Evolution of Coaching © Martyn Carruthers 2005

Online Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy

Our systemic coaching does not replace classical coaching. Classical coaching is useful when individuals make decisions in controllable environments with simple objectives. Our systemic coaching is useful when making relationship decisions, especially in complex environments or with ambiguous objectives.


Shadows provide information about what obscures the light.

The ways in which people help people are evolving. The differences between coaching, consulting, counseling, mentoring, intuiting, therapy and supervision are often vague; changing quickly and disputed. Many descriptions appear more esoteric than scientific … we call them psychotheologies.

Each psychotheology has evangelists and critics. Each seems to have professional associations and litigious lawyers. Each seems to have private languages, codes of conduct and official paperwork. Each claims special methodologies and techniques. See Comparison of Helping Styles

How do they compare? They all claim to help people solve problems, find success, enjoy relationships and control emotions. They all have similar roots. They all support people. They all claim to help people move from where they are now, to where they want to be. All this fuss is about conversations!

Roots of Change

A psychiatrist told me,“Psychotherapy didn’t empty mental hospitals: Thorazine did”.

The dawn of psychotherapy began around 1900, from its origins in neurology (about 1850), animal magnetism (about 1800) and medieval magic. Counseling has been recognized since about 1960, and life coaching emerged around 1980. Our systemic coaching was mostly developed since 1990.

  • Phineas Quimby, a famous mental healer, wrote that wrong beliefs were the cause of most life problems. He created the New Thought movement, which was relabeled as Positive Thinking – a basis for modern coaching.
  • Early psychotherapists Adler and Jung wrote that people are the creators of their lives, and involved their clients in goal setting, life planning and creating their futures – what we now call coaching.
  • Carl Rogers‘ book, Client Centered Therapy, helped shift counseling and therapy to become relationships in which clients are assumed to be able to change and develop – a shift towards coaching.
  • Abraham Maslow’s book, Toward a Psychology of Being, helped coaching emerge in the early 1990s. Maslow’s post-doctoral student, Dr Clare Graves, discovered a hierarchy of emergent human values – one of the foundations of our systemic coaching.

These and other pioneers helped create a foundation for coaching. Coaching integrates many fields to partner with people for their success. Most coaching and consulting is for people who are healthy and self-motivated, while most counseling and therapy is supposed to be for people who suffer from psychological problems. An important question is, “How can you recognize psychological problems?

Psychological Problems & Mental Illness

Many psychological problems are characterized by a lack of control, often with behaviors that involve unpleasant thoughts and dysfunctional actions, such as compulsions, substance abuse or sexual disorders. Some psychological problems may be called mental illness.

Mental illness is a very broad term that carries a burden of social stigma, embarrassment and fear. Few people will admit that they or any member of their family suffer from any kind of mental illness.

Psychiatry is a medical specialty. If any of the following apply to you – we suggest that you seek medical or psychiatric assistance:

  1. You lose or lack control of yourself
  2. You are often anxious and/or depressed
  3. You are in a severe health or emotional crisis
  4. You are considering harming yourself or others
  5. You have no friends and people seem to avoid you
  6. You are generally dysfunctional, immature or irresponsible
  7. You need psychoactive medication, alcohol or drugs to function

If you pass that … probably you can focus on what you want and on what makes sense in your life.

Coaching & Therapy: Comparison

Coaches usually assume the health and well-being of their clients, while therapists may assume otherwise. See Solution Focused Therapy. The following table summarizes some important differences between our coaching and psychotherapy. See also Alternative & Complementary Therapies.

Our Coaching


For healthy people who want to achieve a goal For people with identifiable dysfunctions
Deals mostly with a person’s present and future Deals mostly with healing past trauma
Helps people achieve a defined success Helps people manage old pain
A coach helps people choose ways to discover their own answers and find their own power A therapist has the answers, power and chooses techniques. A client is incompetent to choose.
Assumes emotions are natural and normalizes them Assumes emotions are symptoms of problems
A coach helps people identify their goals and challenges, turn challenges into victories, and motivates people to reach their goals. A therapist diagnoses, then provides expertise and guidelines to provide a path to health.
Progress is usually rapid and enjoyable. Progress is usually slow and painful.
Coaching is about discovery – therapy is about recovery!
Evolution of Good Intentions

Every problem has many solutions that are nice, simple and useless.

Most people have good intentions when they attempt to help others solve problems or devise new possibilities. However, consequences do not care about the goodness of intentions. This table compares the evolution of change-work. (The comparison is simplified to highlight core concepts.)

Core Philosophy

Core Methodology

1. Survival I solve my problems … or I die Trial & terror: pragmatic superstition.
2. Archaic therapies Our ancestors / powers / gods will bless us if we do the right rituals Shamanism, Mesmerism and energy work: solve problems by placating or applying esoteric forces.
3. Authority We are the experts. Our power and skill can solve your problems! Psychiatry & hypnotherapy: problems result from biochemistry or from wrong beliefs that can be installed by chemicals or hypnosis.
4. Classical therapies You can only change using the ways that our founders developed Established psychotherapy: assume problems originate in early family. Solve problems by (psycho) analyzing the cause of the problems.
5. Success coaching Set goals and persuade others to gain rewards and avoid failure Behavioral psychology: problems result from conditioning and programming. Solve problems by rewarding some behaviors and punishing others.
6. Relationship coaching Solve problems with self-esteem and better relationship skills Humanistic psychology: problems originate in poor relationships. Solve problems by providing a good therapeutic relationship.
7. Systemic coaching Develop human systems by resolving emotional entanglements Couple, family and team coaching: problems start in trauma and relationship problems. Solve problems by supporting emotional maturity.
8. Global coaching Coach leaders of human systems to cooperate in a changing global environment Community coaching: coach leaders to create adaptive power structures and cooperate with other leaders to achieve global goals.

Do you want life coaching or systems training?
Do you want to solve emotional challenges and relationship problems?

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