Lots of people ask me what is the difference between what I do and what a therapist does.
That’s a great question.
Certainly, much of what we do will look similar:
We both listen empathetically.
We both want you to feel more empowered.
We both are interested in your growth.
We both ask powerful questions to facilitate your thoughtful reflection about your own actions and reactions.
When do you need a parenting coach?
The difference is that my work really does focus on parenting. My primary aim is for you to be a better parent. While I hope that as part of that you will be a happier person, at the end of the day, I want your household to be running more harmoniously and your interactions with your kids to be more constructive. I want you to step into your power as a parent, confident that you are making good choices for your kids.
As part of that, we might certainly talk about who you were as a child and what you experienced in your family of origin, we might talk about your relationship with your spouse (especially in regards to how you co-parent), we might consider things like how birth order and gender roles affect who your kids are and what you are experiencing.
I call myself a coach/educator because I often ask parents their permission to educate them on what research has found about best practices—like the differences between and effects of permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian parenting. I draw from my 50K+ hours of direct contact with children where I have had to learn how to use my body, my voice and a bag full of parenting techniques to engage effectively with children. In that way, a lot of what I do is very hands on—the nuts and bolts of parenting.
Given how parenting and family are such a central part of our identity, the work I do can certainly shift how a person feels about their life.
When do you need a therapist?
Sometimes, however, a parent is hurting so much as a person, that he or she has no bandwidth for focusing on his/her kids in a practical way. That is a sign to me that the parents’ mental health needs more support than I can provide. That is a person who needs a professional, a therapist, who will just focus on them in all their complexity.
I certainly direct clients with depression, including postpartum depression, to a therapist. Likewise, there are lots of times when parenting triggers other unresolved issues for people—grief for the loss of their own parent, unresolved trauma from sexual molestation, unresolved fear from an accident or natural disaster that happened, resentment at how they were treated as a child. These are serious issues that require the depth and breadth of training a licensed therapist has gone through.
When I direct a client towards therapy, it is not with the intent that she should give up getting parenting coaching: It is with the hope that knowing she has a skilled therapist who will focus 100% on her and her emotions, when she works with me, she can be more ready to learn and practice parenting skills and techniques that will increase the number of positive interactions between her and her children.
I am a big believer in therapy. I know that the work I have done on learning about myself and getting my own experiences into perspective has absolutely left me more ready to engage with my child with patience and curiosity.
I definitely see the need for both therapists and for coaches.
If you’re curious about whether and how working with a therapist might support you as a person (and therefore as a parent), I would be happy to hop on the phone and chat about my experience as well as feedback that I have gotten from other clients.