How To Do Life

Fresh ideas about career and personal issues

What I Know and Don’t Know About Career Counseling

A candid look at the profession, useful for career-minded people as well as for counselors and coaches. Read More

I'm curious whether

I'm curious whether therapists, who, for reasons of marketing, often have to offer "coaching" services as well, find that indicative of a discouraging development in U.S. culture?

coaching versus counseling

As you likely know, there's a continuum in counseling based on the extent to which behavior patterns' early-in-life causation is addressed. Traditional Freudian or object-relations therapy is at one end of the continuum. Coaching is on the other. A client, by choice or need, opts to see a practitioner somewhere along that (and other) continuum.

I don't think it's fair to reduce "coaching" to a marketing ploy. Sometimes, indeed, a phenomenological/here-and-now approach in which the role of the practitioner is mainly to facilitate client decision-making and follow-through is appropriate. Indeed, with most of my clients, my starting place is heavily behavioral because it's faster. If I can get a client to make needed changes without delving into their childhood experiences, such as familial relationships, I do so. If psychological roadblocks seem to be impeding, I start to peel away the layers, but only as few as necessary to effect the behavior changes they decide they want---although I must admit I often can't resist suggesting some change(s) I think they should consider making.

Thank you

Thank you for sharing this honesty and wisdom. I've been a career coach for several years and find it comforting to hear your experience. My wonderful clients have taught me so much, yet I know there will always be so much more to learn in this art form of coaching.

What They Taught Me

I liked your reflection on what I know and don't know about career
counselling, here is mine as a career/personal counsellor

What They Taught Me

This is a good bye to the work of counselling post- secondary students. For almost 4 decades this work has sustained me in a number of ways. I am thankful for a good salary (I thank the union for that). The work has been intellectually challenging and the rhythms of the academic year have added variety. Most of all, I feel I have matured by listening and talking with students. Perhaps this is best demonstrated with a few little stories.

Long ago when environmental courses and careers were almost unknown, a student told me how she wanted to work in this field. Knowing that most of her friends were pursuing very lucrative careers, I asked her how she felt about this possible income disparity. She said that all she really needed in life was a little gortex between herself and the elements. I didn't know what gortex was then but I understood the draw of doing something meaningful.

Another student was struggling with her relationship with her mother. She said her mother could spend days looking for the right pair of shoes. The student wanted something very different for her own life. She put me off shoe buying permanently and a lot of other time wasters too.

When I'm faced with students whose life has been particularly difficult, I'm reminded of a student. She was a 45 year old woman with a new baby and a 16 year old son. She had just left an abusive husband and needed to work to support the family while she started back at school part time. I was asked to help with career direction except that she already knew what she wanted
to do. She said she needed to get a Bachelor's degree, then a teaching degree and then a Master's and finally a PhD. I asked how she would do this and she replied, "It's a piece of cake". Eight years later, she got hired after her Master's degree. Hard work, confidence and enthusiasm are a powerful combination, not to be underestimated. She set me straight.

And more recently, a young man knows he is in a consuming, turbulent and loveless relationship but is unwilling to leave, yet. He slowly pieces back together some family support and reconnects with friends. He shows me thatsome anchoring can help before he/we are ready to face change.

The work has formed me and changed me and given me a lifetime of ideas to churn over. Haven't I been fortunate.

Here are a few thoughts from working with students:
. Encouragement can come just from showing interest.
. Relax your boundaries a little, especially if it isn't important.
. Career counselling is a creative team of two. Allow yourself to share their enthusiasm. Most people know what they want to do.
. When you review a struggling student's weekly schedule, you both learn a lot.
. Listening and being present is often enough.

Thank you

I'm a social worker for the military and will try to incorporate your hard won wisdom.

What surprises my collelalgues is that I urge my soldiers to write things down as we go so they remember once they leave the counseling session. Several of the older soldiers have mentioned how much they gained from reviewing what they had writiten previously.

For the civilian readers, for soldiers the gulf between our worlds seems huge. Don't ask them to tell you about their world, ask them instead to comment on the civilain world. It's a way of validating their new hard-won wisdom.

Praise is an easy way to increase happiness.

Thank you for a wonderfully wise column.

Interating with ex-military

Thank you for your helpful comment. I hope people read it. I certainly will, in interacting with ex-military people ask them about their take on the civilian world.


In the post, you seemed puzzled by so many clients' inability to take action, despite significant effort and counseling. Have you considered the prevalence of shame in our culture? I believe shame is at the root of most people's inability to make changes. it is a powerful de-motivator, especially for those who want to be unique and relative nonconformists. Parents use shame from birth to achieve compliance with their sense of morality and appropriate behavioral norms. They use it to manipulate their children along the path they want their children to take and unleash it with emphasis if a child attempts to stray from the parents' design. Teachers use it. Coaches use it. Society uses it to force conformity. Peers (bullies) use it to (re)gain a sense of power and control they feel they lack. It is a paralyzing and debilitating emotion that many can't even identify as the culprit because shame is such an ingrained and inherent part of their lives.

For those who seem to resist all efforts and remain stuck, ask them what blowback they think they might get from taking action and from whom? You might be surprised.

A coach will help in this

A coach will help in this situation; tell you what changes you need to make or how to make those changes. With this you should think about your career. By following your coach’s advice we can move ahead in your career by breaking all potential barriers. These days making career become quite difficult as competition is high. So we have to choose a right career path for you. Life Coaching Florida

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Marty Nemko is a career and personal coach based in Oakland, Ca. and the author of 7 books. 

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