According to a 15 month study commissioned by Field Trip Health Ltd and completed by YouGov Pls, the results released in 2021 outlined the following statistics:
These are just a few notes on mental health issues and as we continue to move to what the next normal may look like, we carry the key learnings of the pandemic with us. During months of shelter in place, mental health surfaced for our communities to look at. The isolation, the uncertainty, the despair, and the looming dread has had an impact on every individual on some level. We have yet to see the full breadth of COVID 19’s impact.
It's these types of statistics that has caused a waiting list for mental health professionals, a need for more access to mental health resources, and interest in augmented systems of support like coaching. Here are two ideas to assist you in discerning the difference between coaching and therapy.
In therapy, a licensed professional works with people in looking at past events related to trauma, emotions, and other psychological impacts to offer a space for recovery. This process involves a diagnosis and possibly a treatment plan.
In coaching, a certified professional works with people in looking at the present and future in supporting people towards the outcomes and results they wish to see with action. There is no diagnosis, and the client is supported in seeing what is next for them to do.
As a person who has participated in therapy and coaching (which means I was a patient and client respectively), I can share my experience in offering some information around the differences between the two. The gift of therapy came in the form of a statement. In 2003, after spending many months at work voicing my frustration with my job, my life, and the stagnant progress of my career, my desk mate said to me, “The help you need, I can’t give you.” and she slipped a piece of paper across the desk and it had the toll free number to the Employee Assistance Program where we worked. This moment impacted my life in such a big way because it allowed me to ask for help related to events in my life that included losing a parent in a car accident, losing four loved ones in twenty years, and relationship red flags. There was a lot to process – guilt, shame, survivor’s guilt, anger management, abandonment issues and whatever else the therapist thought I had to work on – and I didn’t even know where to start.
During these sessions, I was able to work through my undealt feeling of loss that occurred in 1987 when I lost my mom in a car accident. The sadness in not being a better daughter for her while she alive. Not learning how to cook her best dishes, not learning more about her and her history, and for living through the car accident while my dad lost the love of his life in that same event. It was in the early 2000s where I finally had the courage to look at the sadness and the weight, I was carrying for over half my life. It was happening at the right time because I was embarking on the possibility of moving from a non-management role to a management role and entering into a serious relationship that I hoped would lead to marriage. There was a lot to review from my past. The push to not be a problem for my dad which meant striving for better grades, going to a university, and not having wasted a life that could have been traded in for my mom’s. The pressure and the feelings of unworthiness kept creeping in and I had a hard time moving past those events which meant I wasn’t always secure in my relationships with people or confident with my work 100% of the time. At times, this chance to live felt like it was being wasted on someone like me…when if I could, I would have traded places with my mom so my dad could have had that happy life of retirement he had planned with her and that my brother could have more time with someone who wholly understood him in a way that no one else could. There was no doubt in my mind that my mother’s life was more valuable than mine. She had been here for 47 years. She chose to marry someone and emigrate to America. She chose to become an American citizen while faithfully supporting her family in the Philippines through letters, remittances, and visits the minute we moved closer to the country. Her warmth, her demeanor, and her smile was always what helped someone feel seen and supported no matter where we lived – and we lived in many places due to our family’s life in the military. From California to Virginia and Guam, she traveled coast to coast while shepherding her children through this Filipino-American experience with little knowledge or training. What she did have, her street smarts and her undeniable resourcefulness to create a loving life and memorable life for all who met and knew her. The guilt for living a life that paled to her contribution and the shame for living broke me down in ways I never fully understood until I went to therapy and it allowed me to heal with direction and guidance from someone who gave me cognitive tools to address the trauma and emotions that pulled me into behaviors that I didn’t always understand – like coping mechanisms that drove me to work long hours and have co-dependent relationships.
We spent a tremendous time discussing feelings. Feeling unloved, unwanted, unneeded, and how that led me to more feelings and to more feelings. For three years, I looked at all my feelings and it allowed me to recover and repair things about my choices and the ultimate lesson I learned, was that everything had a beginning and an end.
