Psychiatrist vs Psychologist vs Life Coach –
Who is Right for Mental Health Support?
Head-to Head Comparison:
The decision of psychiatrist vs psychologist can be difficult -and then there are naturopaths and mental health coaches, brain health coaches, brain trainers and life coaches – Help!
Many people I talk to are confused when they come to me. They know that they don’t feel good, that they are in emotional pain.
They ask themselves: Should I see a psychiatrist or a psychologist?
Most people consult a physician first (good) and – after a brief conversation and maybe a few tests – are told: You have depression and/or Anxiety. And here are some pills to take to help.
Often, that’s it.
They walk away thinking they are defective, something in their system is “out of order”, maybe even they feel even more worthless than before.
I decided to write this article to help clear the confusion and make it very obvious which one to choose in which situation (and it many be not what you thought).
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (physician) trained to treat severe mental health conditions with medications, invasive treatments like ECT and others, but also often with different psychotherapy options.
A Clinical Psychologist, and sometimes also a Counselor or Clinical Social Worker, is trained to treat and manage mental health issues with different kinds of talk therapy. They usually do not prescribe medications, although they are familiar with many types of psychiatric medications.
Psychiatrists are also often trained to deliver talk therapy, but due to time constraints, they often focus mainly on prescribing medications and managing medication side effects.
Psychiatrists, therapists and life coaches all focus on creating positive change in their clients’ lives, and all with a different approach. But only psychiatrists and therapists are qualified to diagnose and treat mental health issues, especially the severe and very impactful ones like schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders (involving a break with reality, and sometimes resulting in violent behavior) and certain types of bipolar disorder or severe, suicidal depression or devastating anxiety and panic.
Psychiatrists, and psychotherapists and other similar groups have to be licensed in most jurisdictions to work, be members of their professional regulating body and follow strict professional and ethical rules as well as carry professional insurance.
This provides the – often very vulnerable – patients – with much needed assertion and safety that they will not be abused or harmed in the treatment.
On the other hand, the fact that these professionals have to adhere strictly to the rules and regulations of their professional board can make their treatment more rigid and restricted to one or a few specific modalities.
Often, they have to adhere to the “Professional Standards of Practice” and adhere to a regulated regimen in the treatment and prescribed treatment protocols.
And even if they know that other options exist and could be helpful to their clients, they are sometimes not able or allowed to share this knowledge.
Both psychiatrists and psychologists mostly have no or not much knowledge – and sadly sometimes even disdain for so-called “natural” or “alternative” healing methods, although scientific research, clinical experience – and the results of thousands of years of practice in all cultures and societies – have well established the value of “complimentary” healing options like nutrition, exercise, nutritional supplementation, herbs, acupuncture, music, art, hypnosis, touch, yoga, TaiChi, even some energy healing modalities like prayer, play, story telling, animal-focused treatment and many others.
Both psychiatrists as well as psychologists can diagnose mental health disorders, sign insurance and other paperwork, issue reports for tax authorities etc. They also can sign papers for very ill patients to be confined to a psychiatric closed inpatient unit according to the local laws for a prescribed time (usually 7 days) and if needed, to involve the police – if they learn or have reasonable grounds to assume that a patient is in the process of – or in imminent danger to – harming themselves or others.
Now, anybody that learns about such an issue (a suicide attempt in progress or directly planned, or an act of violence to others planned or in progress) should immediately call 9-1-1 and report this. The operator will then involve the appropriate authorities to keep individuals and/or society as safe as possible.
These laws are reasonable and very helpful and have saved more than one life. We need to be grateful that they exist and that there are professionals that care enough even about the most disturbed individuals in society to at least try to help them – while keeping the rest of us reasonably safe.
But those who are relatively stable, those who are more or less functioning in society, are not an imminent danger to themselves or others, all these, and most of my readers hopefully belong in this latter group, have more choices.
And the third choice in helping chronic mental health issues, or “life issues” or “struggles” – are well-trained coaches.
Coaches, especially life coaches, and licensed psychologists, trained clinical social workers, often also called counselors or therapists (I just call them “psychologists” from here on) are often confused by clients since they often “market” to the same people, i.e. talk about similar issues.
