my friend—is their main concern.

I have a hard time believing that, because in over a year of visits, this counselor hasn’t asked or connected the dots on the issues they specialize in.

Does my experience with this ONE counselor mean I think ALL counselors are bad? NO. I’m not saying counselors are bad or even ineffective.

I just think different things work for different people.

I hear some people rave about counseling and others say they would never do it. I also know a lot of people who sit week in and week out but never get to any of the root issues they went into counseling for.

Weight Watchers started promoting a coaching plan alongside their programs. Why? I think because you can talk about weight all you want, but at the end of the day you sometimes need someone in your if you want to make some real changes. Someone like a coach.

Maybe you have never thought about hiring a coach. Maybe something like X3coach is worth looking at. Maybe you’re the kind of person who needs a coach more than a counselor.

Over the next two posts, I’m going to examine the difference between a coach and a counselor and talk it over with some of my friends. In the meantime, be thinking about this:

Are you a counselor person or a coach person? Counselor or Coach?

More to come.

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  • Howard

    Craig, I think a good counselor is a good coach. And I think it can go the other way, but to lesser extent (good addiction counselors have academic, clinical training and experience). There are bad and good counselors, just like there are bad and good coaches. The counselor you described sounds like a terrible counselor. If I had a bad counselor I would have the responsibility to find a better counselor – my wife and I (both individually and maritally) have learned this lesson. In my experience, I need both (counselors and coaches)… I dont think I would have found winning success unless I was plugged in with a solid counselor AND a recovery group of brothers (coaches). Grateful for your work, your ministry, in awe of what you do. Thanks Craig.

  • Daniel

    In your comment Howard I feel like you have contradicted yourself. Is a counselor a coach or is a coach a counselor? Or is there a distinction? Please clarify.
    I think there can be “counselor coaches” and vice versa but I also think there is a distinction between the two. A self centered approach (I’m assuming not entirely sure) as described in the above blog is the opposite of a coach. A coach relates to his or her experience/theory tells it to the client so he/them can win the game. Oppose to self centered therapy where the client has the power within themselves to change and win the game; they need to only find it first.

    I also agree with Howard that the above counselor should not be charging you $200 to just talk about your friend that’s ludicrous man!

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