Executive Coaching versus Therapy You’re an executive coach in the middle of your third session with a new client when he shares about his history of depression over the last 10 years. He goes through periods of withdrawing from others, sleep disturbance, and feelings of deep sadness. During these periods, he feels hopeless and helpless. You learn that he had been slipping into one of these periods shortly before hiring you as an executive coach. Although he continues to slip into a state of depression, your energy, support, enthusiasm, and genuine interest in him has been invaluable. He has been inching forward in meeting his goals, shows up on time, and is benefiting from the relationship. He comments that he has made more progress with you than with any number of therapists he’s seen in the past. Have you unknowingly been doing therapy with this client? Does this client need therapy instead of executive coaching? What should you do next? Some version of this story will sound all too familiar to anyone who has been coaching for a while. The lines between executive coaching and therapy can seem fuzzy at times and yet it is imperative that as coaches and as a profession, we clearly distinguish executive coaching from therapy. One only needs to look as far as Colorado for concern. Several years ago, Dr. Amos Martinez, Program Administrator for the State of Colorado, stated, “Coaching is an approach that may or may not fall within the legal meaning of psychotherapy or licensed activity,” and “Personal coaches, even those using disclaimers stating they are not providing psychotherapy, may be subject to the jurisdiction of the Regulatory Boards”. Fortunately, in the spring of 2004, the Governor of Colorado signed the following into Colorado’s Mental Health Statues: “The provisions of this article shall not apply to professional coaches who have had coach-specific training and who serve clients exclusively in the capacity of coaches,” Despite this, the International Coach Federation notes that a March 2003 Regulatory Report rumors in addition to Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, Washington and California, coaches may be required to register as unlicensed professionals. At this time, coaching is an unlicensed profession and does not fall under the mental health/behavioral health realm. However, as an executive coach, there are three main reasons for understanding when coaching becomes therapy: (1) Best practices; (2) Legal and Ethical standards; and (3) Representation of the coaching profession. -Dr. Jeff Kaplan Dr. Jeff Kaplan is a business psychologist and executive coach who coaches executives and high potentials to lead with heart. Jeff helps leaders to work more collaboratively with others, recognizing that people are an organization’s greatest asset.