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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Scott

Is it right to coach or supervise using approaches drawn from psychotherapy?

In a couple of recent posts, I have included some of the learning from our experimenting with Gestalt approaches to supervision, in a recent CPD session. Experimenting is an appropriate term: appropriate to the spirit of Gestalt, to the spirit of Michelle Lucas’ book of (inter alia) Experiments, and to good learning practice.

I should emphasise, perhaps, that we were experimenting in an established group of experienced practitioners with a high level of existing trust and vulnerability. But that did raise the question of when, or whether, it is appropriate for coaches or supervisors to use approaches drawn from psychotherapy in their coaching or supervisory work.

We are all members of the EMCC and AOCs. The Global Code of Ethics which the EMCC and the AC initiated together, states: Members* will operate within the limit of their professional competence which is a good starting point. So how do we interpret that in the light of the question we are addressing?

We discussed this at some length, and some of the points that emerged were:

  • None of us would use these approaches with clients until we felt sufficiently skilled and experienced – precisely by experimenting with them in a safe context such as a CPD session with other professionals;

  • We are more likely to start to experiment with them with clients in the context of supervision; as our clients in supervision are professional coaches, who may (and we would need to make that judgement) have sufficient professional awareness themselves to engage with them on a co-learning basis;

  • These therapeutic tools were developed from a practice-based approach: those who first developed them were therefore, by definition, not experts in them, but explorers and learners, just as we are;

  • The publication of (and complete lack of controversy surrounding) books such as Lucas’ signify that the profession has reached a consensus that it is appropriate to borrow such tools and techniques from the psychotherapeutic world and use them in the coaching world;

  • Good supervision is essential to continue to reflect on our using such tools and techniques in service of our clients and with due prudence.

We are, of course, interested in others’ perspectives here, so please do comment below if you have a view.


*The Global Code of Ethics is signed by the AC, EMCC, and other organisations, and ‘Members’ here refers to members of signatory organisations.

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