So, you may ask, what about coaches, what do Life Coaches and Health Coaches do?
Life Coaches vs Health Coaches
A life or health coach can help you to manage your life better, solve practical details like setting goals, improving time management, starting to eat healthier and then keeping it up, starting and maintaining an exercise habit and so on.
Coaches usually can’t solve any big, underlying problems.
If people struggle with difficult emotions, severe trauma from the past, or deep, persistent health struggles, especially if these struggles lead to them being completely incapacitated, unable to function in society, or if they are in very sever emotional pain, a trained physician (like a psychiatrist) or psychologist should be consulted first – or in tandem with a good coach.
And a good coach will, when you talk to them, let you know when they think you need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist first – or in tandem with them.
We will talk about the role of naturopaths in mental health in a further chapter
history of psychiatry, psychology and coaching
This is just a Very Short Synopsis of the History of Psychiatry, Psychology and Coaching.
Humans had issues with their mental and physical health since the beginnings of time. And trying to help those who suffer always was a deeply human issue and task that wasn’t invented by us modern humans.
I dare to say that humans that lived even thousands of years before us where no less intelligent than us. The only difference really seems to be that they were lacking the tools, especially of travel and mass communication, that we enjoy today.
In pre-historic time, it was the family or community that delivered support, assisted by priests, shamans or other healer figures if problems arose.
People with serious mental illness, especially self-harm or violence to others, were either executed more or less humanely or confined in prison-like institutions, which at that time was not much better than a cave with locked doors and “bread and water” and sometimes some basic food. Often, people were starving to death or dying from infectious diseases under these conditions.
“Treatment” consisted of trepanation (cutting a hole in the skull to let the “evil spirits” out) or exorcism procedures. Many people did not survive these procedures.
Early physicians and healers who focused on mental disorders tried to describe and classify them, and did so often very well.
They established “asylums”, houses where mentally ill or “misfits” for society were housed and cared for as best as was possible then. “Treatment” attempts involved procedures that we from our perspective would view as cruel and barbaric, like long-time immersion in cold water baths,
Psychiatry vs Psychology
Psychiatry as a specialty didn’t really evolve until the 19th century, when asylums expanded and even more experiments were conducted to find methods to “help” those exhibiting bizarre and disturbing behaviors. The attitude towards the mentally ill changed more and more from “people possessed by evil spirits” or even “bad people” to one of “ fellow humans that need our help”.
At this time it was also more and more established that mental illness has roots in biology, and it is not a coincidence that Sigmund Freud, who can be considered one of the founders of modern psychotherapy, started off as a neurologist.
Psychotherapy, originally grown out of medicine and psychiatry, slowly evolved during the early 20th century and started to exponentially grow towards the 1970s, when many new schools of psychotherapy were introduced.
During the same time, psychoparmacology – biologic psychiatry – had started. The first revolutionary drugs to be introduced in 1952 were the early antipsychotic drugs that suddenly led to formerly severe mentally ill patients that were unmanageable other than with restraints or in an institution, suddenly were behaving calmer, seemed happier and more compliant with everyday life requirements of regular society. This was a true revolution in psychiatry, a did the introduction of lithium therapy for bipolar illness around the same time.
From this experience, medications were hailed as the “solve all problems in mental health” solution, a perception that is still in many minds today.
Around the same time the medication side effects were noted, that sometimes were just as devastating as the disease itself. So the race for better, more effective drugs with less side effects began. And it is still going strong these days.
Drug therapy for mental disorders is now standard therapy and sadly often used – and overused – in cases where other approaches may be more helpful and longer lasting. As helpful as psychiatric drugs can be, it should always be remembered that in most cases, they are just one brick in the complex house of true mental wellness.
Neuroimaging, looking at the brain of people with mental illness, has been added in the 1980s to the tools available but sadly is still not being used as widely as it could. Dr. Daniel Amen MD, one of my mentors, has done pioneering work in this area with his work on SPECT scans related to behavior.
Psychiatry has evolved as a medical specialty from earlier healers, schamans and priests to address severe mental illness resulting in very bizarre and abnormal behavior and feelings.
Psychotherapy evolved as a non-medical branch of psychiatry, “talk therapy”
Coaching is an unregulated profession that involves using personal experience and self-help techniques to help clients that overall are functioning okay, but want to achieve a higher level of personal growth.
