I recently chatted with a graduate student who was making a career change.  Sheila was interested in office space with our group as she transitioned into counseling. We were having the usual conversation of a beginning therapist–How will I get clients? How will I keep clients? What’s my niche? And that’s when the surprise happened. I asked her what she had liked about her corporate job. She was in Human Resources doing succession planning. She told me all about the problem solving she did–starting with a process, an idea and taking it to outcome. The work centered around understanding a client’s strengths and struggles and moving them forward in their careers. Her decision to go back to school revolved around learning more about the human psyche and how she could deeply understand her client’s needs, wants and in her type of work, their sabotages.


“So, You were coaching these clients?”

“Yes–but I felt like I needed to know how to counsel them.”


And there it is–the making of a great coach and counselor! The distinction between the professions is this:

  • Coaches move forward. They hopefully will refer out to a counselor when the block, trigger or sabotage interferes with movement. (And not practice counseling without a license.)
  • Counselors often move backward and try to untangle triggering events before moving forward.


Not all counseling is coaching but–and this is crucial–all certified coaches are trained in the fundamental aspects of counseling. So why not put those skills to work in a different income stream?


So, I ask: Are you coaching?  Even if you’re not labeling it coaching. These are two distinct professions but there’s no denying when you have gone through the training as a mental health professional that you have had a ton of experience in coaching techniques.

The Center for Credentialing and Education takes into consideration your graduate work for a BCC (Board Certified Coach). And then go here to the largest and oldest established coaching organizations–the International Coaching Federation— and read about the requirements to become a certified coach. I’ve listed the core competencies below; do they sound familiar?


  1. Setting the Foundation
  2. Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards
  3. Establishing the Coaching Agreement
  4. Co-creating the Relationship
  5. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client
  6. Coaching Presence
  7. Communicating Effectively
  8. Active Listening
  9. Powerful Questioning
  10. Direct Communication
  11. Facilitating Learning and Results
  12. Creating Awareness
  13. Designing Actions
  14. Planning and Goal Setting
  15. Managing Progress and Accountability


I include both organizations because it’s obvious to me that if you are a mental health provider you also have the skill set to develop a coaching practice. Many coaches and clinicians are quick to point out that they are two different businesses with different ethics, standards and techniques. True enough. However, they also share significant similarities. Why then don’t you develop an additional income stream around a coaching niche? Our ethics allow it as long as you keep the practices separate from one another and have the disclosure and statements of intent to prove that difference.


And when you already are steeped in the ethical codes of mental health treatment with its rules of engagement and it’s long discipline of practice, it’s easy to keep the boundaries and meet the standards established by coaching organizations.  In fact, those coaches with a business background,  have a learning curve in how they approach individual coaching when they are not used to the stringent recording and confidentiality codes of our professions. And I would go one step further–the coach with both backgrounds —human behavior and business–is a well rounded coach.

So, as you think about what you do and how you do it, take another look at what you call it. I know Sheila is–she’s currently working on her certification as a coach!