Implications for the Mental Health Profession

This is the final article of a five part series exploring unique and noteworthy trends in the mental health profession. The article discusses the rise of professional coaching/consulting and its overall impact in the world of behavioral health. The purpose for examining all of these trends is to note business opportunities and competitive influences within the marketplace.

The Rise of Professional Coaches & Consultants

In early 2007 I was speaking with a friend of mine who told me he attended a relationship workshop he found to be very informative and helpful for both he and his wife. Naturally, I assumed it was a psychologist, marriage and family therapist, professional counselor or clinical social worker facilitating the program. Since I was in the field and felt I had a good handle on the marketplace I assumed I would know the clinician. When I asked the person’s name I did not recognize it. I asked my friend if the person was a therapist and he nodded his head in acknowledgement. Since I did not know this person I looked her up and realized she was not a clinician but a relationship coach.

There are several points worth noting about this conversation with my friend. One is the fact that there are people in your community providing a variety of individual and group services who are not mental health professionals in the traditional sense. The second point is that many of the people offering these services are very good at what they do, the third is that they are business savvy, know how to market their services and how to speak to consumers, and finally there is the reality that most people outside of mental health are not aware of the distinction between a mental health clinician and a relationship coach. They see them as interchangeable, as one in the same. Let’s briefly take a look at these important points since they speak to a phenomenon that will have more and more of an effect on the mental health profession as a whole.

a. Coaches & Consultants

Coaching is growing at an international level and these professionals are involved in numerous areas that overlap with mental health services. Some of these areas include career counseling, relationship counseling, leadership counseling, life change consulting, business consulting and grief counseling. They have done an excellent job penetrating highly lucrative markets such as Fortune 500 companies, CEO level executives, Schools and high end communities. In the past there was a stigma associated with this profession, however, the stigma has lessened considerably and in many parts of the world it is virtually non-existent. In addition, many of these programs and service offerings are of very high quality. They are well researched, innovative and highly structured. I recently attended a workshop delivered by a life coach who worked with people going through significant life changes whether it be death of a loved one, life threatening illness, divorce, career change, unemployment or any number of other things. The program was well defined, unique and utilized both clinical and coaching principles. It was a very effective program!

b. Marketing & Sales Savvy

Adding to the dilemma for mental health practitioners is the fact that many coaches are experienced in all areas of business. They know how to uncover needs/opportunities and then design and market programs that will speak to potential consumers. In many ways they are ahead of the curve in terms of sales and marketing principles. They are also able to leverage technology to improve their reach psychological health and safety and to expand their presence in the market. Another interesting aspect to life coaching is that they are very specific with regards to who their target audience is, and as a result, they craft their message accordingly. These are important lessons to be aware of as you move forward in your career. Being clear as to who you are offering services to will help you to use your time wisely when it comes to marketing and selling. The good news is that you can learn a lot researching some of these professionals and taking a look at what they do effectively and not so effectively. Some areas I recommend researching are how coaches uncover what the customer wants and how they sell and market those services. All of this should generate new and fresh ideas for you!

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