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Jan 11

Self-knowledge or Another Reason to Try Coaching

I assume Richard Friedman, M.D. didn’t mean to make a case for coaching in his article, When Self-knowledge is Only the Beginning, in the New York Times (click here to read the whole article), but I think he makes a good (if unintentional) case for it!  He starts out:

It is practically an article of faith among many therapists that self-understanding is a prerequisite for a happy life. Insight, the thinking goes, will free you from your psychological hang-ups and promote well-being.

Perhaps, but recent experience makes me wonder whether insight is all it’s cracked up to be.

I wonder the same thing.  I think there is definitely a place for insight, and for some  people it is an important piece of the puzzle.  But for many others who are stuck in their lives and wanting change, insight is not the key:  action is.

And coaching is all about action…big and small.  It’s about acknowledging that you’re in a situation that makes you unhappy and figuring out alternatives.  There is always another choice…another thing you can do, even if it doesn’t feel like it.  Knowing the root of your unhappiness and focusing on it can even be detrimental.  If someone frames the cause of their suffering as a given or fact, they may start to believe in only that reality.

Friedman talks about a chronically depressed patient with a lot of self-knowledge.

He had been in therapy for years before I saw him and had come to the realization that he had chosen his profession to please his critical and demanding father rather than follow his passion for art. Although he was insightful about much of his behavior, he was clearly no happier for it.

When did he get happier?

…my chronically depressed patient came to see me recently looking exceedingly happy. He had quit his job and taken a far less lucrative one in the art world. We got to talking about why he was feeling so good. “Simple,” he said, “I’m doing what I like.

I think that is one of the strengths of coaching.  You focus on where the passion and energy is and steer the client in that direction.

So, thank you Richard Friedman, M.D. for your article, but next time could you please make a direct plug for coaching.