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In my article, “Coaching or Therapy,” I drew some clear distinctions between these two ways to be supported. I was inspired to write that article because I had recently revisited the question, “What is the difference between coaching and therapy?

In the article, I compared the two approaches in this way: “…therapy is primarily for healing and coaching is primarily for personal growth and development.”

I use IFS (Internal Family Systems) which is primarily a therapy model in my coaching because my clients are trying to accomplish more than what they have accomplished in the past. They come to me and ask for help because they recognize how challenging this can be. Sometimes, what has been unhealed gets in the way of the client’s aspirational life.

I ask my clients to come to their sessions with a specific intention for the session. An example of an intention or coaching request is,

“I don’t like the way I reacted to my spouse over the weekend and want to come up with some ways to avoid it happening in the future.”

Prior to my IFS training, I may have supported a client with this request by helping them get curious about what triggered the undesired reaction. We might spend some time identifying the meaning-making they assigned to the triggering circumstance. And I would have helped them see the truth about the beliefs and assumptions that unconsciously drove their reaction.

IFS has helped me understand how much of our lives are influenced by parts of ourselves which seem to be acting independently and influencing us without our consent. These influences happen automatically and without conscious awareness. By bringing awareness to this automaticity, undesired thoughts, feelings, choices, and actions can be transformed.

Once I had been trained in the IFS model* and recognized its power, I began using the IFS model with most of my clients. IFS, coupled with clarity about what the client is trying to accomplish, is a powerful combination.

Using IFS, I help my clients see when their reactions to the current circumstances of their lives or businesses are informed by the past, and sabotaging their success in present reality.

Goals and objectives provide tangible ways to measure growth and development and are fundamentals of life coaching. The IFS model works well to facilitate healing and updating to those parts of the client that influence them to show up in a way that hijacks the achievement of their goals and objectives.

With clear objectives in a coaching relationship, actions are identified that give the client the best chance of success. When the client procrastinates or resists taking the actions needed to achieve their goals, IFS offers an effective method for understanding and resolving what is getting in the way. The result is two-fold:

  1. The client is more easily able to take the necessary actions to succeed.
  2. Over time, the goals and objectives of the client more accurately reflect the essence of who they are.

For more information about the Internal Family Systems model, go to www.IFS-Institute.com 

*The IFS Institute trains non-therapist practitioners such as life coaches together with licensed therapists who use the training to help their therapy clients. Life coaches use the same training to help their coaching clients and often sessions look very much the same whether being facilitated by a licensed therapist or a coach. As mentioned in my article, “Coaching or Therapy,” most coaches who use IFS in their practices work with clients whose main focus is on personal growth and development while the use of IFS in therapy is primarily for healing.

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