The dictionary defines a coach as an instructor or trainer as of athletes or singers, and the verb to coach is to instruct in a subject, or prepare for an examination by private tutoring. The profession of coaching has rapidly expanded in recent years. We can now find people offering services as life or personal coaches, relationship coaches, business or executive coaches and more. The basic premise is that people can enhance their lives, achieve their goals or generally do and feel better with the help of a coach.

What is coaching?

Coaching is the practice of instructing, teaching, tutoring or guiding a person to help them achieve their goals, enhance their lives or to do and feel better. In many ways this description would also fit what is often called personal growth psychotherapy. One important difference is that psychotherapy is usually seen as some sort of treatment for a disorder and may involve things like assigning a diagnosis, calling it a medical or health care activity and even expecting health insurance to pay for it. Much of the work done in the name of personal growth therapy stretches the definition of a disorder and could easily be seen as coaching.

Who can be a coach?

The short answer is anyone. At this point in time there are virtually no regulations or standards for who can call themselves a coach or offer coaching services for a fee. This is very different from psychotherapy which is typically regulated by state law in the US, and is usually considered a health care activity. The regulations vary widely across different states and throughout the world but in the US the typical therapist must be licensed or certified by a state agency, may have to meet specific educational requirements, and be held to specific standards of practice and ethics. Since coaching is unregulated, there is no standard and no way to be certain about the individuals qualifications, ethical standards, or other qualities that may distinguish a good coach from a charlatan. A quick search on the Internet will lead to lists of “Certified” coaches, organizations offering training and certification in coaching and advice on how to start your own coaching practice.

If the person is interested, they could start their own certification program, certify themselves and then sell their coaching the coach program to others and certify the new coaches. This state of affairs may lead to a lot of doubt about the people offering coaching.

Many of the people who have entered coaching are actually moving from a background in psychotherapy or counseling and may have practiced a health care profession as a state licensed or certified health professional such as a counselor or psychotherapist and may even continue to practice in their profession as well as offering coaching. The reasons for moving into coaching can include a desire to offer services to a broader range of clients including those living outside of the area where one is licensed, offer services by phone or Internet to individuals in other parts of the world and to get away from the hassle of dealing with insurance companies, managed care and bureaucratic regulations.

Since anyone can call themselves a coach how do you you know if the one you are considering is any good or even knows what he or she is doing? It might seem that background as a therapist would be a good start, but there are bound to be some bad therapists who end up in coaching. A lack of training doesn't mean the person isn't a good coach, certainly in many areas of life people function as coaches based on what they have learned over the years and do a great job even though they lack formal training or certification. Holding some sort of certification in coaching or having trained at an institute with an impressive name doesn't tell us much either.

My advice

If you are going to pay your own money for coaching it would make sense to ask if it works. Since much of coaching is like psychotherapy we can start with the question of does psychotherapy work. This turns into a very complex question and is the subject of considerable debate. We now have solid research that shows that some specific forms of therapy work for some specific disorders. We also know that some very non specific features of therapy, such as having someone listen to you in a nonjudgmental way, is associated with feeling better. Because personal coaching is relatively new and so vaguely defined there is no way to test it carefully to see if it works. All we can find out is what people say. Both coaches and satisfied clients will report it was helpful. Many coaches will have web sites with testimonials about how much help they have been. It reminds me of the infomercials on late night TV where all these people tell you how you can get rich by sending in for the plan from some guy who invented the idea of how to get rich. If that seems to be what you are looking for it might make just as much sense to send for the get rich quick course as to hire a personal coach based on some sort of testimonial. If you want to change your life then I think it makes sense to look for help from someone who has a claim to expertise in how people can change their lives. My question was “does it work?” and my answer is probably if you choose the right coach , develop a sensible plan and work hard.

What am I offering?

I am now offering coaching services by phone or Internet. This life coaching activity is intended to help people enhance their lives and achieve their goals. I am particularly interested in working with people who find anxiety is impeding their progress in life. I am offering this service because I believe that if we extend what we know works well with specific disorders it is very likely to work for people with similar concerns. As I mentioned above we know that certain types of therapy work well for some specific problems. We know that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) works very well for anxiety disorders and is usually superior to medication in both the percentage of people helped and the amount of improvement.

It seems reasonable then to believe that coaching based on the principles of CBT will prove helpful for people who find anxiety impeding their progress in life. While CBT as a form of psychotherapy is a better option it is often difficult to find a therapist who is trained in this approach. While I cannot offer psychotherapy outside of the states where I hold a license as a psychologist (ME, NH, NY, DE) I am now willing to offer what may be the next best thing, It needs to be clear that I am not offering health care or psychotherapy but I am offering coaching.

The second type of coaching help I am offering is with habit change. I have written a book called The Habit Change Workbook with co-author Cherry Pedrick. The book is available from local bookstores or on line from sources like Amazon. Coaching is well suited to changing problem habits and I can help you tailor the ideas in the book to fit a specific problem you want to work on.

What are my qualifications?

I earned a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Texas Tech University in 1978, and obtained my first license as a psychologists in New York in 1980. I have been in practice in a variety of settings since that time. I am currently licensed in four states (ME, NH, NY, DE). I am a Diplomate and Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, and trained in cognitive therapy at the Beck Institute. I am a Diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology in Counseling Psychology, and a Fellow of the Academy of Counseling Psychology, I hold a Certificate of Proficiency in the Treatment of Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders and I am listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.

While that list of qualifications may seem impressive since I am offering to provide coaching services not professional psychological services outside of those states where I am licensed you have to decide what they tell you about my ability to be a coach. I have not sought certification by any coaching organization since I don't think such certification is meaningful.

What now?

If you have had the patience to read through all of this material and you are interested in getting some coaching from me please read the disclaimer. If you agree to the conditions then print it out and send it to me. Call or email to set up an appointment.
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Contact Information

James Claiborn PhD
6 D St.
South Portland ME 04106
Phone 207 799-0408 Fax 207 767-7002