Coaching VS Psychotherapy

Jul 20, 2021

This article is part of the No Holds Barred weekly column by Ram Ramanathan. It’s based on questions we receive during our weekly webinars.

Anonymous: Why is coaching not heavily regulated like psychotherapy when psychological issues do come up in coaching discussions.


Wow, I thought no one would ever ask. 

What do you mean by not heavily regulated? It’s not regulated at all! One may say it’s self-regulated, which is also not quite the fact. Every coach I speak with bemoans the lack of trained credentials of 90% of coaches. Yet, when someone speaks of regulations and licensing hackles arise.

Self-regulation is an idealized concept. In the US some of the self-regulated professions are advertisers, sellers, etc. You can draw your conclusions on the ethical credibility of these professions. Regulated and licensed professions in North America include all medical professions including professions dealing with mental health, lawyers(though the link above mentions it as an unregulated legal profession in most countries is regulated), accountants, engineers, electricians, physiotherapists, etc . to ensure public health and safety. Consulting, training, and coaching are not regulated at all, while all psychological therapy including counseling is. 

If coaches believe, as many do, that we are in a space of supporting mental wellbeing, then coaching ought to be a regulated industry. If we eschew all psychological approaches and stick to providing solutions as consultants do, or be directive as trainers are, we don’t need to be. Coaches don’t seem to be able to decide. We would like to eat the cake and keep it too. 

The question of regulations begs the question of professionalization. The linked research paper provides a balanced view. Coaching is a fragmented profession, with multiple institutions, all claiming to be member-driven, providing their alternatives to self-regulation. You need to be associated and to be a member of these fragmented institutions, often not seeing eye to eye even on professional ethics, competing for supremacy, to be governed by their ethical codes. In most of these organizations, they do not themselves have an overseeing external ethical board to ensure ethicality and professionalism. What credibility can they have as regulators?

To an individual coach, who has spent time and money in acquiring a professional qualification to be a coach, it’s a nightmare. At least 90% of people who call themselves coaches, life or executive or whatever, have no formal training. We know of highly popular programs offering weekend certification courses and those who are certified, and all who pay, call themselves coaches. This farce will end if there is genuine professionalization and regulation. 

If one is a user of their services, how many of us would be comfortable being served by an unprofessional, untrained, unskilled lawyer, doctor, architect, electrician, psychiatrist, or physiotherapist? Would you? 

This is an area coaches need to debate openly on. What do you all think? Why? 


Coacharya: Here’s an article by Ram with frameworks that we use and LASI is described in there:

Coacharya: Here is SET: heck-in-check-out-in-your-coaching-conversations-using-set/


Dharmesh SHAH: YouTube link to Coacharya session last year 

Humble Leadership and Humble Inquiry – Edgar Schein

1.  Enlist any two roles of a coach?

A coach can have multiple roles, not just 2.  This varies from individual, group, team and systemic coaching. It’s easier to say that the coach should not be a solution provider, but an awareness creator. 

What is your context? Are you referring to niches, and not roles? 

  1. What is a thought model? 

What is generally provided as a Thought Model by some coaches is their modified version of Freud/Jung’s pyramid of Beliefs/Values/Attitudes/Behaviours/ Action. The Jungian model makes more sense.

  1. Explain facts vs stories concept in CCM 

Are you referring to facts and stories in Patterson’s Crucial Conversations? it’s about basing your assumptions and context  on facts and creating the content using stories to communicate.

  1. How transactional analysis improves interpersonal communication? 

It can. So can multiple other simpler techniques. Respect, empathy and trust are common sensical parameters that enhance the quality of interpersonal communication. 

  1. What are the scenarios where coaching is more advisable than mentoring? 

Where self awareness to sustain behavioural changes is critical. Mentoring as normally practised  won’t help at all. 

  1. Which are two dimensions of leadership coaching? 

Generally performance (task) and behaviour (people)  as the 2 axes.

  1. Stress needs to be taken care of through which CCM technique?. Explain giving two reasons. 

CCM in stress???

  1. Protean career is values-driven. Why? Just the opposite for reasons below
  2. Explain the Boundaryless careers with example. IT,  salesmen, communicators, consultants, coaches …professions where skill is portable..
  3. Boundaryless careers are organization-driven. Explain. Just the opposite. They assume organization free, self driven  career

If you are referring to Arthur & Rousseau’s book on Boundaryless career, from which the term Protean career was developed, this was based on the possibilities of people moving across functions and organizations, especially in the technology/IT space, with portable skills . This prediction has been prophetic in some senses and tragic in others. For someone who constantly reinvents one’s skills and behaviours, in a negative sense with low value/belief systems, this works well. Personally I think these terms had in mind geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and such Renaissance heroes who are polymaths, skilled in multiple areas. In reality, one’s ability to exploit both these is limited to exceptional people. Protean people can be seen as selfish, manipulative, with no fixed purpose, as floaters with little long term value to an organization. On the other hand Boundaryless may have strong positive connotations.

A lot of other questions were answered during the past 2 webinars. Watch the full video below, or on our YouTube Channel.

Coaching Questions You’re Too Afraid To Ask

Questions you are too afraid to ask part-2

If you have a question that you want an answer to, please feel free to fill up this 2-minute survey.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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