How do I make the leap from therapist to coach?

The answer to this, as is often the case, depends on a number of questions:

1 How many of the coaching competencies do you already meet?

Take a look at the coaching competencies listed by different coaching bodies, including the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), Association for Coaching (AC), and International Coaching Federation (ICF), all of which break down the process of coaching, as they see it, into its constituent elements, and see which of these you already meet and where there are gaps. (BACP is currently carrying out some exploratory work to map across counselling and coaching competencies, and findings from this will be disseminated when this work has moved along further.) I have often used the analogy of a graphic equaliser to describe how our existing training qualification, along with experiences we might have as a supervisor, trainer or facilitator, or in a particular business context, might mean that we already meet more or less of each coaching competence. The picture will of course vary for different people. In this way you can map what you think you already know and can do and identify where the gaps are.

Many different psychological models provide foundations for coaching. It might be helpful for you to start by reading about the different coaching approaches to see which might be most aligned to your existing training (though you may, of course, want to try something new). You can read more about this in books such as Excellence in Coaching: the Industry Guide (Kogan Page) and Mastery in Coaching: a Complete Psychological Toolkit for Advanced Coaching (Kogan Page), both edited by Jonathan Passmore, which have chapters written by coaches, covering most theoretical orientations. This may help you ascertain which approach is of most interest to you and to approach coaching courses with a sense of what you might be looking to gain beyond a qualification.

2 What kind of coach do you want to be?

The answer to this question might also influence your choice of training course. It may be that you are already working quite proactively, for example with young people, or in a business context where coaching for performance, ie to enable a leader to meet business objectives, is an explicit part of the consideration within the work. It may be that some coaching training providers will be prepared to consider your experience so that you can move straight into senior practitioner level training rather than take the underpinning foundation and practitioner levels, for example. University courses that offer an integrated qualification may allow you to take only some of the modules, if you can show how you already meet the others.

If you want to work as an executive coach, some experience of working in that field in another capacity might be seen as an advantage, and give you greater credibility. If you are going to work in that context, you may need some further competencies (see the Association for Coaching’s additional competencies for executive coaching, or the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS) accreditation guidelines). It’s also worth asking around to see what commissioners or sponsors in that context are looking for before you train. Do they have a qualification or an accreditation level that they expect? Do they look for coaches aligned to a particular coaching body? Do they have a list of preferred coaches, and what are their criteria? If you have credibility already in a particular organisation or context as a counsellor, are they willing to give you opportunities to add some aspects of coaching to your approach?

3 Do you want to have a separate coaching practice, or to integrate counselling and coaching?

If you know you want to add coaching skills or models to your existing practice and work in an integrated way, you may wish to consider one of the courses that offers counsellors the opportunity to do just that, using their own model or framework and training you in specific tools. Training providers for counsellor-to-coach courses, coaching courses and integrative training are listed in our resources section. At this point we are not able to recommend one course over another, but if you contact those providers, they will often be very happy to spend time talking with you. They may offer a taster day where you can meet the tutors who may also be able to put you in touch with previous course participants who can share their experiences of the training and the benefits they are seeing from it in their practice going forward.

4 Have you explored ways of building your coaching experience?

Some of the ways in which I developed as a coach, both before and after taking a qualifying course, included reading extensively, attending network meetings, taking on voluntary roles and offering to work pro-bono, having supervision with experienced coaches, or with dual trained supervisors, and attending conferences and CPD opportunities both face to face and online. It has been invaluable to me to build my network of colleagues and it is really exciting to be part of this journey with other practitioners interested in and becoming dual trained and working as both counsellors and coaches.

Carolyn Mumby is Chair of BACP Coaching