Coaching is the newest of these professions and really ahs only evolved since the late 20th century. Derived from Coaches in Sports, it has been evolved to be applied to such diverse fields as business growth, personal growth and help with managing all kinds of medical and psychological disorders and conditions and help with issues around other areas of potential growth. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaching#History
Should you Hire a Psychiatrist vs Psychologist vs a Coach?
The decision to seek out a life coach vs. a psychiatrist or psychologist is a very personal one and needs to be made by yourself, without pressure.
Obviously, financial pressures can play a role, as whether the health system or a private insurer, your employer or another third party will pay or reimburse the costs.
So, imagine you want to climb a certain mountain. You consider hiring a mountain guide. But you happen to be not just inexperienced but really physically unwell. You may even have arthritis, heart disease or a broken leg. In this case, you definitely want to see a doctor first – before attempting to climb the mountain.
And if your doctor says it’s okay to start to actually be climbing mountains, then you can hire a mountain guide for practical help with choosing the walking and climbing strategy, choosing your gear and the best path to successfully reach the peak.
And if you are running into your health issues during the climb, it is helpful to have your doctor’s phone number with you…
It’s the same for your mental health.
What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist?
If you are generally functioning in your job, in your relationships, in your life, but you are struggling with a certain “mountain”, like weight loss or achieving life goals like being a better person, feeling happier and other similar goals, you may consider hiring a health or life coach.
But if you are seriously ill, considering hurting yourself or others or do not function at all in your work or social life, please see a psychiatrist or psychologist first until you are stable enough to attempt the climb.
I often compare a coach with a mountain guide. Someone who has climbed this mountain before and knows what you will need. Who can help you to prepare, to choose the right gear, and then to help choose the right way and then climb the mountain with you, if needed giving you some motivation, a little push and shove when you want to give up, asking you to take a break when they know you need one, and celebrating each successful segment of the journey with you. They are keeping you safe, so you don’t easily slip in a crevice or fall down.
They also may help you by teaching your strategies for mountain climbing so you can try it yourself.
But if you struggle with everyday functions of life, if you can’t work because of this, if you are diagnosed with a mental or physical illness, if you are considering ending it all, in short, if you suffer from a very serious mental issue, you need to consult a psychologist or psychiatrist. And the decision to use psychologists vs psychiatrists is yours. You can use both or start with one. And sometimes the decision is made by the availability and the cost and whether a psychiatrist, psychologist is covered by your insurance.
Then, once the psychologist and/or physician get you well enough to continue everyday life, and you are ready to get to your next level, it could be time to accelerate your personal growth by adding (or switching to) take on challenges in a good life or health coach, specializing in your area of need.
If you feel that you are not (yet) at your best, that you are more existing, but not thriving, a coach can help you to climb the mountains of life by guiding you to your optimal physical, mental, spiritual and emotional well-being. A good coach is like a guide. You are always at the helm and in control. And a good coach has expert knowledge of your mountain, your climb and can help you reach your summit easier and faster than you could do it by yourself.
Psychologist vs Therapist vs Counselor?
Often these words are used similarly. So it is always advisable to check someone’s background and education before working with them.
A clinical psychologist may work with clients to set goals and make changes, but primarily clients come to them seeking assistance with healing trauma, overcoming abuse, treating addiction, or treating mental illness.
Are psychologists doctors? They can be. Most often not a medical doctor (MD), but a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy).
Because therapists have a specialized graduate degree and clinical training, they have an extensive foundation of knowledge about the mind, biology, and human behavior. They are qualified to help clients in these sensitive areas, and, more importantly, they are properly trained on how to handle the volatile nature of these situations.
The legal aspects differ by country and jurisdiction, but in general – similar to a physician – a psychologist has to undergo a defined, regulated and rigorous training program and then pass several exams and undergo extensive practical training in their chosen field before being licensed to work with clients without supervision.
Why is that important?
The structure of the training helps the future psychologist gain the basic knowledge and understanding about his field, the human mind, emotions, basically, why we do the things we do – and what can go wrong.
