Wait! I'm Your Coach, Not Your Therapist

August 23, 2023
# min read
Grant Tate

People come to us with various business and personal issues and needs. If you've had a chance to examine the paradigmassociates.us website, you know about the many services and tools available to help our clients. Coaching is an essential component of our work, helping clients address issues, solve problems, set goals, and develop good habits.

But there is one service you won't find there: Therapy.

Okay. So what is the difference between coaching and therapy?

I went to my trusty assistant, ChatGPT, to explore that question

Coaching: Primarily focused on future-oriented goals and performance enhancement, coaching targets a specific set of skills or behaviors to improve. Coaches often work with clients seeking professional success, enhancing leadership skills, or attaining personal development. Your role as a senior organizational consultant aligns well with this, as you are likely involved in assisting executives and teams in reaching their potential and achieving organizational objectives.

Therapy: Treatment often involves diagnosing and treating mental or emotional disorders. It is more past-oriented and looks into deep-seated issues or trauma to bring healing and psychological wellness.Therapists are trained professionals who employ various therapeutic techniques to help individuals deal with mental health issues, emotional challenges, and personal conflicts.

The techniques we use in our day-to-day work with clients are a long way from therapy, but we are trained and certified to use personal assessments. That is where we need to be careful not to engage in therapy, as defined in the preceding paragraphs.

Our assessments include professionally designed and researched DISC, Driving Forces, ACI (Hartman Value Profile), and Competencies. Each element is essential to personal development and helps team members better understand themselves and work together more effectively.

DISC clarifies the participant's behavioral style, including assertiveness, interaction with others, reaction to change, attention to detail, and decision-making (and others).

The Driving Forces test demonstrates underlying motivations and values underneath the behavioral layer. If you've ever known someone with vastly different viewpoints on issue after issue, that person probably has a different set of driving forces than yours. This test helps examine those deeper drives.

These two tests are instrumental when considering how two people might communicate and work together. People with similar profiles can communicate with few words and easily collaborate on tasks or projects. Conversely, those with widely differing profiles require more careful communication, which might take more time and effort. And…often experience conflict.

But…diversity counts. Different profiles bring different interpersonal skills and different points of view, which can lead to more effective problem-solving, better creativity, and more considered decisions. Therefore, it's easy to visualize how the tests are effective in looking at the diversity of a team, highlighting possible points of conflict, and providing insight on what kind of assignments should be given to each team member, considering each person's particular strengths and styles.

The fourth test, Competencies, assesses twenty skills, providing a distribution of a person's relative strength for each one. This does not measure if the person can use each skill but helps the participant evaluate their life history and experiences with each. This list assists in designing a personal coaching program for the person.

I left the third test (ACI, Hartman Value Profile, or HVP) for last because it goes deeper and is more complex. We often use DISC and Driving Forces in team discussions, but usually we do not reveal the ACI results among a team. Let's consider why.

The third test (ACI, HVP) asks the participant to rank two lists of eighteen items: One list of how the person views the outside world and the people in it, and the other list of how the person sees themselves, their work, and their role in life. Using a mathematical system called Formal Axiology, the system summarizes the person's ability to sense themselves and the outside world. At the top level, it evaluates external factors such as understanding others, practical thinking, and system thinking, and, at the internal level, how the person values themselves, understands their role, and the clarity of theirself-direction.

In other words, the test measures a person's empathy, ability to see and solve problems, and ability to deal with complexity. And at the personal level, the person's self-confidence/self-esteem, understanding of their role, and sense of self-direction.

The test results form a solid foundation for coaching. For instance, if the participant ranks relatively low on self-confidence, coaching can help the person develop attitudes, habits, and practices that have been proven in practice. These often suggest ways to replace self-critical mindsets with more positive messages or affirmations. Yet, the coach cannot move into therapy—therapeutically analyzing the person's early life experiences that may have caused negative mindsets. It is a thin line that coaches must be careful not to cross.

Valid low scores in all three internal measurements may indicate the person is going through some short-range challenges. On the other hand, if tests over time show low scores, the person may have significant personal issues. In such a case, a well-trained test interpreter/coach can still explain the test results but must be careful not to cross the therapy line. The coach may suggest the participant seek advice from a professionally trained therapist for further analysis and treatment. The assessments are powerful tools that must be used wisely.

Our well-designed coaching program typically includes the assessments. Their results give us the opportunity to design a customized process for each individual. And, the assessment report often opens a client’s eyes to behaviors, and characteristics that may not have been recognized by the person. Starting from there, a person can build on their strengths, set new goals, and forge a new path to a fruitful life.

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