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Coaching is different than therapy since coaching focuses on the future and planning on how to reach goals. Therapy focuses on the past and working toward resolution of past experiences and conflicts.

Many social workers across the country have been adding coaching to their repertoire of serves.  It is important that practitioners clarify their role as coach or therapist. Coaching is about empowerment as well as planning for the future.  Coaching skills borrow from the generalist skills used by social workers with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.

Coaching has been an aspect of social work practice since the beginnings of the profession.  In the settlement house movement social workers coached various groups of clients around life skill development, organizing communities to bring about social change, and educational efforts as well.  These skills predated the clinical direction that the profession took in the early to mid-20th century.  The focus of many social work interactions is to assist clients in seeing their situation differently to get unstuck and move forward with life.  Coaching intersects with such activity in that it assists clients in carefully planning how to reach a goal that they set for themselves. 

            Once goals and plans are established the coach often acts as a cheer leader and task master.  In meeting with clients, the coach focuses on the client’s progress in reaching their goal or goals.  The coach helps the client incrementally put together a step by step plan to reach the desired goal.

A case example of a client utilizing coaching services from a social worker is Darius. Darius is a 45-year-old Caucasian male who was given a year severance package from a computerter firm in San Jose, CA.  He was referred to the social worker Coach by a social worker who had been doing psychotherapy with him.  The psychotherapist needed to refer Darius since it would be confusing to Darius if his therapist shifted roles to offer him Coaching services.  He had seen the therapist for several months working through his depression regarding the loss of a job he planned on staying with until retirement.

            Darius is ambivalent about his life and wants to focus on the future.  He wanted to work with a Coach who focused on Life Planning. He asks to take a vocational interest test since he wants to pursue a new career helping people.  He had a BA degree in Sociology and wanted to pursue a graduate degree in social work or a mental health field.  The Coach reviewed with him various options and they decided that Darius would meet with the MSW program director at university.  After his meeting it was decided he would pursue an MSW degree.  He continued to meet with his Coach monthly. His Coach helped him make it through a couple of times when he wanted to drop out. Darius successfully graduated after two years of full-time study.

            There are a number of training opportunities for mental health practitioners who want to coach.  One of the providers that offers the Certified Professional Coach (CPC) credential is GROW Training Institute, Inc. 5045 Harrison Dr, Ste 332, Las Vegas, NV 90120 or at of the GROW training can be done without having to travel to continuing education events.  There are many other organizations that train coaches.

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