We Must Open Our Minds And Embrace Change!

As we now begin to find different solutions to the ever increasing need for cancer support, we are understanding that our previous ‘one size fits all’ approach is just not good enough anymore. Large organisations are now struggling to keep up with the variations of demand that is occurring. Of course, every person affected by cancer is totally unique and what their requirements are, won’t be the same as someone else’s. To make things more tricky, we all have different needs at different times, so we must be looking at everyone holistically, which of course makes perfect sense, and has finally started to happen.

One of those areas of support that has become very popular is coaching. I have personally met many cancer/life coaches within my work and socially, and have enjoyed some very in depth conversations about the incredible impact that cancer is having on our lives. I totally understand how this service is an incredible benefit for many. Not everyone affected by cancer needs a trained psychologist. Most just need an independent ear who can listen and help with moving forward. There is a lot of resistance to these type of services from the NHS and similar. But my own view is that things are changing rapidly and we should listen to the people who have used them and found them helpful.

Now is the time for innovation and open minds in healthcare, so I was delighted that I could have a chat with Emily Hodge, who is a great friend of mine and an incredible coach. Below Emily helps answer some of the questions I had about her work.

What’s the difference between coaching and counselling and which is right for me?

“This is a really common question and for good reason – it’s not clear cut. You get a different answers from practitioners and clients alike depending on their experiences, knowledge, training and beliefs. So, with that caveat, here’s how I describe the difference between counselling and coaching, and then how to choose which is right for you.
Counselling is a process that helps you to process and understand what’s been happening for you that got you to where you are today – your past to your present. It will help you understand why you think, feel and react in certain ways and potentially give you insight into the way you make decisions that are both positive and less positive for you.

Coaching is a process that helps you to see where you are in the present, and how you can move forward into the person you would like to be – how you can live, think, feel and react in the future. It focuses on the place (emotionally, physically or both) that you want to get to and, importantly, how you’re going to get there. Imagine a barometer going from past, to present, to future. Counselling usually occupies the space from past to present, coaching usually occupies the space from present to future.

Another major difference between counselling and coaching is that to call yourself a counsellor you must have completed a registered course since it is a protected term, which means you know the person has a specific level of qualification. Coaching, on the other hand, isn’t protected, which means anyone can call themselves a coach. This is both a great and a not-so-great thing. It means that it doesn’t restrict the people who might not be able to afford fancy courses but were absolutely born to support others – you know that person; you’ll either be them or have exactly that person in your peer group in mind. However it can mean anyone can rock up and call themselves a coach without having had the training or guidance to be able to support people well. This is neither good for them nor their client, because knowing how to listen, respond and guide people well, especially under stressful or traumatic circumstances, isn’t as easy as it looks.

One reason we find difference hard to explain is this: some counsellors use coaching techniques and some coaches use counselling techniques (where qualified), thereby opening up the range of areas they can work with you in your life. As consumers, or ‘people going through stuff’ we don’t necessarily know which parts of our lives we want to explore until we’re actually IN them, hence making it hard to know whether to work with a counsellor or coach. So which is right for you? Here’s a really brief guide.

If you’d like to work through feelings and thoughts that are overwhelming and you feel you aren’t coping well with life in general, it may be that seeing a counsellor is most appropriate. If you’d like to think about how you can work your way out of a situation – mentally or physically – and feel motivated to make some changes, it may be that coaching is right. For both I say ‘may’ because a good coach and counsellor will tell you the minute you talk with them – and if they’ve got the skills, experience and qualifications for both, then all the better.

Only it’s not just skills, experience and qualifications – a key ingredient is rapport. Ask yourself – how you feel about the person providing support – do you trust and like them, do you want them as your personal supporter, do you like the way they present and speak? That’s all that matters in how comfortable you feel to work with (and potentially pay) them in the end. How clear do you find the difference between coaching and counselling?”

Emily is a coach with a health psychology and NHS background. She’s got over 1500 hours of working with people after cancer and uses both therapy and coaching techniques with them. To find out more about the work she does, head over here You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter Thanks so much for your time Emily, and all the incredible work you do for people affected by cancer. Below is a fun interview that Emily and I did recently, enjoy! 


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