In addition, psychologist receive training in different mental illnesses and specifically how to diagnose them and treat them without – or in conjunction with medication prescribed by a physician, often a psychiatrist.
There are many fields of work available for a psychologists, the one field I am talking about here is a psychologist working with one or more clients, often called “clinical psychology”. This process is usually called “psychotherapy” – treating a humans “psyche” or “mind”.
This training will enable a psychologist to work with clients in the way he was trained to do, hopefully (and usually) for the clients benefit and – more importantly – without hurting the client.
Many clients working with a psychologist are what we could call “vulnerable”, that means they have experienced stressful, sometimes extremely hurtful events and experiences in their life and – because of this, and combined with a genetic vulnerability and other influences – developed distressing symptoms.
The more these symptoms impact everyday functioning, the more therapy is necessary and desirable.
Good psychotherapy can help with resolving past hurts and help a client achieve lasting change for the better and a happier, more fulfilled life as a result.
And if things (thankfully not very often) go wrong and a client ends up feeling that their psychologist hurt them, they have the option of resolving it with mediation – or even a lawsuit, since psychologists are required to carry insurance.
What is the difference between A Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Like all medical doctors, s/he has to graduate from medial school where s/he studied all aspects of conventional medicine in detail. On graduation, they go on to a specialized training (residency) in psychiatry, under the supervision of a psychiatrist.
They then are required to pass a rigorous exam to become board-certified psychiatrists and qualify for licensure as physicians, as well as to maintain life-long continuing education.
Psychiatry vs Therapy…
Psychiatrists, like psychologists, have a specialized graduate degree and clinical training, they have an extensive foundation of knowledge about the mind, biology, and human behavior.
Sometimes psychiatrists focus on “just” prescribing and managing medication. But there are some who focus more on the whole person and all aspects of mental illness. Some examples would be Dr. Daniel Amen MD or Dr. James Greenblatt MD – or you can search for an integrative or functional psychiatrist near you.
Psychiatrists are qualified to help clients in these sensitive areas, and, more importantly, they are properly trained on how to handle the volatile nature of these situations and take legal action as necessary and appropriate.
Why is that important?
The structure of the training helps the psychiatrist not only gain the basic knowledge and understanding about his field, the human body and mind, emotions, but also understand medication effects and side effects, lab testing, other, more invasive intervention and appreciate – and hopefully avoid – the negative consequences of untreated severe mental illness.
There are many fields of work available for a psychiatrists, many work in hospitals, institutions, jails, governments or for insurances. But most work in private practice, treating patients with medications and psychotherapy.
This training will enable a psychiatrist to work with their patients in the way s/he was trained to do, hopefully (and usually) for the clients benefit and – more importantly – without hurting the client.
Most patients treated by a psychiatrist are what we could call “vulnerable”, that means they have experienced stressful, sometimes extremely hurtful events and experiences in their life and – because of this, and combined with a genetic vulnerability and other influences – developed very distressing and often disabling and lasting symptoms.
The more these symptoms impact everyday functioning, the more treatment is necessary and desirable.
Good psychiatry can help to lessen the severe emotional pain and the often severe behavioral disturbances going along with severe mental illness, as well as contribute to soften the impact of past hurts and help their patients achieve lasting change for the better and a happier, more fulfilled life as a result.
And if things (thankfully not very often) go wrong and a patient or the patient’s family ends up feeling that their psychiatrist hurt them, they have the option of resolving it with mediation – or even a lawsuit, since psychiatrists are required to carry insurance.
Naturopath and Mental Health?
A naturopath is a profession pretty unique to North America. A naturopath in North America (Canada and the USA) has to go to Naturopathic School for 4 years.
Then they need to work with another naturopath for some time before working independently.
After that, s/he is required to pass a rigorous exam and then qualifies to call themselves a naturopath and coverage by certain private insurances.
In their studies, naturopaths get familiar with the human body, how it works in health and sickness and the basics of medical therapies. The main focus is though on treatment of illnesses by “natural” means, which means often diet, supplement protocols, and herbs. They often do certain lab tests as well as administer injections and iv’s.
Although naturopaths have basic training in mental health conditions, very few have more than this.
Many naturopaths have continued their studies and reached an amazing level of expertise in treatment modalities not accepted by conventional medicine in North America, like certain adjunct cancer therapies, hyperbaric oxygen therapies and others.
