Coaching within your Competence

Judith Barton Director of Coaching and Mentoring British School of Coaching
Judith Barton
Director of Coaching and Mentoring
British School of Coaching

Coaching is a set of knowledge, understanding and skills which can be applied generically to any business setting – i.e. it can be applicable to any business or work setting in the private, public or voluntary sectors. Business coaching is focused on facilitating the development of management and leadership skills: coachees may be operating at any level, ranging from newly appointed team leaders to seasoned CEOs. I have coached senior executives in the public and private sectors: Colleagues have coached junior, middle and senior managers, again in both private and public sectors. Alumni of the British School of Coaching work in middle management and senior executive levels in the charitable, public and private sectors, working in fields as diverse as animal welfare, health care, education, food production, water and electricity supply, hospitality and stadia management, manufacturing, aviation. So, a business coach can practice anywhere!

However, I firmly believe that there are circumstances when coaches should not coach. For example, a coachee may demonstrate signs of psychological or mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, or may reveal non-work circumstances which are impacting on their mental health, such as a recent bereavement. These and similar circumstances are likely to impact on work performance (e.g. ability to concentrate and maintain focus, decisiveness, ability to empathise with colleagues or team members). A Coach may be able to support a coachee to focus on work issues in these circumstances but should not and must not try to become a ‘counsellor’ or ‘therapist’ unless additionally qualified in these fields. Trying to maintain a pretence of supporting people with mental health issues is potentially dangerous for the Coachee: it will also create anxiety in the Coach who feels ‘out of her (or his) depth’ and is unsure of whether the interventions are appropriate or relevant.

A Coach may not wish to acknowledge that issues are beyond their competence but ethically should be both open to acknowledge this as well as having the basic knowledge that will indicate when a Coachee is moving away from purely work-related/performance issues to more deep-seated psychological issues. To help identify when Coachees are displaying, you may find it helpful to look up signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, on websites such as – the ‘Health A-Z’ tab, or – the ‘Health topics A-Z’ tab. These sites also provide information about treatments for specific conditions. You can also rely on your own intuition and insights into human behaviour gleaned from your coaching training, continuing professional development and supervision.

If you are a practicing Coach and are not yet benefitting from supervision then do so! I know when I say this I am being 100% directive however supervision is essential, it will not only help you discharge your thinking, but take your practice forward to a higher level. Supervision is available on a one to one basis or via a group. I personally access and value both. They support me in different ways, one to one always me to review in detail my performance whilst the group supervision helps me explore process and tools in the main. How much supervision and when is the subject of another of my blogs.   If you would like to access supervision check out in the first instance any networks that may offer this service pay them a visit and see how comfortable you feel. An example of this is the British School of Coaching Network which runs quarterly, click on the link to discover more and come along to the next meeting. UK Network:                                  Middle East Network:

Once you have determined that your Coachee needs support which is outside your professional competence, you need to have some suggestions and advice for your Coachee to access appropriate help and support. The websites noted above can signpost you in the right direction. In general, services are be provided through the NHS (in the UK); through private providers; or through charities.

In the UK, the starting point for access to NHS help is your GP who may be able to provide support themselves (around half surgeries offer in-house counselling) or refer the client on to appropriate specialist input, ranging from counselling through psychological therapies. Clients who wish to access counselling or therapy from the NHS will probably have to join a waiting list, although access to ‘talking treatments’ should become easier as policy to improve access is implemented. In some areas, psychological therapies can be accessed by self-referral, but most require a referral from a GP.

You may have colleagues within your own coaching practice who have relevant competencies such as Counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy recognised qualifications. You may wish to develop your own list of independent providers – but you must should ensure that any individuals are appropriately trained and members of the relevant professional body. If you are going to suggest an alternative source of support, you need to be aware of the different therapies that are available and the types of issues that they are able to address. If you would like to learn more why not develop your Wellness coaching expertise and become an ILM Endorsed Wellness Coach:

In addition to the above sites, more information can be found from UK websites such as:

British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP); British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP); British Psychoanalytic Council (BPC): UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). There are charities which offer services for specific issues, such as Cruse for bereavement care; Mind for mental health problems; and Relate for relationship counselling.

It may also be appropriate to advise your Coachee to approach their Occupational Health Department, professional association or HR Department if work-related matters are contributing to personal difficulties.

Some of our Clients

Sign up to our newsletter

By signing up to our mailing list you agree to our privacy policy.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.