Why coaching isn’t therapy

Anne was back in the studio with me yesterday.
“Were you ever in therapy?” she asked.
“Yep,” I said, “Why do you ask?”
“I’ve been thinking that I want to see a therapist or get a coach. I’m not sure which.” Anne said.
“They are very different, Anne. Which one do you think can help you?”
“I’m not sure,” Anne said. “I keep starting projects and not finishing them.”
“What’s holding you up?” I asked.
“I lost interest. I think of other things I’d rather do. I get new ideas and want to start them.”

Raw-art plants, (c) Quinn McDonald

Raw-art plants, (c) Quinn McDonald

“Does it worry you?” I asked.
“Well, I’d like to get something complete. What’s the difference between a coach and a therapist anyway?”
I thought about it for a bit.
“A therapist helps you look back and see your life in a perspective that can help you heal. A coach looks forward and helps you stay in action to complete a goal or dream. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s a good beginning.” I finished.
Anne looked cheery. “So you don’t think there’s something wrong with me because I can’t finish anything?”
“‘Wrong’ is a complicated word. And what I think is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ in this case isn’t nearly as important as what you think is the root cause for your not finishing what you start.”
“I get bored. I’ve always done that, though. I hate finishing up things.” Anne said.
“What one thing do you have that’s nearly finished?” I asked.
“I have a piece of writing that I’m not finishing.”
“What’s the writing about?” I asked.
“It’s on shade gardening. Plant that grow well in shade.”
“What’ holding you up?” I asked.
“I have a list of plants, but I don’t know if they grow down here. And if they don’t grow down here, the magazine won’t run it.”
‘Do you know how to find out if those plants do grow around here?”
” Well, I’m not sure. I know there are those maps with zones on them. But I don’t know what they are called.” Anne said.
“My computer’s right there, Anne,” I said. Go to Google and type in ‘plant zone map’. See what you get.”
“Ummm. Look, it’s called hardiness zones.” Anne said.
“OK, so now you know what it’s called. What’s next?”
“Now that I know the zone, I guess I can look up the plants and see if they grow in that zone.”
“Right. Will you do that?”
“Yeeeeeeesss.”
“Anne, when will you do it? And how will I know?” I asked, smiling.
“If you are going to mess with that weird drawing, I can do it while I’m here. And I’ll tell you when I’m done.”
In an hour, Anne had the information and had worked it into a chart.
“Anne, you’ve just seen what coaching is like.”
“And you’ve finished the drawing. So you got something done, too.”
We both had. Coaching isn’t always hard work, sometimes it’s just a small nudge in the right direction.
—–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. Visit her two websites: QuinnCreative is her business site, and Raw-Art-Journals is for people who can’t draw but want to keep an art journal. (c) 2009 All right reserved.