They are regulated in most jurisdictions and usually licensed and mostly eligible for reimbursement by certain private insurances.
I am not aware of other regulated and relatively well-trained naturopathic professionals outside of North America.
In other countries (and I’d like to hear from you if I am wrong) like my native country Germany medical doctors can take additional training courses to become naturopaths in addition to being licensed medical professionals (this is what I did).
When I was working in Germany, I always considered this the Gold standard, as you can combine the best of both worlds.
Most countries, including Germany, have other kinds of practitioners that have different backgrounds, training and regulations (if any).
In Germany these are called “Heilpraktiker”. Others are natural, traditional healing practitioners, herbalists and others, working with local herbs and other modalities.
These practitioners can be wonderful humans and very helpful on many levels. I do not want to discount them on any level.
But it is buyer beware: make sure you know what really is going on in your body, educate yourself first about all potential risks or rewards, you use.
If there is any doubt, have yourself checked out FIRST by a licensed practitioner before using any other kind of healer.
What Is A Life Coach vs Health Coach?
The primary goal of a life coach is to help a client look at where they are, where they want to be, and how to get there.
A health coach helps you with a wellness-related aspect of life, e.g. nutrition, fitness, or similar health issues.
The main legal difference between psychologist, psychiatrist and coach is that a coach is – in most jurisdictions – not regulated.
As such, a coach is not required to bring any training to the table. In this sense, they are similar to other professions (or jobs) like knitting instructors, cleaning professionals, writers, editors, radio announcers, broadcasters and so on…
As a coach, in most jurisdictions, all you have to do is announce it to your neighbour and follow the local rules when it comes to businesses and taxation.
A coach most of the time works as an independent business owner, often as a side job.
Now, that said, there are training, certification and even licensing programs coaches can take to get some idea about what they are doing.
Most coaches have some sort of training and most also carry insurance.
But strictly speaking, it is a buyers beware.
As with all non-licensed healers it is buyer beware: make sure you know what really is going on in your body, educate yourself first about all potential risks or rewards, you use.
If there is any doubt, have yourself checked out FIRST by a licensed practitioner before using any other kind of healer.
I have personally seen “Health Coaches” with a background in marketing or similar (helpful for starting the business for sure) trying to dole out advice to people how to eat better… I have seen ‘Life Coaches” whose training was mainly building houses and getting older themselves…
Okay, that sounds like a scathing “Stay away from it!”, right?
So who is writing this article? A coach.
Why Am I Working As A Brain Health and Mental Health Coach?
Here is my honest answer: I am a coach for 2 reasons: by choice and for convenience.
What I like about Being a Brain Trainer and Mental Health Coach:
By choice: I can choose to keep learning and helping others…
- Because I can use my unique background and qualifications to uncover hidden root causes of my clients’ sickness and this often can point them in a new direction and towards faster and more complete healing.
- Because I feel even as (or maybe because I am) a senior lady, I have a lot to give and contribute and can help other people to improve themselves
- Because sharing my story can help others going through similar life events.
- Because it allows me to give back, use all my training and experience in the medical, naturopathic, psychological and all related fields and in the “hard school of life” for the benefit of others
- Because it allows me to dive deep, take my time, and then share with my client/s from my heart how I truly feel about their illness, what other measures, tests they should consider, what other practitioners would be helpful and what they reasonably can expect, and what strategy, supplements or other products I would recommend for them to take.
- This all without any industry pressure. My fees are paid by my clients and I am accountable to you and your success only, not to any government or interest group of corporation that offer grandiose payments but require adherence to strict rules that often do not make sense and are in conflict with the best interest of the clients or patients. (I work product-independently, and I am only recommending products that I personally use or would use for myself or family or good friends. (For full disclosure: I may use products that give me a commission or other benefits if you decide to buy them (no extra cost for you), If I do, I will always disclose that to my clients). I am thankful to have only a limited needs to make money for myself, my business systems, my employees and my family. I am not looking for a fancy palace in southern California. I am happy where I am and as the person I became. (and I can show you how to become that, too)
- Because it allows me to constantly learn new things, “play” with technology and computers and keep my own brain and mind sharp and flexible
- Because it allows me to care for others in a deep way and share my love and understanding with those who want and need it.
