Coach-therapy with your child or young person
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Eleanor Patrick MBACP (Accred) and Registered
27th May, 20150 Comments
Therapeutic coaching or integrative coach-therapy is becoming more popular in the helping world. It crosses the boundaries of both therapy and coaching and, for young people, is often the best way to help them. A week is a long time in a child’s life and much can happen that they wish to share. Add to that the fact that they do not wish to eyeball us for an hour but need to work on a plan, a goal, some hope, a spark, a shared joke, a playful moment, some feeling of equality as well as help with repairing problems and experiences, then a time together which is both therapy and coaching makes sense. To me and to them.
It is not usual for a child to want to concentrate on their problems for a long time. So when they come to a coach-therapist or therapeutic coach for help, some of it will be helping them make sense of what’s bothering them, but some can also very usefully involve helping them gather their (perhaps unrecognised) resources, work out what they’d like to happen and take control of making it move in that direction. It’s like a continuum from sorting out difficulties that are stopping them living happily to making the very best of their future.
Teenagers, who are starting to take more control of their lives anyway, find this a really beneficial way to work. Often the elements of psychoeducation that happen in session are the very thing that interest them. Young people hate not knowing as much as everyone else. Learning how their brain or body works and using that fact to help themselves out of their distress and into the future can seem like a magic wand, and they grasp it in delight.
There is also, of course, the question of acknowledging ‘is this coaching or therapy?’ In the adult world, it is often considered better to agree within the session which bit is coaching and which bit counselling. The contract might differ, for example. But young people and children rarely care. They just want to know they are getting what they need. The good practitioner will be constantly monitoring and checking in with them as to how it’s going and if it’s helpful. Young people often don’t really understand the term counselling – although it’s becoming better known now that so many schools have counselling services – and coaching has connotations for them of ‘extra coaching with their English or Maths’ or else sports coaching, neither of which is what they want. Therapeutic coaching is rarely recognised and so would probably not be of interest to them as a specific term if we used it.
So if parents see that therapeutic coaching or coach-therapy is advertised, what is on offer is a helpful mix of both aspects according to needs each week. It’s a good indication that the person who is going to help your child or young person is skilled in both these areas and can offer an integrated series of sessions. With many issues, this brings results in as short a space of time as possible. This is good. After all, the child has a life to lead out there and needs to be freed as soon as possible to get on with it. They also like the idea of being able to come back and 'consult' if they want to at a later stage – it sounds very grown-up, and that is a healing and empowering point in itself.
About the author
Eleanor Patrick is a counsellor and coach-therapist of children and young people in school and in private practice. She often works with the wider family and also co-delivers groupwork for families where alcohol and drugs have been a problem.
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