Is coaching therapeutic?

Is coaching therapeutic?

two people in a coaching or therapy session

16 May 2024

Our Health & Wellbeing Special Interest Group report on their recent online panel discussion, which considered the question, ‘Is coaching therapeutic?’ The panel was facilitated by Dr Andrew Parsons and Marian Rosefield.

There has been an increase in practitioners describing themselves as therapeutic coaches over the past 10 years.  From early descriptions of therapeutic coaching as a distinct coaching modality (Jackson & Parsons, 2016), those integrating counselling or other psychotherapeutic modalities see it as a bridge between these approaches and coaching (BACP, 2024).

This panel discussion brought together a coaching psychologist working in education, the Head of the Professional Standards Committee for the UK & International Health Coaching Association, the Chair of the BACP Coaching Division, and a coach and coach supervisor for the Fountain Centre Cancer Coaching Service, supporting patients in the UK National Health Service.

The views expressed by the panel were their own and provided an opportunity for a pluralistic review of different perspectives and approaches. This was certainly a topic of interest, with over 60 registrations for the event. There was an interactive discussion that centred on the following topics:

  • What is therapeutic coaching?
  • In what context do you use therapeutic coaching?
  • What are the attributes, knowledge and experience required for coaches working in this area?
  • Synthesis – what can we agree on and learn from each other?

The following is a discussion summary, offered as a starting point for collaboration between the health and wellness approaches represented on the panel.

What is therapeutic coaching and what context is it used in?

Two broad themes emerged from the conversation. There were differences in the meaning and definition of therapeutic coaching, based on training, skills, knowledge, and experience. This is related to the practitioner’s scope of practice and the context of their work. Two broad definitions encompass therapeutic coaching. One focused on the client’s perception of the outcome, the other on the coaching process.

Therapeutic coaching as an outcome – In this case, clients often described their outcome as therapeutic. They felt ‘grounded and better’. There was discussion of a variety of contexts, including supporting individuals in an educational setting, medical challenges such as cancer and infertility, life events such as menopause and bereavement, as well as general mental wellbeing for NHS staff.

Therapeutic coaching as a process – In this case, dual-qualified practitioners describe coaching as a bridge between therapy and coaching. In this discussion, it was noted that the energy of a coaching approach can be beneficial to a certain group of therapy clients.

These two themes were not exclusive. They depend on the scope of practice of the practitioner as a coach.

What are the attributes, knowledge and experience required for coaches working in this area?

There was agreement that working in this area requires clear ethical and professional boundaries, and the ability to recognise both our abilities and limitations in these areas.   Working from an evidence or knowledge base was critical, as well as having the appropriate experience and supervision to work safely and sustainably.

The ability to work with individuals in potential states of distress is a key feature in this area. These include emotional agility and intelligence, with significant self-knowledge and management. These skills of empathy and compassion are found in professional health and wellbeing practitioners, and are not unique to certain professions.

The importance of supervision was emphasised.

It was also recognised that working therapeutically, either as a process or outcome focus, would not be suitable for all coaches.

Synthesis – what can we agree on and learn from each other?

Two established themes involve therapeutic coaching. It was agreed it is important to effectively communicate our scope of practice to our clients and colleagues.

Contracting and recontracting is a key element of ethical practice in this area. This is particularly important when considering our scope of practice and the professional care for our clients.

Further research and discussions are warranted to better understand these distinct approaches. There was a mutual recognition of the value of both approaches. There is a significant opportunity to agree on definitions, skills, knowledge and training, and to establish standards of good practice across these areas.


BACP (2024) Accessed April 2024

Jackson & Parsons (2016). ‘Developing principles for therapeutic coaching: A UK perspective.’ Philosophy of Coaching, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 2016, 80-98.

Panel details

Andrew A Parsons, PhD
Marian Rosefield, MSc (MAPPCP)

Judy Lindsay, CPsychol, AFBPsS MISCP Accred
Faye Hall, BANT, mUKIHCA
Lucy Myers, BACP(Reg) EMCC (Accred)
Sue Jackson, AC(MAccred)

Photo by Hrant Khachatryan