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  • Veronika Tracy Smith, PhD, PCC, NBC-HWC

Therapist Becoming A Coach

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I work with psychotherapist, psychologists, lawyers and other professionals who are considering a career change and those that have already gone down the path and getting credentialed. So often I am asked what the best path to becoming a coach is. In this article I will help you understand the various paths you can take as a professional counselor, psychologist, or therapist, but this will also apply to lawyers, medical doctors and business professionals.

Why Become a Coach?

As a therapist you have many skills in communication, relationships, helping clients draw upon their own wisdom, and emotional intelligence. These skills alone make you very valuable as a coach. You do need to learn how coaching is different than therapy and what the coaching models are.

I just got off the phone with a psychotherapist friend of mine. She was happy I called not only because she wanted to catch up with me but also because she was avoiding dealing with her billing and insurance calls for her clients. She said she would love to have an all cash paying clientele but has no idea how to change that. She has been doing this her whole career and it has only been worse in the past few years.

How would you like a fully cash paying business and no long have to deal with 3rd party payers? No more billing insurance companies or calling in to get more sessions for your clients. How would you like to make more per hour helping people move in a positive direction in their lives and careers?

Most therapist are lifelong learners and this is one more area to grow into. There are so many types of coaching practices, the sky is really the limit. Just to list a few types of coaching you may want to consider for a career change- Relationship Coach, Business, Executive, Leadership, Entrepreneur Coach, Sports Coach, Health and Wellness or Well-Being Coach, Career Coach, Life Transitions Coach, and the list goes on. What is your passion and how can you work that into a career in coaching?

The Decision To Get A Coaching Credential

The first thing you want to consider is whether you will become credentialed or not. This decision is an important one in knowing the path to take. As a professional therapist many states consider you qualified to coach. I was surprised to find that my liability insurance covered me for coaching as well as therapy.

What I also earned along the way is how important getting specific coaching training is to your success as a coach and for the benefit of the client. Coaching is different from therapy and it is so easy to fall back into your role and way of being as a professional therapist with your coaching clients. This is not a good thing. Coaching and therapy are different and we need to be different with our clients. You may want to read an article on the difference between coaching and therapy.

As a professional you spent years becoming the best you can be in your field and I suggest you get the training and credential that can set you apart from other coaches. If you want to be a leadership, business or executive coach you will need to present yourself as a coach and not a therapist. Having a credential can be important.

The gold standard for coaching credentials comes from the International Coaching Federation. I will say more on this in a minute. In the United States there is also the Board Certified Coach Credential from the Center for Credentialing and Education. This is quickly become the credential to have in the US.

I originally said it is important to know which route you will take; credential or no credential. As I stated you can practice without a credential but I suggest that you take courses in coaching otherwise you may not actually do coaching. Also there are so many people calling themselves a coach with not training, education or experience. I believe getting a coaching credential sets you apart from those people. The field of coaching is young and it is most likely only a matter of time before credentialing is required.

If you are going to take classes to learn how to become a coach you might as well take them from those programs that have been accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the Gold Standard. Here is the link to do a search for coaching training programs with the ICF. You want to search for a program that has the ACTP or Accredited Coach Training Program. This way you will be getting training that eventually will qualify you to get a credential with the ICF. If you are taking courses why not work towards the credential. You can be coaching as you take courses.

Take your time if you want and enjoy the learning. The good news is that most coaching classes also qualify you for Continuing Education Credits for your license. Check to make sure the program you select has this for your specific license.

The program I went through and have been so impressed is the College of Executive Coaching. This was started by a psychologist, Jeff Auerbach, PhD, and is an ICF accredited program. Only professionals with a master’s degree or above can take this route. The professionalism of the instructors and the students along with the depth and breadth of the training is phenomenal. There are many programs to choose from and you can do your research through the ICF.

Another thing to consider is how you learn best. I like the in person intensive training to start. This helps you get immersed in the field of coaching, gets you practicing with other professionals and gives you a lot of units fast! You will find both types and a combination. Most of the learning is either in person or on tele-seminars. If you run into a program that it is all home study on your own you can be sure you are not getting it from an accredited or an approved program by the ICF.

The fastest Way to Become a Certified Coach – the BCC

The Center for Credentialing and Education provides a growing certification in the United States called, Board Certified Coach. For states that do not have a licensing entity for therapist the National Certified Counselor is the recognized designation for therapist and the Center for Credentialing and Education with the National Board for Certified Counselors is the granting organization. This is gives much more national recognition for those therapist who want a highly recognized certification. I believe in time the BCC will become an important U.S. certification.

If you have a PhD in psychology you can take 30 hours of coaching training, have someone verify that you have done 30 hours of coaching, get a letter of recommendation (on the correct form) and apply to the Center for Credentialing and Education for the Board Certified Coach credential. There is an exam to take once your application has been approved.

If you have a master’s degree you can take 60 hours of specific training plus the other items mentioned above. You can also take this route with a bachelor’s degree. Use the link above to research the details.

The fastest Way to Become Certified by the ICF

You can apply to the International Coaching Federation once you have 60 specific hours of coaching training, 100 documented hours of coaching with clients with 10 hours of Mentor Coaching. This is called the portfolio application.

You can also get certified with 125 hours of specific coach training and skip the 10 hours of mentor coaching. This will take a bit longer.

Most quality coaching programs will allow you to gain Continuing Education Credits for your license. This is a very nice benefit!

Once you have your coaching credential you will have Continuing Education to do as well but again this can double count if you get the right courses. We actually provide Continuing Education credits for a number of California professionals, MFT, LCSW, LPCC, RN and the national BCC. See our Spiritual Intelligence Coaching Certification.

Mentor coaching is one of the favorite things I do in my practice! We listen to recorded coaching sessions that you do with your client (with their permission of course) and I give specific feedback related to the ICF Core Competencies. I have done this Mentor Coaching with very experienced therapist, coaches, consultants and lawyers and it always amazes me how much these coaches get from listening and discussing their recorded sessions. The validation and confidence that people walk away with after doing this work is so rewarding for the coach and for myself.

If you are considering becoming a coach and would like to have mentor coaching you can contact me for a “Discover Session” at no charge to see if we would be a good fit. I am a Registered Mentor Coach with the International Coaching Federation. Contact me here.

I hope this is the beginning of a fruitful and fulfilling career for you as a coach.

About the Author

Veronika Tracy-Smith, PhD

Veronika has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation and a Board Certified Personal, Executive and Leadership Coach. She has been a psychotherapists in private practice for over 28 years as a Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She is certified as a Spiritual Intelligence Coach and Trainer through Deep Change. Veronika has done coaching and presentations in business, law enforcement, spiritual communities, Employee Assistance Programs, and with non-profit, county and state agencies since 1994. Read More About Veronika.

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