The leaders of the American Counseling Association and its divisions finalized a definition of counseling back in 2010:
“Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”
My first real job was assistant recreational counselor. My uncle was the counselor and we went to the Ghetto in the nearby big city and delivered an after school program to get the disadvantages kids off the streets. We played basketball with the kids and my uncle offered guidance to those most in distress. The next summer I became a camp counselor for rich kids, taught swimming and played games with kids just a few years younger. I provided peer counseling as needed.
I earned my master’s degree in counseling in 1975 and worked as the only employment counselor in the Atlantic City public employment office before, during and after the advent of casino gambling. Developmentally, I have been doing this for a long, long time.
A HISTORY STORY: When the psychologists wanted to be licensed in the United States the psychiatrists, more or less, said they were not qualified. Later when the social workers wanted to be licensed, the psychologists and psychiatrists said they were not qualified. When the counselors wanted to be licensed the psychiatrist, psychologists and social workers said they were not qualified. Now that the Coaches are on the scene, again many of those who have become licensed say coaches are not qualified. While this is a simplistic story, it is a pattern that I have written about and with counselors, lived through. I was around when the counselor certification process began and all through the quest for a license. There was a time when anyone could call themselves a counselor and hang up a shingle and they did. In the United States now, in all 50 states, counseling is a licensed profession, so Coaches without the "needed credentials" cannot say they do counseling. I think, the day will come when all the coach associations join together to create all that is necessary for increased professional recognition. Right now they are just the new kids on the block. Of course, they are marketing themselves to be different than Counselors and suggesting that their approach is different.
There is nothing that a Coach does that I have not done during my career. I have worked with homeless people and displaced professionals and everything in between. How therapeutic or how directive I am depends upon the needs of the individual at my desk. I certainly hold people accountable for the decisions they make. I have provided business advice to employers and mediated disputes at their workplace. Needless to say, I am a far better counselor today than I was in 1975. Lots of formal education, numerous certifications, hundreds of hours of continuing education, presenting workshops and tons of experience, all lead to increased competency. Even at this stage in my career I encounter situations outside my expertise. I do not overstep my boundaries. I refer the person to someone with the required experience and education.
Just because someone owns a credential it does not mean they know what they are doing. The longer it takes to earn a credential, the less is the competition. If we have a natural talent for something or specific experience, that is good. In all cases, the more formal and informal education we have, the better we get.
Counselor Wendy Stubbs presented at a National Employment Counseling Association Conference back in 2002 on "Brief Career Counseling. I had many clients that I saw once or for very brief periods of time and Wendy helped me refine my approach. Back then Life Coaching and Career Coaching had relatively little national attention. She is now marketing herself as Dream Career Coaching because Coaching is quite popular and does not have any stigma about being in "therapy." Look at what she presented and you will see a "Counseling Theory." Do you also see something very similar to what Career Coaches might be doing today?