Many of the clients we see for porn or sex addiction problems are increasingly coming into therapy with a life coach at their proverbial side. Coaches can focus on specific problems or issues: partners of sex addicts, porn addiction, or self-esteem enhancement. They may also be group focused such as faith-based coaching, business coaching, or theme-based workshops. Coaches often use their own personal experiences as motivation and their barometer for success. They may or may not have any formal training. While some coaches are licensed counselors or psychologists, many are not.
What Coaches Do Best
Coaches provide motivation and goal-directed action that help clients get unstuck from a particular problem. They work in tandem with the therapist and understand the limits of what they can provide the client. By helping clients take specific action, coaches can provide a sense of validation and a plan for specific steps in problem solving. They often focus on encouraging motivation for behavioral change.
Differences Between Coaches and Therapists
While therapists may share similar goals as coaches, there are important differences clients should consider when choosing who best to guide decisions regarding treatment for sex or porn addiction issues. Therapists have either a Masters or Doctorate degree and are trained in scientific and theoretical models of change that best suit the client’s problems. They are licensed in their respective states and adhere to standard ethical and treatment guidelines.
Therapists Specializing in Sex and Porn Addiction
Therapists specializing in treating sex and porn addiction, partners of sex addicts, or couples counseling for sex and porn addiction problems have specific training and are certified by governing bodies that incorporate state-of-the-art and -science findings regarding these issues. They have training in treating trauma, abuse, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem as well as other complex issues.
What Therapists Do Best
Therapists are also uniquely trained to deal with the unconscious reason causing the client distress. When repeated patterns of relation distress occur or an issue does not respond to problem solving techniques, therapy is the profession of choice to assist clients in uncovering the underlying dynamics, support corrective emotional experiences, and produce long-term behavioral change. We have increasingly seen clients regard coaching as the shorter term and easier solution to complex issues only to find themselves frustrated by the return of the problems.
When Coaching Interferes With Therapy
It is not in the client’s best interest to have a coach operate outside their specific focus, e.g., treating a history of abuse or trauma, addiction, depression, anxiety, long-term low self-esteem or repeated relation problems. It is also problematic for a coach to project their own personal experience onto the client with a “one size fits all” approach. Therapists are specifically trained to keep these types of biases at bay. Clients are best served when coaching plays a supportive role in the treatment process as opposed to taking control of the client or undermining the process by advising against therapeutic recommendations.
We are seeing increased reports from clients whose coaches suggest or advise about therapeutic matters such as disclosure of sexual secrets, establishing sobriety for porn and sex addiction, or issues regarding the rebuilding of trust in the couple’s relationship in a way that goes against the foundations of what the therapist is trained to do. When this occurs, therapists are left unable to help.
While many coaches will encourage therapy, some of their clients see coaching as a replacement for therapy. Drawn by the hope that motivation and short-term problem solving techniques are the answer, vulnerable clients find coaching too alluring to pass up. Hoping to remain on the “surface” of their issues, clients may leave the treatment process prematurely. It is critical that coaches operate within their scope of competency and refer clients with complex issues to a licensed therapist.
Considerations When Seeking Help for Sex or Porn Addiction
- Coaching and Therapy are not the same.
- Coaching is best used for problems that readily respond to motivation and short-term problem solving.
- Therapy is best suited for complex problems or long standing relational distress issues (though some therapists also provide short-term counseling).
- Coaches should operate within their scope of competency and refer their clients to therapists when problems persist.
- Coaches and Therapists should work together in the best interest of the client.
- Coaches should defer to therapists on complex issues involving sex or porn addiction, partner trauma, and couples counseling for sex or porn addiction.
Following these guidelines, clients will make the best choice as to when to work with a coach and whether they need professional therapy. By making the right choice, clients will spend better use of their time and money and increase their chance of success.