What is Mental Health Coaching? Breaking Down 4 Common Myths

Jun 7, 2019

By Matthew Boone, LCSW and Jessica Edwards, CPC

For many, the word “coach” may evoke images of the friendly teacher who ran you through drills during high school soccer practice. Or it might conjure up visions of a life coach who helps inspire clients to reach their goals using positive affirmations, or a career coach focused solely on work-related challenges. Through interviews with Lyra Health members, we’ve noticed some common misconceptions about mental health coaches. Some folks believe they’re unqualified or uncommitted to their profession, or that they use a generic, one-size-fits-all approach with clients.

And while some coaches may fit that description, that couldn’t be further from the reality at Lyra. Our coaches are specially trained professionals who help their clients develop greater awareness in themselves and implement effective tools to better manage their lives. This type of coaching is designed not only to get you back on track when you’ve lost your way, but to help you create a more rewarding, purpose-driven life.

Below, we debunk some of the top myths about mental health coaches, and break down what you can expect from Lyra’s coaching program.

Myth #1: Coaches Can’t Help with “Real” Mental Health Issues

While Lyra’s mental health coaches aren’t therapists, they 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 emerging research on coaches’ use of these techniques for common problems like stress is promising. In fact, in a recent survey of over 300 Lyra coaching clients, a whopping 96 percent reported that they were satisfied with the program, and 88 percent saw a reduction in their stress or improvement on their overall wellbeing.

Unlike therapists, coaches don’t specialize in treating complex clinical problems. However, they do help clients manage emotions, challenge negative thinking patterns, improve relationship skills, and reduce stress and anxiety — all of which bolsters mental health.

Myth #2: Coaches Aren’t Highly Trained

A common preconceived notion we hear about coaches is that they aren’t highly qualified professionals. In reality, 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 International Coach Federation (ICF), one of the most rigorous and renowned professional coaching organizations worldwide. Only the most highly trained candidates are accepted — in fact, Lyra accepts just 2 percent of all applicants to the coaching program.

Once hired, Lyra coaches complete a comprehensive, three-month-long orientation program designed and overseen by a team of clinicians. The training focuses on the principles and techniques of CBT and gives coaches the chance 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.

Myth #3: Coaches Use a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Another recurring misconception is that coaches rely on generic, one-size-fits-all techniques with clients. But like therapists, Lyra’s 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. Much like therapists, 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, coaches also do the following:

Ask powerful questions. Coaches ask the kinds of questions that help clients see themselves in new ways and open up new avenues for transformation.

Introduce new perspectives and skills. Lyra coaches help clients develop evidence-based skills to help them overcome obstacles they’re facing. They also provide a fresh perspective to help their clients reframe their thinking and address problems more effectively.

Help clients design actions to facilitate behavior change and hold them accountable for putting them into practice. Clients rarely leave a coaching session without establishing a personal practice to complete before their next session. This could mean a journaling exercise to clarify values and goals, a new technique to try when emotions get the best of them, or another meaningful “homework” assignment designed to propel their transformation.

Myth #4: Seeing a Therapist is Always the Best Option

Mental health is on a spectrum, and psychotherapy may not be the best behavioral health option for your specific needs and challenges. Or, perhaps you met with a therapist previously to better understand the effects of past experiences on your life, and are now in a position to focus more on personal and professional development. While therapy can be a great fit for many people, for others, there are numerous indicators that coaching may be a better match. These include:

  • The mental and emotional health challenges you’re dealing with are on the mild end of the spectrum.
  • You prefer a shorter-term approach to personal growth and development.
  • You want to improve your stress management or work-life balance
  • You want help in clarifying your values, goals, and purpose.
  • You’re interested in learning practical, actionable ways to address your personal and professional challenges.
  • You’re willing to complete self-assessments, reading, journaling, or other “homework” to help overcome personal challenges.

CONTACT US

If you’re interested in coaching or therapy, Lyra can connect you to the behavioral health solution that is right for your needs. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer. Sign up now.

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DISCLAIMER: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Matthew S. Boone, LCSW is the Director of Clinical Innovation at Lyra Health. He is a nationally recognized trainer in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and the editor of the book Mindfulness and Acceptance in Social Work.

Jessica Edwards, CPC is a professional coach for Lyra Health. She spent over 12 years honing her communication, leadership and coaching talents in the advertising industry before branching out on her own to help individuals align more of who they are with the work they want to do every day.