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The word “coach” may evoke images of a friendly teacher who ran you through drills during high school soccer practice, a life coach who helps inspire clients to reach their goals, or a career coach focused on work-related challenges. Mental health coaches are also trusted partners who can help you achieve goals, but they focus on emotional health and wellness.
So, what is a mental health coach? They’re specially trained professionals who help people develop greater self-awareness, implement tools to better manage their lives, and pursue specific mental health goals. Coaches can help people with a range of conditions, from stress, burnout, and anxiety to those who need support through life transitions, tough feelings like anger, or relationship issues. Mental health coaching is designed to get you back on track when you’re feeling stuck and help you create a more rewarding life.
Much like therapists, behavioral health coaches listen deeply to their clients to gain an understanding of their personal needs, challenges, and hopes. Based on each client’s particular set of circumstances, mental health coaches also do the following:
While a mental health coach and therapist both work to help you improve your mental health, there are several important differences.
Mental health coaching, on the other hand, usually requires a certification program. Many of these programs are accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF) or other coaching organizations.
As a relatively new and rapidly growing area of coaching, there are many misconceptions about mental health coaching.
While mental health coaches aren’t therapists, they can still draw on principles and practices from evidence-based therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
Extensive research backs the use of these interventions in a clinical setting to treat conditions like depression and anxiety. And mental health coaches’ use of these techniques for common problems like stress is promising. In fact, in a survey of over 300 Lyra coaching clients, 95 percent reported that they were satisfied with the program and 88 percent saw a reduction in their stress or improvement in their overall well-being.
Many people choose a mental health coach vs. a therapist if they want professional support, but don’t have a complex mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, or suicidal thoughts. Emotional wellness coaches can help clients manage emotions, change their way of approaching problems, improve relationship skills, and reduce stress and anxiety—all of which bolster mental health.
Many mental health coaches are rigorously trained. For example, the mental health coaches in Lyra’s network undergo extensive vetting, credentialing, and training. To be considered as a prospective Lyra coach, a candidate must have graduated from a program accredited by the ICF, one of the most renowned professional coaching organizations worldwide. Only the most highly trained candidates are accepted—in fact, Lyra accepts just 2 percent of all applicants to its mental health coaching program.
Our mental health coaches complete a comprehensive, four-month orientation program designed and overseen by a team of clinicians that focuses on CBT principles and techniques. All coaches are given opportunities to practice this approach before meeting with clients. And just like therapists, coaches are trained to maintain professional boundaries and confidentiality in their relationships with clients.
Another misconception is that coaches rely on generic, one-size-fits-all techniques with clients. In reality, emotional health coaches rely on well-established codes of ethics, plus evidence-based techniques, while tailoring their approaches to best serve each client’s unique needs and circumstances.
Mental health occurs on a spectrum, and psychotherapy may not be the best option for your specific needs and challenges. Or, maybe you met with a therapist previously to better understand the effects of past experiences on your life and are now in a better position to focus on personal and professional development. While therapy can be a great fit for many people, for others there are several indicators that mental health coaching may be a better match. These include:
Here are some key questions to ask yourself in deciding whether mental health coaching is the best type of support for you.
Whether it’s a therapist, mental health coach, or another type of mental health care provider, reaching out for help is a brave step. With support, you can build greater self-awareness, shift your thoughts and beliefs, achieve your goals, and improve your well-being.