By convenience and responsibility:
- Because it allows me to work part-time as little – or as much as I want to do
- Because it is easy to set up as a business – legally and online. (And yes, I do house calls locally)
- Because I do not have to invest large amounts of money and travel for (another) university study at my age to become a licensed psychologist or a licensed naturopath. (and take those limited spots from younger people who need it more) – without really learning anything new to me).
- Because it gives me a few extra dollars to spend – and donate to those in need.
- Because to get licensed as a physician (my “real” profession) in my chosen country in Canada would mean to take a residency (which are very limited to get here) away from a younger student who has a longer potential to be a working doctor and helping more people as such in his future than me as an older adult.
- And because even if I did get licensed as a physician in Canada it would mean to have to restrict my practice to “accepted” or “conventional” methods and support the (in my eyes) weird and unnecessary separation between medical and naturopathic doctors in North America.
- Because it allows me to work from home and online and I can still go for a quick walk with the dog in a break or have a meal with my sweet husband Mike…
What I don’t like about being a coach:
It is not a regulated profession, so I am in a pool with many charlatans and pretenders out there (although there are other very honest and dedicated and very well-trained coaches like me out there, too, and I am always happy to meet and collaborate with those)
Although it is not mandatory, I choose to carry insurance to protect myself and my clients.
I have to participate in online marketing activities – which can be challenging as marketing messages have to be true – but still give “clickbait” – which means that the headlines have to compel people to click through to read your message.
Compare this with going by a store in old times and your gaze being attracted by the pretty dress and the funny way a mannequin was standing…
It always was and still is about attracting the attention of a potential buyer.
And different coaches do it more or less well (I admit, I am not very good at it).
As a retired physician, I struggle with this because physicians are for good reasons prohibited from advertising their services…
For physicians and psychologists, marketing and sales are skills they never really need to learn. For coaches, both are essential skills to run a business.
I’ll never do unethical marketing, but I am getting better at it, and in a way, are we not all “selling” ourselves all the times to others… There are sleazy salespeople and you will not find them here, and then there are consultants that help you make a buying decision. That’s more what we do.
I will never offer you any of my paid services if I am not 100% convinced that you will greatly benefit from them and make a giant leap towards your goal of living your best life, full of meaning, joy, passion and purpose.
What A Good Life Coach Can Do For You:
Make an action plan to initiate positive change.
- Improve your self-esteem.
- Find a work-life balance.
- Question limiting beliefs about your potential.
- Reframe past experiences with a strong focus on making changes for the present and future you.
- Identify, set, and achieve goals.
- Take real action and measure the results.
- Adapt to life changes effectively.
- Increase motivation.
- Learn new life skills.
- Ditch beliefs that no longer serve you and adopt those that will serve you better in the future
- Get rid of bad habits and replace them with better ones
Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Coach
I am often floored when talking to prospective clients on how trusting people are and how little questions they ask.
Of course, most coaches (like myself) are honest, responsible people. But as a prospective buyer of coaching services, you do not know that – unless you do your due diligence (and sorry, reading one or a few Facebook posts is not due diligence)
As with all unregulated professions, before hiring a coach you should do your due diligence. Here are my recommendations:
How to Find the Right coach For you
- “Google” the coach’s name. “Google” their business name.
- Look up the coach on LinkedIn, a large professional network.
- Check the coach’s website. Go to the ABOUT page and read it. Watch the videos if there are some (often, coaches tell their story there)
- Read the whole page to the bottom. Scroll down.
- Are there any credentials displayed? Any indication where they learned what they are doing now?
- Is their website, their LinkedIn profile up to date?
- Are they a member of any professional organization?
- Then scroll to the very bottom. The website footer should have:
- The business name and contact information:
- see if you can find where they are located – example: If you live in Canada, a coach in Australia may be hard to work with due to the large time difference and even harder to sue in case things go wrong…
- The Disclaimer (or terms and conditions) – click on the link, open the document and read it. Or print it and read it.
- Do your research about me now
- If you are satisfied with this research, go on to book a free session. Most coaches offer a free session for you to ask questions. If you considering hiring a coach, take advantage of it. Come prepared. Bring a list of your own questions.
