How to Balance Coaching and Therapy: An Interview with Devorah Steinberg, LICSW
by Devorah Steinberg, LICSW and Maggie Jordan
How do you determine a client might be an appropriate fit for coaching vs. therapy? Do you ever offer both services to one individual?
I do not offer coaching and therapy simultaneously to one client, although they may move from one service to the other at different times. The scope and goals of each are different. I determine whether coaching or therapy is necessary or appropriate by what the client says they need and what I read between the lines of what they say.
If they want or need to process issues, habits, feelings, relationships, traumas or experiences from the past in ways that are hindering life in the present, then therapy is indicated. If they want to or are ready to focus distinctly on where they are right now and where they want to be, then coaching is the way to go.
Coaching is highly successful when clients are ready to take action, want to remove roadblocks, and are “coachable;” that is, they are open to feedback from me about what I see they are doing or not doing and what would help them get where they want to go.
If emotional or interpersonal issues arise that need to be addressed because roadblocks are impenetrable, then a shift to therapy is indicated. If we are close to completing our coaching contract, and we both felt that I would be the appropriate clinician to do the therapy work with them, then we could shift to that approach. If therapy were indicated in the middle of coaching, I would suggest therapy with another clinician to address some issues that could be cleared enough to bring the coaching work to a more effective place.
How do your coaching and therapy services differ in a business context? Do you advertise or price them differently?
Coaching and therapy are very different from a business perspective.
Therapy is paid for by the session and we determine the frequency and length of time we agree that we ought to complete minimally, but there is usually no hard-and-fast time or financial commitment made. In coaching, there is. In my current coaching practice, clients have two packages to choose from, and each require a six-month commitment and payment made up-front. One package provides two coaching sessions per month, and the other provides four coaching sessions per month, with an additional VIP Day Livestream bonus intensive, as well as other “deliverables,” including a workbook, handouts, monthly challenges, and guided meditations to help support and boost the process.
Coaching is generally provided online (I use Zoom), and therapy is provided in-person in my office. I advertise coaching mostly in online platforms and therapy in referral networks such as Zencare, SEO from my website, and personal referrals from colleagues, past and current clients.
What are some of the steps you took to become a coach? What has your ongoing coaching education looked like?
My ongoing coaching education is wide and varied, and continues as I grow and change in my personal and professional lives. I am close to completing a one-year business coaching program with Maria Andros International out of Naples, FL, adapting my thirty years of clinical social work experience to coaching work. Being coached for several years myself, both individually and in groups, has been a big part of my personal and professional growth as a coach as well. I also read a great deal about coaching, both in books and online.
What factors influenced your decision to add coaching to your practice? Why do you still offer therapy as well?
I decided to become a coach primarily because I received such significant benefits from coaching myself and because I see the tremendous value of accountability, support, and education that coaching provides. It is also an excellent personal and professional challenge for me to shift my work toward a different focus and approach than I have had for thirty years as a therapist. I still offer therapy because I believe in the benefits of the Integrative Therapy model, and I enjoy the depth of the emotional engagement required to do such effective and deep mind, body, spirit healing work.
What do you say to therapists who are skeptical of coaching? What do you see as the value of coaching that therapy doesn’t offer?
Many therapists are skeptical of coaching! I tell them "I get it, I was too before I experienced it myself!" I give many examples of how coaching has been incredibly beneficial for me and for many clients, and these case studies often shift their perspective on it, at least a little bit!
For example, Andrea (not her actual name) was ready to make changes in her life, to really take steps to shift her career and to prioritize finding a life partner. She had a great experience with therapy for eight years several years ago, grieved the death of a close family member and got clear about her identity, her emotional life, and friendships. Now, she was ready to commit to significant changes and she chose life coaching to help guide and support her there. Within six months, she was dating men who were more to her liking and had launched a new part of her career.
Everyone is welcome to have their doubts and opinions, but it doesn’t sway me in the least about my belief in the power and efficacy of coaching. The value of coaching is that clients get to experience the concrete benefits of reaching goals in ways that therapy often does not provide. It is very satisfying and quantitative, which is quite refreshing for me as a thirty-year clinician who has worked with mostly qualitative results for so long!
What is your advice for therapists who are considering adding coaching to their practice?
I encourage therapists to add coaching to their practice if they are considering it. Like anything else, if you are moved in a big way to add, or shift to, another approach, then do it! I believe in each of us fulfilling our true gifts in the ways they come to us as we grow. And, we can only be as effective as our desire, interest, and passions allow. If a therapist is feeling stuck, bored, or burnt out, there is no way they could continue to provide the best clinical treatment to clients, but adding, or changing to, coaching could be just the shift to allow a continued process of providing excellent service.
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Devorah Steinberg, LICSW is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and Life Coach in Jamaica Plain, MA. She specializes in goal setting, spirituality, mind-body connection, couples counseling, and depression. Devorah has an integrative practice, in which she combines traditional talk therapy with diverse techniques like hypnotherapy, reiki, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and yoga. Devorah has worked in private practice for over twenty years.