Do I Need a Coach or a Therapist

This is a question I get often in my practice. My rule of thumb is usually seeing if there’s unresolved trauma that is blocking the person/couple from moving forward. Most trauma should be addressed in therapy and depending on the type of trauma, he or she might need to see a trauma specialist (see below).

Do I need to figure it out right away?

It’s not something you need to figure out right away if you are unsure. Find a coach that can recognize trauma as it arises and the coach can refer you to a therapist. For example, when I work with my coaching clients, if I see something that looks like trauma that is blocking their development I will refer them to a therapist to work on that body of work. Sometimes we can continue working on our coaching plan in conjunction with the therapy work. It really depends on the impact of the trauma on the person and how resourced and supported the individual is in his or her life.

Can my partner and I see a coach instead of a therapist?

In the case of couples, sometimes couples just need some extra guidance and tools to connect and deepen their relationship. In this case, relationship coaching is perfect. Other times, traumas from their past are hindering them from connecting and a trained therapist is advisable to help guide the work of integrating/releasing the trauma. Like I mentioned above, this can be determined in the coaching relationship if you are unsure.

What is Trauma?

Trauma can be defined as any deeply distressing or disturbing experience. The effects of trauma on the individual are subjective, not objective. Meaning, the same event effects each person differently. Some people are more predisposed to being traumatized by events as an adult if they have experienced traumatic events as a child. Their brain and nervous system is wired differently than an individual who experienced fewer and less impactful traumatic events.

Types of Trauma (Big “T”,  little “t”, and complex trauma)

A very simplistic way of explaining the types of  trauma are trauma with a big “T” and trauma with a little “t”. Trauma with a big T are single episode shocking events like natural disasters, physical assault (rape, mugged, incest), serious accidents, experiencing or witnessing horrific injury, carnage, fatalities. These are the ones most people think about when they imagine trauma.

Trauma with a little t are other events that can be just as damaging to the individual in the long run, but happen over time and can be overlooked as traumatic. These are developmental and relational events such as physical or sexual abuse in childhood, teasing, bullying, domestic violence, date rape, vicarious trauma, chronic abuse or neglect.

Another form of trauma is complex trauma. This is when there is a combination of shock and developmental trauma, a series of traumas in a short time period without recovery, or untreated early traumas layered with current traumas. This can affect the individual significantly in their adult life–relationships can be very challenging without the help of a therapist to resolve the past traumas.

So now what?

If you feel like some of the events listed above resonate with you yet you’re still unsure if they are holding you back, then see a trauma aware coach and consult with him or her. Just because you’ve experienced a traumatic event in your past, doesn’t mean you’re still traumatized from that event.

Types of Trauma Specialists

Somatic Experiencing
Hakomi Method
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

If you have any questions, I offer 15-minute free consultations: 510-883-3129.

If you are a coach interested in learning more about trauma, I am giving a workshop on “Trauma and Coaching: Assessing, Identifying and Navigating Trauma as a Coach.” More Information.

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