Most people today have heard of or used coaching services. There is a wide range of different coaches with various levels of experience, expertise, and understanding of the various issues that individuals may face.
However, it can be confusing to understand if trauma-informed coaching or trauma therapy is the right option. The answer is that both can be effective, but they are very different processes.
What is Trauma Informed Coaching?
A trauma-informed coach works with a client to help them to understand their trauma response as a supportive professional in their life. In other words, the coach and the individual work together to develop recovery goals, identify resources needed, and support the individual in the change they determine is best for their needs.
Trauma-informed coaches do not provide a diagnosis or provide oversight or case management services. They do not create the treatment plan or choose the specific goals or methods used as part of the coaching process. Instead, the coach works with the individual to develop and change responses and future behaviors that are in alignment with the individual’s goals.
A simple way to think about trauma-informed coaching is to see it as the step-by-step changes an individual wants to make in his or her life. This includes leaning to use more beneficial coping mechanisms, building resilience, and how to become more self-confident. Self-determination is critical in this type of coaching, and the outcomes or changes through the process are entirely based on the client’s goals.
Trauma coaches should be certified and trained in assisting people who are recovering from trauma in their life. Specialized training is important so the coach understands how the trauma has affected the individual and how to customize a unique coaching program to support their choice of goals.
What is Trauma Therapy?
Therapists are licensed mental health professionals who work by using a medical model to care for patients. They have the training and expertise to diagnose mental health conditions, develop treatment plans, and assist clients in deep healing after traumatic events.
Unlike a coach, the therapist works with the individual to understand the trauma and how it impacts their life today. The thoughts and behaviors developed in times of trauma are to protect the individual, but they are not always effective or helpful once the danger is no longer present.
Through treatment modalities such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), Art Therapy, or other therapeutic treatments, the therapist helps the individual understand the trauma and release the memories and mechanisms that no longer serve a purpose in life.
Therapy is where the healing occurs at the mental and emotional level. Once the healing is complete and the trauma no longer creates triggers, trauma informed coaching can help with the practical aspects of incorporating new and positive behaviors in your life.
Combining Therapy and Coaching
It is not uncommon for a client to start working with a trauma therapist to address the challenges or negative changes that trauma has caused in their life. This could be trauma from their childhood, a single traumatic event as an adult, or situations with constant or continual trauma.
In the early stages of addressing the root of the trauma, the individual may find that healing through therapy is the best option. However, when they begin to heal, they may find that having the more practical aspects of trauma informed coaching is helpful in organizing and changing their life based on their positive mental and emotional healing.
In these situations, the therapist and the trauma informed coach may work with the individual. Coaches and therapists can both help the individual with issues around mindfulness, relaxation, goal setting, self-care, and other areas that benefit the unique needs of the individual.
Keep in mind, the trauma informed coach is a life coach that understands how trauma impacts individuals. The therapist continues to treat the trauma and helps with the process of healing and trauma recovery.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW and Transformation Coach