Mental Health
11 Things You Didn't Know About Coaching

11 Things You Didn't Know About Coaching

5 min read


Rachel Gersten

Today we continue with our new series "Things You Didn't Know," all about different types of therapy (and in this case, coaching!), directly from the experience of private practice therapists in NYC who use these techniques every day to help countless people heal. Today, we hear from NYC therapist and coach Rachel Gersten about coaching.

1. How would you describe coaching in a therapeutic context?

To me, coaching is more short-term and goal-focused. I see therapy as being very open, long-term, and can take many forms depending on what the client is going through in their life. Coaching, however, is focused on achieving one specific goal that someone is struggling with and could benefit from extra support to help them achieve.

2. How did coaching come to be? What types of philosophies inform it?

Coaching, and mentoring, has a long history. It recently has become more popular in a therapeutic context as people realize that taking care of their mental health doesn’t need to look a certain way. It’s not always about being in crisis mode as certain stigmas would have you believe.

There are goals we want to achieve that are hard and can feel very overwhelming. It’s so helpful to be able to have someone who has a background in assisting people with working through difficult times and to cheer them on as they achieve their goals.

3. How hands on is the therapist in a coaching-style therapy?

As with more “traditional” therapy, I am as hands on with coaching as the client needs me to be. That being said, coaching is more task- and solution-focused and therefore the therapist is very hands on. I often give clients assignments or methods to try, and I have even walked a client through meal planning, a new exercise, or job interview prep.

4. Please share three different real but anonymized examples of what coaching looks like in the room.

  • With one of my health coaching clients, I have walked through a grocery store with them and helped pick out appropriate and nutrition dense foods that they can plan their meals with and make sure they’re sticking to their health goals.
  • With another health coaching client, we do our sessions while walking. They find it difficult to fit exercise into their daily routine, so this is a two birds with one stone type of solution. Even if they can’t squeeze in any other physical activity that day, they get to spend the session actively moving.
  • During a career coaching session, we have spent the time looking at job postings and discussing the pros and cons, as well as actively applying during that time. Similar to the health coaching client, they found it difficult to find the time to sit down and dedicate themselves to what can be a very tedious process. In session, they made the time and had my support while accomplishing what they needed to get done.

5. Please share three or more issue areas coaching is particularly helpful in working through. Why do you think that is?

I focus mostly on health coaching and career coaching. I think these are very helpful issue areas because encouragement is so important with both of them.

Often times, they aren’t things we absolutely have to do, and they’re difficult journeys. That combination makes it easy to give up or to “settle” for what your current routine is. It can make it very challenging to get started or to stick to a routine.

Having someone there with tips, strategies, and encouragement can make all the difference.

Additionally, it’s immensely helpful to have a coach for mindfulness and relaxation. This falls into that category of “positive changes we don’t have to make,” even though the benefits are numerous.

It can also be scary to focus on the present moment and our own thoughts, and having someone there to support you can make the process feel so much safer.

6. How long does a coaching treatment generally last?

It really depends on the needs of the client, because everyone’s journey is different. I’d say most coaching clients work with me consistently (weekly) for about 3 months.

7. Are there certain personality types that would work especially well or not well,  with coaching?

I think all personality types benefit from coaching, especially with a therapist who is well trained to adjust accordingly to each person’s individual needs.

I’ve had health coaching clients who like the “tough love” approach, and others who would absolutely shut down in that situation. It’s a give and take relationship, and it’s important for the therapist to be mindful of what the client responds to best.

8. How do you know if coaching is working for someone? How do you know if it’s not?

It’s working if they’re moving closer to achieving their goals, even if it’s slow or small progress.

If the client isn’t, it’s crucial to try to troubleshoot and see where things are going wrong.

This is why it’s so helpful for a coach to also be trained in mental health counseling. It’s very rare that the reason someone isn’t moving forward is just because they “don’t want to.”

There’s usually something else going on, and that’s when having a trained therapist as a coach is extremely beneficial.

9. How should a therapy-goer prepare for a coaching session? What type of work is entailed on the therapy-goer’s side?

I love when clients come in with very specific goals they want to reach, and ways they’ve tried to achieve that goal in the past. It’s great information to have because then there’s no time being wasted trying things that just didn’t work in the past.

If this is a client’s first attempt in achieving their goal, then an open mind is the most important thing to bring in. It’s imperative that the client is as open as possible to trying anything, as coaching is often about trial and error.

10. What is your favorite thing about coaching?

I love seeing clients achieve their goals, especially if it’s been a goal they’ve been struggling with for a long time. It’s the best feeling to know I helped change someone’s life!

11. What advice might you give to a therapy-seeker wondering if coaching is right for them?

Try it out. The only way you’ll know if it’s truly for you is to try. You can always stop if it isn’t working, but just find someone who you feel comfortable with and take that first step.

Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your perspective with us and helping us learn more intimately and humanly about coaching within a therapeutic context.

If you would like to reach Rachel directly to continue the conversation or schedule an appointment, please email her at [email protected].

Any thoughts, questions, or feedback? We'd love to hear from you. Reach our team any time at [email protected].

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About the author

Rachel Gersten is the co-creator of Viva Wellness, a New York City therapist, and health/wellness coach with a passion for helping people lead their healthiest lives possible. Rachel believes that wellness looks different on everyone, and works closely with clients to help them achieve goals that are realistic for them. When she’s not busy working, you can find her running in Central Park, cheering on her sports teams, or thinking about the next time she's going to eat.

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