When Counselors and Therapists Become Online Coaches

I’ve noticed a trend lately that got me thinking. It is counselors and therapists taking their practices online by becoming coaches. So what happens when a therapist, psychologist or counselor becomes a coach? Suddenly they are no longer confined to working one-on-one in person with clients in their local area. They also no longer have to abide by the same rules and regulations that govern those in-person interactions. But what does it mean for the clients? Are they still getting the same level of care and confidentiality? Are they getting the same or better results? Does reaching a wider audience mean casting a wider net into shallower waters? And what is the difference between counseling/therapy and coaching?

One of the biggest difference between counseling/therapy and coaching is the level of education and credentials required. The coaching industry is relatively unregulated and uncredentialed. However, when a therapist IS your coach, this becomes a moot point. Another difference is the difference in approach. Both therapy and coaching deal with something in the client’s life that they want to change. Therapy approaches this from an internal starting point by looking at what has happened to you in your past. Was there some event that may be the root of the problem that you are experiencing now? For instance, if you struggle with the confidence to stand up in a meeting and share your ideas, a therapist might look at what happened in your past when you tried to share your ideas. Did you have an overbearing father who stopped you before you could get to your point so he could demand that you stop saying ‘um’ and ‘ah’ or ‘like’ or to correct your grammar? Maybe you were told as a child that you talk too much and children should be seen but not heard and you internalized this? Maybe the therapist will have you write a letter to your father as your 8 year old self, or do some visualizations where you ask your younger self to share her ideas. The focus of therapy is to go into your past and heal the wound that is causing the problem in your present. A coach is more likely to be future and solution focused. If you struggle to communicate in meetings then join Toastmasters to get practice speaking in front of a sympathetic group. Try to film yourself practicing at home so you can watch the videos back and critique yourself. But in the end, which of these methods is best for client?

These were some of the questions that crossed my mind as I spoke with Hilary Silver about making the transition from her brick and mortar practice to becoming an online relationship expert and empowerment coach. Hilary still sees clients in-person as a counselor, but expanding her business online has added her both greater breadth and depth to her work.

“My business for 15 years was as a counselor. I started with a brick and mortar practice, helping one person in the privacy of my office, one at a time. About two years ago I started to feel really isolated. I was repeating myself with people. I knew that if everyone could hear what I hear everyday, they wouldn’t feel so alone with what they are struggling with. So many people feel bad about what they are dealing with, but then they feel worse about it because they feel alone. So I felt a passion to figure out a way to get my message out to the masses. So I took my business online. I switched from being a counseling therapist to being a coach so I could serve more people at once. I have actually been surprised at how comfortable people are talking about this kind of thing in the online space. So it’s working and I love it!”

It does seem that in recent years we all have gotten more and more used to sharing more and more of ourselves online. Especially since video chatting and conferencing has become more easily accessible for everyone. We can still get some of the feel of being in person and face to face with another person through technology.

“We want to connect and we don’t want to connect in a shallow way on social media. We want realness. I did a talk a couple of years ago called ‘Transparency is The New Black’ because that is what we are all craving right now, that realness.”

Hilary has built this kind of transparency into her own brand. She shows herself as an expert who knows a lot about relationships and empowerment from all her years of study and work, but she also shows her own journey right along with the rest of us. She also struggles to do the things she knows she should do to maintain her relationships each and every day. “I’m human just like everyone else, and if my husband and I take our eye off the ball for a while we have the same struggles everyone else does.”

One of Hilary’s most powerful tools in helping her coaching clients with both romantic and work or collaborative relationships is to get people to hone in on what they actually want. “A lot of people aren’t clear on what they want so they just go along for the ride and let someone else do the driving, usually their primary love partner. Then they wake up one day and realize that they are at a destination they never really wanted to be at. Or in relationships with colleagues or collaborative partners they may not be speaking up for themselves. So they end up agreeing to do things they don’t want to do or end up in places they don’t want to be. The important thing is really getting clear on what you want and feeling empowered enough to be confident to put it out there and really represent yourself in the world.”

If you would like to hear my entire conversation with Hilary Silver you can find that here. And if you want to learn more about her and her work, you can learn more here.

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