I entered my second round of therapy ten years later – this time related to issues around my weekend warrior drinking. In this therapy sequel, I spent time in outpatient rehab, time in AA meetings, and group therapy to work toward my sobriety. When the familiar feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and feeling less than cropped up, I lost the handle hold of cognitive tools and found myself placating these emotions by dulling them, ignoring them, not acknowledging them, and inevitably, old wounds reopened and new ones formed. I spent a solid nine months finding better support models and reacquainting myself to the emotions I thought I never had to meet up with again. I had thought therapy was a one and done experience and it was incredibly helpful to experience it again and understand that this was just another beginning and another ending to my healing process – all in time for me to conceive my first child and be in a better mental state for her arrival in 2011.
In 2016, after my second child was born I was at a crossroads in my career. I’ve done a lot of healing and understood that I will always be in recovery – and that’s ok. The idea that everything has a beginning and an end registered in my brain. What I wasn’t seeing was everything in the middle. It’s similar to the idea of what is on one’s headstone – there’s your birth year, the year you die, and then the dash -- everything that happens in the middle of those dates. In the middle of those dates are cycles of beginnings and endings, and I was curious about the wondrous middle…the happenings of the middle and how I could spend my time looking at my career with my family in mind so I don’t fall into the pitfalls of guilt, shame, or overworking myself again. I was seeing possibility in a life that felt more integrated with where I was at in my life – a partner, mother, hard worker, and someone wanting to move forward in a healthier way. This was when I signed up for coaching and I immediately noticed differences between therapy and coaching.
In coaching, I was supported to see my own answers. To tap into my inner wisdom and see what is really true about me, my core values, and where I derive meaning into my life. I had space to drop into different perspectives and own the chatter – the stress, fear, doubt, and worry – that clouds my next movement or action. I was able to spend time to clear up things about my life that was unfinished and create space for the things I wanted most – to connect with more people and create community. I designed an action plan for myself and when I was hesitant or unsure, I had the time to really look at it in a way that wasn’t tied to the past and more tied to my present moment and where I would like to be.
The tools I received during this time is a guidance system to where my life’s path is headed. Over the years, I’ve cultivated a practice that works for me, and the beauty of coaching is, every individual has a chance to iterate and develop what works for them. We are all built with the inner wisdom to know what is right for us. For me, this meant elevating my journal practice in an agile and iterative way. I practice pause and reflection which allows me to trial and integrate tools in two-week sprints. These time frames allow me to consider the enhancement and improvements that I am seeing with how I am showing up and meeting different moments of my life. It has also allowed me to deepen a longstanding mindfulness practice in a deeper and intentional way. Plus, I discovered my inner athlete and found the virtuous cycle of training and racing around road running and trail running a helpful reprieve from a sedentary work week.
We are tooled up, app’d up, resourced up’d, and trained up to do what we need to do 75%-90% of the time. It’s that last stretch of moving from that vision into tangible outcomes and results, that’s where coaching comes into play. As a mindset and life coach, I am the human gap solution to supporting clients in crossing that last 15%-20% stretch.
Being a part of someone’s well-being journey means ensuring that coaching is coming in at the right time. Sometimes, healing needs to take place before coaching. Giving yourself the time to heal from shadows and the roots of things is important to begin seeing the clarity in what’s ahead. Sometimes, you can heal and do coaching at the same time. This intersection is handled with care between clients and their licensed therapists -- and coaches will follow the lead of the client when it comes to running these two paths at the same time.
Wherever you may be on your mental health journey, please know you are not alone. We are undergoing unprecedented times of uncertainty and the courage you are taking to support your brain health, heart health, mental health, spiritual health, and overall well-being is something to be celebrated.
I celebrate you and the steps you are taking each and every single day.
If you are looking to discover if coaching is coming in at the right time for you, please go to my contact page and book a complimentary discovery session with me.
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Elaine Dizon is a Filipina American Life and Mindset Coach, speaker, storyteller, mother, and runner. She is also a recognized Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion at AT&T. In her coaching practice, life-intention-action, she uses an iterative approach to support her clients in deepening their core values, tapping into their inner wisdom, and creating habits and rituals that support their goals. She helps clients get out of their own way, move past stopping points, and to reckon with fixed mindsets that disrupt showing up authentically in professional and personal spaces through brain training exercises and tools geared towards mindfulness.