- Book a free call
Here are some examples of questions that any responsible buyer should ask before they hire their coach:
Questions For a Potential coach:
- What is your training (and then go check out the program they say they took and see if it is true and if they trained in anything that may actually be helpful to you)
- How do you intend to help me?
- Do you have insurance? What happens if I get hurt emotionally or physically when I work with you?
- What happens in case we have a dispute?
- What are your fees?
- All other questions that come to your mind
What to consider in every helping relationship, whether you work with a psychiatrist, psychologist or a good coach: (let’s call them all “professional”)
- It is very helpful when you like your professional and feel drawn to her or him. Often it is helpful when the professional is familiar with issues you are facing and maybe even has also experienced – and overcame those.
- It is essential for you to be able to respect the professional and feel that you can trust her or him to keep you and your person and information reasonably safe
- You need to feel: understood (at least most of the time), cared for, and respected, safe to explore even your darkest areas of your personality without it later being used against you, trusted and valued as a fellow human being.
- It is a dealbreaker when the professional: seems to encourage or confirm your unhelpful (bad) behavior or makes sexual advances, reacts to your expressions of feelings of upset, anger or disappointment with them in an overly defensive, totally dismissive or even angry way, tells you that you have to get worse to (maybe at some point) feel better, does repeatedly miss appointments with you without a good reason, expresses open anger towards you or even blames you for his bad behavior or feelings, expresses that he is currently dealing with similar issues as you and isn’t’ able to overcome them themselves. (It is NOT helpful to commiserate together)
- It is a dealbreaker, when you feel: hurt or disappointed by the professional and unable to express it to them, intimidated by the professional in any way, that you are not making any progress over several sessions without being to explore the reasons with your professional, locked into a contract with financial or other implications that are impossible to change at your reasonable request, pressured or coerced by the professional in any way
A Personal Note
Here are my personal experiences with different psychiatrists, psychologists and coaches and my past and current reactions to those, as well during my early, most depression-laden days as well from my current healthy perspective:
I have seen several psychiatrists during my hospital stays as well as practicing psychiatrists in Germany and Canada. I stayed with my current Canadian psychiatrists since I first saw him in February 1998.
When I started, I was very depressed. I appreciated that he took time to explore how I felt and I still remember one question that hit the point at that time: he asked me: “Do you know who you are?” This question not only made me realize that I didn’t know this, but also helped me to feel understood and establish a connection. He then prescribed me medication and a follow-up appointment in about a 2-weeks time. What followed, was my depression worsening to the point of a suicide attempt and my first hospitalization.
I found that he, like most psychiatrists, really doesn’t have the time to really address the deeper root cause issues of depression and despair with life. Medication and a few brief interventions seem to be their usual MO. (modus operandi – way to work). They have a way to not show you their emotions and to hide nearly everything about their own private life, which to me always – and still does – feel like a wall and hinders true connection human to human and true personal growth. They also most of the time strictly adhere to the guidelines of conventional psychiatry.
What was helpful: Some of the medications helped to dull the intense emotional pain, prevented me from committing suicide and gave me the time to work myself more on my personal growth. Book recommendations like “Feeling good” by Dr. David Burns, really helped. He always seemed friendly and caring in a professional way, which made him likeable to me. His services were paid by the health system. And I always felt that I could ask him questions on what to do and rely on his judgement when mine was too impaired by mental illness. (except when he advised ECT and my husband said no – which I still believe saved my brain from additional damage – thanks, hubby!)
What was not helpful: He was hard to reach, sometimes let me wait for hours for the 20 min appointment and call 10s of times before getting through to make another appointment. I often felt left to my own devices. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have the added support of my current husband Mike.
He never suggested anything outside of medications of psychotherapy (all the other helpful modalities I found out by my own research much later)
I seen psychotherapists in hospital settings, and in private practice, in individual sessions and in group sessions.
After my first hospital stay, I was fortunate to be offered and accept a 6-week “day hospital” group psychotherapy program. It was led by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers and was an excellent, hands-on program that made a big difference in my life. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity and this program.
I found that psychotherapists, usually not paid for by the system, can be extremely helpful if they are able to provide to the client what they need at the time they see each other.
