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Life Coaching Versus Therapy For Gays And Lesbians

May 20, 2008
Life coaching is a new and exciting way for people to work through their problems and get on with life...a life that is more rewarding than it was before. Unfortunately, coaching is a little known field and is often confused with therapy. The mission of coaching is to move people toward goal achievement. This is done through self-exploration: by identifying the obstacles they face and developing strategies to move past them.

Though therapy is commonly entered into by the gay and lesbian population, it is often not the best method to explore the issues they face. Psychologists are trained and licensed to treat people with mental illness. Since 1973, the American Psychiatric Association has acknowledged that homosexuality is not a mental illness. Therefore, many of the issues that exist among members of the GLBT community can be more appropriately be dealt with in the coaching arena. Here are several common areas of concern that gays and lesbians often face that may be resolved through life coaching:

Sexual identity exploration. Arriving at a conclusion about ones sexual orientation involves looking within and being honest about ones true feelings and desires. This process involves self-examination and honest validation and feedback by an independent source. People involved in this exploration of self often seek out professional guidance because they are fearful to discuss the possibility of homosexuality with friends or family members. In the past, the only professionals available were therapists...although now life coaches are ideal candidates to fill this role.

Coming out. Coming out is a goal to achieve, not a mental illness. The obstacle most gays and lesbians face when approaching a coming out situation is fear of rejection. The coach will work with the client to develop a realistic approach to coming out and support them through the process.

Relationship building. Except in cases involving sexual dysfunction or abusive situations, life coaching may be the best option to tackle many relationship issues. From exploring the best places to find a date to negotiating household duties, life coaching is well-geared toward getting couples toward their goal of a loving, fulfilling relationship. Many life coaches will also work with couples.

Self acceptance and social acceptance. Both of these acceptance issues require inner exploration and discovering new strategies to overcome fear and gain strength. Again, these are goals to work toward and are effectively dealt with by life coaching.

Reliance on therapists for assistance in approaching these common real-life issues has caused many gays and lesbians to label themselves as mentally ill when it is not true. Tackling these issues with the help of a life coach is a more healthy approach and does not involve assigning further stigma to an already compromised population.

So, when is therapy appropriate? Therapy is indicated when a mental illness is present. For instance, due to life circumstances, gays and lesbians often fall victim to clinical depression, which falls outside the scope of life coaching. Other mental illness such as bipolar disease, personality disorder, neurosis and psychosis are also appropriate diagnoses for mental health personnel to deal with. Many of these disorders require the use of medication and can only be addressed through the medical system.

For life management issues consider getting a life coach. A life coach will help you make a commitment to face and work through your problems. Life coaching often takes less time than therapy and more directly addresses your goals. Check it out!
About the Author
Pat Cheney is a life coach working with gays and lesbians who are coming out in midlife and with spouses in gay-straight marriages. To find out more about her services, visit Pat's website at www.discoveringpride.com.
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