Questionable Therapy & Counseling Applied to Organisational Coaches

George Dinwiddie shared a Tweet last week that really caught my attention:

As an experiment, I decided to take a copy of the original article and perform a find & replace on the keywords “counselor” & “therapist” with the keywords “coach” & “consultant”.

I took this idea from Jerry Weinberg who did the same by replacing “structured” with “agile”

I’m interested to see how this experiment pans out – my hypothesis is that at least 80% of the statements will still make sense in the context of organisations…

The 50 Warning Signs

In no particular order, it is a red flag if you find your:

  1. Coach does not have sufficient and specific training to address your issues and/or attempts to treat problems outside the scope of the practice.
  2. Consultant is not interested in the changes you want to make and your goals for therapy.
  3. Coach cannot or does not clearly define how they can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy.
  4. Consultant provides no explanation of how you will know when your therapy is complete.
  5. Coach does not seek consultation with other Consultants.
  6. Consultant makes guarantees and/or promises.
  7. Consultant has unresolved complaints filed with a licensing board.
  8. Consultant does not provide you with information about your rights as a client, confidentiality, office policies, and fees so you can fairly consent to your treatment. Note: The requirement for information provided to new clients by Consultants differs by state and licensure requirements.
  9. Coach is judgmental or critical of your behavior, lifestyle, or problems.
  10. Consultant “looks down” at you or treats you as inferior in subtle or not so subtle ways.
  11. Coach blames your family, friends, or partner.
  12. Coach encourages you to blame your family, friends, or partner.
  13. Consultant knowingly or unknowingly gets personal psychological needs met at the expense of focusing on you and your therapy.
  14. Coach tries to be your friend.
  15. Consultant initiates touch (i.e., hugs) without consent.
  16. Coach attempts to have a sexual or romantic relationship with you.
  17. Consultant talks excessively about personal issues and/or self-discloses often without any therapeutic purpose.
  18. Coach tries to enlist your help with something not related to your therapy.
  19. Consultant discloses your identifying information without authorization or mandate.
  20. Coach tells you the identities of other clients.
  21. Consultant discloses they have never done personal therapy work.
  22. Coach cannot accept feedback or admit mistakes.
  23. Consultant focuses extensively on diagnosing without also helping you to change.
  24. Coach talks too much.
  25. Consultant does not talk at all.
  26. Coach often speaks in complex “psychobabble” that leaves you confused.
  27. Consultant focuses on thoughts and cognition at the exclusion of feelings and somatic experience.
  28. Coach focuses on feelings and somatic experience at the exclusion of thoughts, insight, and cognitive processing.
  29. Consultant acts as if they have the answers or solutions to everything and spends time telling you how to best fix or change things.
  30. Coach tells you what to do, makes decisions for you, or gives frequent unsolicited advice.
  31. Consultant encourages your dependency by allowing you to get your emotional needs met from the Consultant. Consultant “feeds you fish, rather than helping you to fish for yourself.”
  32. Coach tries to keep you in therapy against your will.
  33. Consultant believes that only the Consultant’s counseling approach works and ridicules other approaches to therapy.
  34. Consultant is contentious with you or frequently confrontational.
  35. Coach doesn’t remember your name and/or doesn’t remember your interactions from one session to the next.
  36. Consultant does not pay attention or appear to be listening and understanding you.
  37. Coach answers the phone during your session.
  38. Consultant is not sensitive to your culture or religion.
  39. Coach denies or ignores the importance of your spirituality.
  40. Consultant tries to push spirituality or religion on to you.
  41. Coach does not empathize.
  42. Consultant empathizes too much.
  43. Coach seems overwhelmed with your problems.
  44. Consultant seems overly emotional, affected, or triggered by your feelings or issues.
  45. Coach pushes you into highly vulnerable feelings or memories against your wishes.
  46. Consultant avoids exploring any of your emotional or vulnerable feelings.
  47. Coach does not ask your permission to use various psychotherapeutic techniques.
  48. Consultant tries to get you to exert overt control over your impulses, compulsions, or addictions without helping you to appreciate and resolve the underlying causes.
  49. Coach prematurely and/or exclusively focuses on helping you to appreciate and resolve the underlying causes of an issue or compulsion when you would instead benefit more from learning coping skills to manage your impulses.
  50. Your Coach habitually misses, cancels, or shows up late to appointments.

I haven’t changed any of the content other than the keywords & I’ve styled in Italics to differentiate the article text from this blog post.

Here’s a link to the Google Doc I used to do the find & replace.

Here’s my thoughts:

  • the post has me thinking about how I differentiate the terms “consultant” & “coach” – up until now, I’ve used the terms which I believe is appropriate for the my customer (this post has now spawned many more related questions for me!).
  • I originally swapped  “counselor” for “consultant” & “therapist” for “coach”, but on reading the converted list some of the statements felt awkward.
  • I dug (slightly) further into the differences between “counselor” & “therapist” & found articles suggesting the role of therapist is more of a profession & consequently needs to be more qualified. Article 1 (from Good Therapy themselves to see how they differentiate) 
    Article 2  Article 3 
  • Because of this, I re-ran the experiment swapping  “counselor” for “coach” & “therapist” for “consultant”
  • I’m thinking I’ve made this switch because of a bias I didn’t realise I have – the following statement of mine may or may not be true (happy to discuss)!
    • In organisations, there is an expectation that consultants have 1 or more qualifications (to make them more marketable), whereas coaches tend to emerge from other roles & more experienced based

What are your thoughts?

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Thanks to George for the nudge!


p.s. Before my British peers chastise me, the American spellings of words have been intentionally left as is 🙂