International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaching

Executive Director: Bobbi L. Parish, MA, CTRC-S

Deputy Director: Sarah Parish, CTRC



One of the most frequent questions I am asked about Trauma Recovery Coaching is how it differs from therapy. I hear it so often I devoted an entire page to it on my website. Here, I hope to make the differentiation even more clear so that coaches have a document they can provide to clients and other concerned individuals.


The primary way I define the difference between therapy and coaching is to use a medical analogy about physical illness. Therapy is for those who have the equivalent of a serious physical injury – such as multiple injuries following a car accident. Individuals with multiple, significant injuries are so ill that they are not ambulatory and require assessment and treatment from doctors. The doctors can diagnose, prescribe medication and provide medical intervention that is aimed to bring the patient to a stable condition.


Once the patient is stable, ambulatory and able to be discharged to their own homes they no longer need a doctor or nurse to guide their day to day recovery. Now they can call upon a family member, home health aide or friend who can help them to make as full a recovery as possible. The patient still needs help and cannot reach recovery on their own, but they no longer need significant intervention.


Using this analogy, we can place a therapist in the doctor’s role and a coach in the helping role once a patient is ambulatory and able to contribute to their own recovery. Therapists have the skills necessary to help when a client’s mental health is unstable and requires diagnosis, assessment and treatment. They direct their client’s care and provide intervention when a client is not able to help themselves. Therapists also have advanced expertise dealing with some issues, such as addiction, eating disorders and active suicidal ideation. Coaches have a more limited scope of competence. 


To further clarify, coaches help a client with issues that are occurring in their life now, as well as planning for the future. We do not, as coaches, revisit past trauma – unless it’s to gain understanding of why or how current issues came into being. Helping understand the “birth of a belief or behavior” can help a client discover how to build a new, healthy manner of coping with or changing it now in the present.


Therapists can “process” trauma with clients – going back to the trauma and discussing what took place with the hopes of integrating their trauma into their whole self, as well as stripping away its power. They can also work in the present and the future.


Also, Trauma Recovery Coaching is a client-led modality. We make suggestions, education and offer guidance but they are never in charge of leading their client to healing. Coaching is also intra-developmental. Just as clients learn from coaches, those coaches also learn from their clients.


What coaches do:

• Coaches are guides, teachers and mentors. They come alongside their clients as peers.

• Coaches build a healthy relationship with their clients so that they can learn how to have a healthy relationship with themselves, others and the world.

• Coaches goal set with their clients, helping them map out a path that brings them closer to leading the life they want to live. • Coaches provide education about trauma and recovery.

• Coaches share their personal experiences to let their clients know they are not alone in what they are facing and to validate their client’s experiences.

• Coaches help their clients identify the primary lies/core beliefs that were taught to them by their abuser or enabler. Once identified they help their clients define new, healthy truths/beliefs.

• Coaches help their clients celebrate their progress.

• Coaches help their clients build a healthy view of themselves, others and the world.


What Coaches do NOT do:

• Coaches do not treat, diagnose or assess their client’s mental health.

• Coaches do not prescribe medication or give advice about any medications.

• Coaches do not prescribe treatment.

• Coaches do not “process” trauma with their clients. Their focus is upon helping their clients function in their present day lives.

• Coaches do not work with clients who are at risk of harming themselves or others

• Coaches do not work outside of their scope of competence 


©2020 Bobbi L. Parish and Sarah Parish– International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaching