We hear that an increasing number of our social worker colleagues are going into the relatively new field of Coaching.
Traditionally, Coaching has been associated with sports or the corporate sector, where companies hired coaches to work with executives seeking self-improvement. Most coaches were either business coaches, executive coaches, leadership coaches, career coaches, or life coaches.
RAPID GROWTHIn the last two decades, the number of coaches has grown significantly. Today there are 53,300 coaches worldwide. 21,400 are in Western Europe while North America has a little more than 20,000, and Eastern Europe has 6,000. Coaching is now a $2.4 billion world-wide industry.
SOCIAL WORKERS AS COACHESCoaching involves assisting clients in articulating what they want to achieve and setting goals in pursuit of that achievement. The emphasis on partnering with clients to help them achieve personal growth sounds familiar to social workers, and the skills central to good social work practice are the same in coaching: empathy, active listening, reframing, and reflection. Plus, the philosophy is the same; an emphasis on a strengths-based, nonjudgmental, client-driven approach. In many ways, social workers see becoming a coach as just a relabeling of what they are already doing.
THE DIFFERENCESThere are, however, many differences that separate Social Work from Coaching.
Clients – Social work clients are typically struggling with mental health issues, addiction, or some other disadvantage that is interfering with their functioning.
Coaching clients, on the other hand, are functioning well but want to do better.
Regulation – The biggest difference between Social Work and Coaching is in the external regulation of practice. With no regulation to speak of, coaches can work almost anywhere and often utilize phone calls and texting to interact with clients. They can contact clients as often as they want and are paid directly by the client without the intermediary of social service agencies or insurance companies.
IS COACHING FOR YOU?Just because Social Work and Coaching share similarities, that does not mean that all social workers would make good coaches. Before dreaming about escaping heavy caseloads, mountains of paperwork, and irascible supervisors, consider the following:
- Clinical Experience – Many social workers who manage agency caseloads have little clinical experience. Before considering becoming a coach be sure to get some intensive clinical experience.
- Business Acumen – Social workers are usually not equipped to run their own business. Ask yourself whether you are inclined to aggressively and constantly market yourself on social media and through face to face interaction.
- Specific Training – Don’t assume that social work training will suffice. Be sure to get further training in Coaching before you make a transition.