Serena Simmons Consultant Psychologist

Change. Motivate. Adapt. Improve. Perform

Do you want to be a coach?….

1 Comment

Ok, controversial post coming your way!!

Before I delve into the depths of this weeks’ murky post, one that will hopefully have your fingers hovering over the keys to write a comment, my main intention from this post is that it provokes thought, reflection and a conversation about what I think is a really important topic.

OK, so here we go!


You may have noticed, if you’ve been keeping an eagle on on my site and also my Twitter and Facebook Pages, that I recently changed the title of what I do from..

‘Serena Simmons Coaching Psychologist’


‘Serena Simmons Consultant Psychologist’

I know a few of you have noticed as you’ve privately asked me why I did this.  After all what does it mean?  Am I doing something different, have I changed what I do?

The answer to the above questions is no haven’t changed anything, I literally have just changed my title, and part of the reason I have done this is to differentiate what I do from general ‘coaching’ to ‘psychology’….aahhhh, gasp!!

Now, if you’re not in the Coaching world you may not be privy to why this is such a controversial conversation.  But to try and summarise, it goes back to the constant battle (albeit a quiet, unspoken thing at times) between Psychologists and other professions, in that they always seem to want to differentiate from the crowd.

Why are they so special that they get to have their own titles that no one else can use?  Why do they always want to be different?  I’m sure if you are a coach you feel you have trained hard and do similar things to psychologists at times and feel that there should not always need too be a clear distinction?

But is this really the case?

What I do in my practice?

I’ve studied psychology as a student for 7 years, undergrad and postgrad and in the process gained various qualifications and affiliations along the way to show that I have taken the time to get to understand the human psyche, thinking, mind and behaviour.

Along the way I gathered over 15 years experience working in various mental health settings learning how to work with different groups of people and engage in different types of therapies. I’ve now also taught what I know to undergraduate and postgraduate students for nearly 10 years, and I am still learning and researching and presenting my research at various conferences around the world.  On top of this I still having to regularly interact with the BPS (British Psychological Society – our governing body) to show that I am up to date in my practice and am ‘doing enough’ to keep my affiliations and membership.

It is an on-going practice.  It is constant.  It is a life-time of work and learning and I love it.

My experience is not different to my fellow counterparts who have similar backgrounds and experiences and various other qualifications and charterships in their respective areas of expertise.  So, what is my point?  My point is merely that there is a big difference between pure ‘Coaching’ and ‘Psychological Coaching’ and yet the issue still remains that people think that:

-they are the same thing  OR

– that it is just a version of ‘best-friend’ therapy

Both of these things are innaccuarte and the cross-confusion is, in my opinion potentially damaging to the professions of Coaching and Coaching Psychology and more importantly the client.

My experience

My experience is highlighted to some degree by the reactions I have received over the years, particularly when I’ve been to net-working events.  A typical conversation for me would go a little something like this…

‘Hi I’m Serena’

‘Hi, I’m Lynne…so what do you do Serena?’

‘Oh, I work as a Coaching Psychologist’

‘Oh, me too! Me too! I’m a coach!…I work with people helping them to declutter!…do you specialise?’

And so it goes on…

Now, I’m not going to name any names here, but a quick Google search revealed to me that you can become a Life Coach in 2 days!  Yes, 2 days!  After this, there is no governing body, no protected titles body and no way of ensuring that the ethical procedures and practices that are needed to ensure that safety of your clients and integrity of your practice are in place.

You literally go off into the world and start Coaching!

This is why I changed my title, taking ‘Coaching’ out of the picture.  This is not to say that as Coaches and Psychologists we don’t use some of the same models.  It is not to say for a moment that all coaches choose to do a 2 day (on-line!!!) course either.  I happen to know some excellent coaches.  They have done sound courses (they do exist, but they can’t be done over-night) and they work ethically, maybe even have supervision (which is a must – blog for another time on this).  They also have clearly defined barriers and boundaries and know when to refer on to other professional if needed.

The difference is, is that people who choose to come to see you are clear about what they are getting from you and your work.  In my work, by the very nature of it having a psychological basis, we go a little deeper than traditional Coaching.  I also, given my experience, have clear and strong boundaries about referral practices and won’t hesitate for a moment if I see other clinical issues creep in. I also, can recognise disorders and so, again will refer on…on an important side note, we have to be very careful that people do not merely access Coaching as an ‘acceptable’ form of therapy (this again is a bigger post for another time).  And so again, these things need to be recognised by the professional and dealt with in the right way.

