by Niela Miller

I am in the business of training coaches (and other people
professionals) to become as self-aware, expressive and
whole-brained as possible in their own lives, to be easier about possible creative, therapeutic interventions they might make with clients and to experientially understand the relationship between coaching and psychotherapy!

For a long time, I have been disturbed by the stance taken
by the coaching profession about therapy and coaching needing to exist in two separate worlds. In reality and actual practice, if we are working with people on growth potential involving feelings, they cannot be separated . I would like to see coaches being more open to the notion that it is really not possible to separate personal growth and therapeutic interventions from coaching per se.

When coaches talk about the therapy with which they do not want to be associated, they are usually referring to traditional psychoanalytic or behavioral modes. However, humanistic existential psychology in its practice, has values and approaches very much like the core values in coaching, focuses on the present and future of the client, builds on strengths, uses feelings as data about the
client's process, and, generally, supports the development of human potential.

Some of this dichotomous attitude is fear-based (possible litigation, lack of counseling credentials). If one wants to be a holistic coach-counselor, it would be useful to acquire a counseling license. I happen to feel that all coaches should be trained in basic counseling skills and that it is just as important to have this training as a coach as it is to have any formal coach credential.

Many coaches could benefit themselves and their clients by being in a humanistically oriented personal growth/therapy/coaching group on an ongoing basis.


1. We all have stuff we need to work on in our own lives which can affect our ability to be really useful to our clients. Working only one-on-one with a coach may not allow us to fully explore the interface of our personal and work lives like a group can.

2. The Gestalt approach, among other humanistically oriented models, enables us to viscerally understand the complex process of growth and to not bypass some of the deep, creative, and non-verbal experiences and experiments which can so enhance both our own and our clients' development, including creative-expressive processes.

3. Why perpetuate the paradox that in order to help our clients become whole, well-functioning people who can create their dreams, we need to make a separation between being attentive to their emotional life, processes and challenges and being coached to get results? Ideally, the whole person should have a whole coach who is wholly able to provide whatever support is needed even if it looks, smells, sounds like therapy at times...remember the duck?


THE HANDBOOK OF HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY: Leading Edges of Theory, Research, and Practice=== Co-edited with James F.T. Bugental and J. Fraser Pierson.
Thousand Oaks, CA:( Sage, 2001)
Pricey ($100 new)---get from your library if you can (or maybe you can pick up a used copy on ISBN: 0-7619-2121-4

by Niela Miller (PeopleSystems Potential, 2000)

or go to for a complete bibliography of humanistic psychology resources.
(Association for Humanistic Psychology)

Author's Bio: 

Niela Miller,BA Creative Arts/Theatre; MS Education and Communications
Gestalt/Jungian therapist, coach,trainer,multi-modal artist