Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the services of coaches have been in demand more than ever. The crisis has caused widespread disruption to the workplace (CIPD, 2020) and increased pressure on the lives of many working professionals (WHO, 2020). Moreover, over the last eighteen months, coaches have been reporting a greater demand for more health and wellbeing interventions during their coaching sessions, to deal with increased levels of stress and anxiety in the workplace due to the fallout of the pandemic. This has resulted in the UK government publishing its Covid-19 Mental Health and Wellbeing Recovery Action Plan to address the mental health impact of Covid-19 at work and have committed £500 million to the project (BACP 2021).
Whilst this illustrates the governments’ commitment to workable therapeutic solutions, for coaching, there may well be an impasse. This impasse looks like that very thing designed to professionalise the coaching industry through ethical standards of practice. Coaches are rightly limited due to their training and must refer clients who show psychological distress to a trained counsellor. Coaching education does not normally include counselling training.
Steven Berglas (2002) contends, in his well cited article of 2002, that a coach with little psychological comprehension will not only have a hard time understanding symptoms of even mild distress, but worse, could inadvertently cause significant harm to their client. Berglas’ article is well quoted by those not wishing to blur the lines between coaching and counselling therapies. However, it does not address the cohort of coaches who may want to be able to offer this dual modality to their clients.
John Irvine recently wrote an article for the International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching & Mentoring to address this dilemma and has recognised the need for open and honest dialogue between coaches and therapeutic practitioners. He posits that due to the pandemic, coaches have experienced ‘enhanced and layered complexity to their practice, which potentially may lend itself to greater exploration into a more comprehensive offering’ (2021).
In a recent quantitative survey, data was gathered to understand how the pandemic had affected the scope of workplace coaching. Coaches were asked four questions to assess how they felt about extending the boundaries of their work. The results were as follows:
Coaches across multiple specialties – Executive, Career and Lifestyle, were asked whether they would consider upskilling by taking up a counsellor qualification and 54% answered yes and stated that working through the pandemic made them consider extending their coaching services into counselling.
The participants were also asked if the pandemic had increased their feelings of wellbeing through a sense of belonging, collaboration, and enjoyment in the coaching process? 76% said yes, which suggests that the pandemic has brought coaches into a more holistic mind-set of practice.
The third question was about an increased sense of altruism whilst practising during the pandemic? 63% of the respondents said yes. This could point to increased levels of altruism stemming from the deepening of the client/coach relationship due to a shared sense of personal experience around the pandemic.
And finally, the participants were asked if they gained social connection and reward for assisting their clients during this time of crisis? 91% of the respondents said yes, compared to 9% who said no. This question strongly indicates that workplace coaches would be open to upskilling to assist their clients if they felt a deeper connection with them.
The findings of this short survey suggest that there are growing opportunities for qualified coaches and counsellors to explore a hybrid option of engaging with clients (Cavanaugh & Lane, 2012; Palmer et al., 2020).
If coaches are to consider moving towards a more hybrid approach to their practice, counsellor training would greatly enhance their professional offering at a time when the services of both coaches and counsellors have increased exponentially, and in this regard, this should be given serious consideration by coaches who do not already possess counselling or other therapeutic qualifications.
Up-skilling for workplace coaches to include therapeutic interventions takes time, training, and practice. So, for those who wish to make the most of the recent upward trends towards a more hybrid service offering, now could not be a better time to acquire new skills.
In conclusion, recent labour market data suggests that growth in both sectors has been significant and that the merging of the two disciplines is in demand from both clients and practitioners.
Whilst the UK’s counselling profession has already created space for therapeutic coaches, the coaching profession has been more reserved.
Coaches in the UK wishing to develop their practice into therapeutic coaching should seek accredited BACP courses. Please see the resources at the end of this article.
Sources of Further Information
Best Counseling Degrees. 2021. What are the Fastest Growing Fields in the Counseling Profession? – Best Counseling Degrees. [online] Available at: https://www.bestcounselingdegrees.net/careers/fastest-growing-fields-in-counseling/
British Association for Counsellor and Psychotherapists, 2021. BACP Ethical Framework for the Counselling Professions. [online] Available at: https://www.bacp.co.uk/events-and-resources/ethics-and-standards/ethical-framework-for-the-counselling-professions/
Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211019.htm
Cavanagh, M. and Lane, D. (2012) ‘Coaching psychology coming of age: the challenges we face in the messy world of complexity’, International Coaching Psychology Review, 7(1), pp.75-90.
Grant Thornton (2020) The surprising value of coaching in a crisis.
Harvard Business Review. 2021. The Very Real Dangers of Executive Coaching. [online] Available at: https://hbr.org/2002/06/the-very-real-dangers-of-executive-coaching
Hullinger, A. and DiGirolamo, J., 2021. Referring a Client to Therapy: A Set of Guidelines. [online] Researchportal.coachfederation.org. Available at: https://researchportal.coachfederation.org/Document/Pdf/abstract_3430
Humphreys, J., 2016. Bridging the coaching/therapy divide: What Co-Active coaches can learn from ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Philosophy of Coaching: An International Journal, 1(1).
International Coaching Federation. 2021. ICF Code of Ethics – International Coaching Federation. [online] Available at: https://coachfederation.org/ethics/code-of-ethics
Irving, J., 2021. How have workplace coaches experienced coaching during the Covid-19 pandemic? International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching & Mentoring, 15.
Jackson, S. and Parsons, A.A., 2016. Developing principles for therapeutic coaching: A UK perspective. Philosophy of Coaching: An International Journal, 1(1), pp.80-98.
Palmer, S., Panchal, S. and O’Riordan, S. (2020) ‘Could the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic have any positive impact on wellbeing?’, European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 4(10).
UK Government, 2021 – Mental health recovery plan backed by £500 million. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/mental-health-recovery-plan-backed-by-500-million
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