[Note]: This post is a reprint of my response in a LinkedIn group discussion in the British Psychological Society’s Special Group in Coaching Psychology (SGCP). The original discussion question asked for responses regarding the differences between coaching and counseling psychology with the aim of defining coaching psychology.
In the U.S., the Society of Counseling Psychology (Div. 17 of the American Psychological Association) views counseling psychology in this manner:
“Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.” (Div. 17 website)
Counseling psychology works with clients who require therapy to address issues (which can range from mild to severe). In my opinion, there really is not a clear distinction between counseling psychology and clinical psychology, as both can tackle various forms of mental illness. Because counseling psychology uses psychopathology (mental illness) and operates with that in mind, it is psychology for “therapy” or psychology for the treatment of mental health problems.
Anthony Grant (2006) defines “coaching psychology” this way:
“Coaching psychology can be understood as being the systematic application of behavioural science to the enhancement of life experience, work performance and well-being for individuals, groups and organisations who do not have clinically significant mental heath issues or abnormal levels of distress.”
I like this last part of Grant’s definition because coaching works with healthy clients, not those needing mental health counseling.
Coaching starts with the premise that the client is healthy and works to enhance the client’s well-being and performance (in life and/or the workplace). If and when coaching clients do need “therapy,” the coach should be competent enough to recognize this need and the importance of referring these clients for therapy.
Grant, A.M. (2006). A personal perspective on professional coaching and the development of coaching psychology. International Coaching Psychology Review, 1(1), 12-22.
Society of Counseling Psychology. About counseling psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.div17.org/students_defining.html