What I found helpful: The group setting, which helped me to realize that I am not alone, and others are going through similar challenges; the worksheets, handouts and exercises, some on paper, some physical (meditations, relaxation exercises etc.).
I found that in individual therapy many psychologists – or psychiatrists do not evaluate their clients (e.g., by using questionnaires before and after sessions), and it is hard to find a good therapist since there is really no way to meet them before hiring them for at least one session or at least watch a video of them beforehand.
So, I tried several psychotherapists with unsatisfactory results (either I felt no connection, I didn’t like them, or I just didn’t feel that they would be able to help me).
I know that there are excellent psychotherapists out there, and some of my clients have told me of excellent results and great practices. So, if you are satisfied, happy with your therapist, I feel truly happy for you.
Life Coaches and Health Coaches:
I had several life and health coaches after I already recovered from my depression to see if they could foster further personal growth. I found sadly that many of them also didn’t meet my expectations (which are relatively high). But often, you can meet coaches in a free “trial” session and see if you like them; and if their method or personality match your expectations.
I found that some coaches I meet may think they are good coaches but once you check out their skill set and then talk with them in a trial session, you realize that they are not right for you.
I personally don’t benefit from coaches that just “sit around and encourage you to talk”. This is nice, but in my experience just a “feel good” experience without any lasting benefit.
My favorite coach was a lady who was warm, open, direct, a strong personality like me, asking deep questions but keeping me accountable to my goals and reminding me of my commitments whenever I tended to fall off the wagon (yes, I do that, too).
As I stated above, I feel that when you are seriously mentally ill with great impact on your personal and work life, you are better off starting with a psychiatrist and/or psychotherapist. If desired, adding a good coach can be very helpful.
Once you are over the worst, past the acute phase of your illness and are, what I call “In the gap” – which means, you are no longer severely ill, but you are feeling like you are existing, but not thriving, a truly Holistic Life or Health Coach can help you to get to the next level of your personal growth.
Should You Become A Coach As Your Profession? – Here are my Pros and Cons:
Coach As Profession? – Pros and Cons
Many people consider coaching as a profession. Here are my thoughts about this:
of starting a life or health coaching business:
- Easy to get into, in most jurisdictions there is no formal training required (but there are many programs available, and some are better than others)
- Seems like an ideal career after retirement, as you can use your personal life experience and knowledge to help others
- Nearly unlimited growth possibilities in very different areas of life
- No regulation means it’s a buyer beware – no licensing and no regulated training means that there can be danger to vulnerable clients
- Some coaches are ruthless marketers and promise clients results they are unable to deliver or – worse – don’t care about results at all. This creates a professional reputation that can be damaging to all coaches.
- Need to establish their own rules for practice and communicate this to clients
- It is usually hard to find paying clients (usually no insurance coverage available) and it is needed to communicate the benefits of your service well to potential clients to establish any value.
- As a result, many, especially beginning coaches work for free or a very low fee which leaves them frustrated and in debt, their clients mostly without the desired result and this both possibly damages the coaching profession as a whole.
Want to know what we do here at DocChristine Coaching?
We made an (imperfect) movie about the process. Click HERE to watch “Becoming Sparkling Suzie”
Brighten Your Day With Gratitude
All we have is this daily sparkle – today. Don’t waste it. use it to the benefit of yourself, of others and the world at large.
This little book with prompts and quotes and directions on how to use it will help.
Get it today as a .pdf for FREE
Meet Dr. Christine Sauer, MD ND
What We Do For You:
YOU are the specialist for your own body and we are the experienced guides that show you the way. We care, educate, challenge and hold you accountable so YOU can reach the goal of living your best life.
Our Mission: At DocChristine, we educate and inspire you to get healthy and stay that way! We support you in your quest to heal from chronic illness. We provide practical and proven guidance and help so you can achieve lasting wellness for body, mind and spirit.
Our Promise: We will deliver excellence and value with step-by-step practical help, while holding you accountable through your journey. We will innovate and find new ways to help you achieve total wellness and grow as a person with passion and purpose.
Our Motto: “If You’re Stuck In A Dark Place, Don’t Give Up! There Is A Light At The End Of The Tunnel For You, Too!”