Coaching is NOT counseling. Sometimes clients may want to hire a life coach yet they may really need a mental health professional. It is critical for coaches to recognize the signs when a person is in need of a mental health professional and refer the client. Thanks to Lynn F. Meinke, MA, RN, CLC, CSLC Life Coach for preparing this document for the ICF on when coaches should refer a client to a counselor. This list is not all inclusive.
- Exhibits a decline in his/her ability to experience pleasure and/or an increase in being sad, hopeless, and helpless.
- Has intrusive thought or is unable to concentrate or focus
- Is unable to get to sleep or awakens during the night and is unable to get back to sleep or sleeps excessively
- Change in appetite, decrease in appetite or increase in appetite
- Is feeling guilty because others have suffered or died
- Has feelings of despair or hopelessness
- Is being hyper alert and/or excessively tired
- Has increased irritability or outbursts of anger
- Has impulsive and risk-taking behavior
- Has thoughts of death and/or suicide (refer immediately)
If is important to note that the appearance of any one of these indicators, except for #10 which must be referred and followed up on immediately, does not indicate the immediate need for a referral to a psychotherapist or community mental health agency; everyone can experience a very brief episode of any of the indicators. However, if you see that several indicators are emerging and that the client is not presenting as whole, competent and capable then it is time for a referral to a mental health professional.
How does making a referral to a counselor support the Professional Coaching Code of Ethics? What are some other indicators that may be a red flag that your client may need a counselor?