Navigating the Intersection of Work and Mental Health
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Working Better and Stressing Less

Ideas on work and mental health

Career Counselors vs. Life Coaches/Executive Coaches

It's New Year's resolution season again and it's a wonderful time to bring awareness to the things you would like to improve in 2015, including your career. As a counselor who specializes in work and career issues, it's also a time of year when I am asked by prospective clients and also friends and family about the difference between career counseling and executive or life coaching. I have heard of many good executive coaches. These are usually folks who have experience in a certain industry or with certain types of people and who dispense advice to folks who are following in their footsteps in some ways. I actually do that sometimes but that is not technically career counseling. 

In Oregon, career counselors are supposed to be licensed by the Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists (OBLPCT). Most of us are fully trained mental health practitioners in addition to career counselors. Workplace and career issues are often linked to mental health issues (not necessarily mental ILLNESS - but mental health) so Oregon licenses career-focused counselors in the same way as counselors who focus on diagnosing and treating mental illness. Career counselors generally have a license that has to be renewed each year and that carries with it continuing education requirements (fully licensed LPCs) and/or supervision requirements (LPC Interns). We don't only have to have graduate degrees but also must keep our knowledge about our professions up to date, much like your doctor. 

Choosing a licensed career counselor, as opposed to an unlicensed coach means that if things go sideways, you have a board to complain to. If your counselor does anything funky, you can file a complaint against them and they are likely to have the state board and perhaps their professional associations investigating them for any unethical/illegal behavior. Licensed counselors can also evaluate you for any more persistent problems that might be causing problems at work. These may include anxiety, irritability, depression, certain health issues, substance abuse, and psychological barriers to success that are more than coaches would know to look for. 

So please, I beg you, as you look for help with that New Year's resolution to move forward in your work and career, look for licensed and trained counselors so you can reap all of the advantages of working with a professional practitioner. 

Katie Playfair