I think it is important that our clients know what they are accessing in terms of help.  Is it psychological coaching or is it coaching/life-coaching?

Part of this comes down to what the BPS are doing to address this, which is an on-going debate and one I intend to bring up again at this years annual conference.  But mostly it is about being clear about what you do, your boundaries and your practice and advertising and communicating this accordingly.

I think it also means that both Psychologists and Life-Coaches should be clear about what they offer and to offer that with pride.  They are not the same and that is a GOOD THING.  People will come to you for what you offer and also how well they interact with YOU.

Final Note…

 So, I have changed my title to Consultant Psychologist.  I do still engage in my coaching work and I also consult – giving talks and working with businesses.   I hope that people see the differentiation as a good thing and will also embrace what they do, seeing the benefits of working within their own discipline.  I also, hope we can all learn from each other in the process.

So, I’d love to know what you think if you are psychologist or a coach?

Do you think we should distinguish our roles more clearly?  Do people get confused by what you ‘offer’ in terms of services or support?

How do we go about helping our clients figure out how to choose the right person to see?

I look forward to the discussion…

Til next week!


Tickets will only be on sale for another 2 days, closing Friday.

If you would like to join me and 10 other women for a workshop on Life-Life Balance and wellbeing in your business as well as have a beautiful and relaxing spa day, then please click on the link below to be taken to more information and the opportunity to purchase tickets/

I look forward to seeing you there.



One thought on “Do you want to be a coach?….

  1. Hi Serena.
    As a qualified and practicing Life Coach, having completed an International Coach Federation ACTP course, who went on to credential at ACC with the ICF (and am working towards my PCC), is a Registered Coach member of COMENSA (SA recognized governing body of Coaches & Mentors of South Africa), is in Supervision with a Coach Supervisor (who is also a qualified Coach, Coach Supervisor and Clinical Psychologist), regularly attend courses which collect CCE’s and have my own Coach…… I was naturally compelled to stop my fingers hovering and hit the keyboard to write a comment on this important topic from a Coaches perspective.

    As for as professions are concerned, the Life Coaching profession is relatively young – around 30 years old – and is still emerging. Various Coach organizations around the world are working to standardize and regulate such things as; training programs, credentialing, codes of ethics, ongoing learning, supervision requirements, etc. These things are still in process and as such, there are people taking advantage of the ‘grey areas’ and calling themselves Coaches.

    Being ‘new’, the Coaching profession is being seen as ‘trendy, sexy, etc.’ and as such many unqualified people are climbing on the proverbial bandwagon of Coaching.

    A trained and qualified Coach (through a nationally or internationally recognized Coach Training body or organization) would be the first person to acknowledge that there needs to be a VERY clear distinction not only between a Coach, a Psychologist, and a Coaching Psychologist, but also between other helping professions such as Mentors, Trainers, Facilitators, Councillors, etc.

    Such a qualified Coach would have to have signed up to a Coaching Code Of Ethics which, amongst other things, clearly defines what is, and what is not Coaching, and when to refer to an alternative profession that is more suited to assist a client.

    The nature of Coaching is such that we see our clients as “Creative, Resourceful and Whole”. We look at where a client is now and what they are willing to do to get to where they want to be – we are forward looking. Should we come across a ‘pathology’ that is preventing a client from moving forward, we recognize this, and refer the client to an appropriate therapist or councilor.

    The points you raise in this blog are huge issues for us in the Coaching fraternity. We are often appalled at what is being passed off as Coaching and consequently earning the Coaching profession a ‘bad rep’.

    So in answer to your questions, yes I do think we need to distinguish our roles more clearly to assist potential clients to understand what we offer in terms of service or support.

    How I do it is by offering a free introductory / assessment session to potential clients – a “get to know each other” session – based on the 11 Coaching Core Competencies. These competencies include Contracting and Ethics, and by applying these competencies we are able to assess if what the potential client requires is coaching, and if I am the person best suited to assist them.

    Part of Contracting is also to alert the client to the fact that should it become obvious during our work together that there is an alternative ‘discipline’ or therapy that may be more beneficial to the client, that I will refer them accordingly.

    Thanks for being brave enough to enter into this important and controversial topic Serena. I know you to be a woman with high moral and ethical values. Part of my intention in commenting here, is to join you in continuing to educate people around the services and support available to them so that they may choose what is best suited to assist them to produce extraordinary results in their lives and careers.

    James Russell ACC

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