I’m very happy to have for my Pantheon of Notables Interview today, Jay Kidd. I’ve known Jay for many years as a therapist and coach and he has given invaluable guidance over the years. Because there’s a lot to cover and I don’t want you to miss anything, I’m going to divide this interview in to 2 parts. Today is Part One and we will talk about his work as a therapist and coach and Monday’s Part Two will explore his poetry. (Yes, he’s a poet too!)
ME: Hi Jay, thanks so much for talking with me. I’ve known you as a therapist and as a coach. Could you tell my readers about your background and what you do now?
JAY: Hi, Anne! Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me – this is quite a compliment because I have a lot of respect for you and for what you have done with your career.
What I do now is that, similar to you, I am a life coach. I have come to this from a background that includes working with people in the helping professions in a number of ways.
I started out, in the early 80s, working in substance abuse prevention, running a peer education program focusing on helping people make healthy, positive decisions, clarify values and understand feelings.
I received training and education in counseling and for a number of years I worked in drug addiction treatment as a counselor.
During the AIDS epidemic I spent a number of years devoted to HIV education and prevention.
I coordinated HIV services for a large drug treatment provider in New York, and after that worked as a trainer providing training to mental health and substance abuse professionals on a whole spectrum of HIV-related courses – from AIDS 101 to Death and Dying. It was quite a time – very powerful and life changing.
After that I realized that life is short and I wanted to do what was important to me so I opened a private practice.
I have always been an interdisciplinary person which is why I think coaching is appealing to me.
My BA is in Human Development and Social Relations and I have a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary where I studied theology as well as depth psychology. In my practice I worked from an existentialist theoretical perspective, and I was also influenced by the work of Carl Jung.
I have always liked integrative and holistic thinking and no matter what I have done in my career I have found myself addressing things with a wide lens.
ME: What made you decide to leave therapy and go in to coaching?
JAY: Well that is an interesting question. After having been a therapist for over 20 years I made a decision to shift the focus of my work to one that gave me more flexibility and where I could be freer to think and work in an interdisciplinary way that feels truer to my intellectual roots, so I decided to become a coach.
I don’t like the term “coach” very much because I think it can sound a bit too superficial and I wish there was something else we could call ourselves; we are really talking about helping and supporting people in the process of change and that is neither simple nor superficial. It is complex and profound.
ME: I also don’t like the term “coach” but anything else I think of sounds sort of gimmicky.
What is the biggest difference that you’ve noticed between these two disciplines?
JAY: I think there are two essential differences. First, the relationship is different. Where the client/therapist dyad is one where a patient is being treated. It is a hierarchy.
The client/coach relationship is a partnership. A coach is a thought partner, an action partner and an accountability partner. This is exciting and energizing. The client and coach are working together to address the client’s goals.
The therapeutic relationship is certainly deeper and usually much longer and that is often quite meaningful and intimate – this depth I think is sacrificed with coaching but the engaged, present-tense, client driven, coaching relationship is very rewarding.
The second essential difference is the nature of the work. In therapy the client is typically dealing with childhood, developmental wounds and injury and much of the work is about healing that past relational damage. In therapy clients are diagnosed and treated.
In coaching the past may come up but only as it impacts upon a particular goal, issue or present-day circumstance that a client is dealing with; it is not what the work is about. In a coaching conversation the slice is often quite thin, say for example a persons work issues, but inevitably the issues that arise and the change that can come about are significant.
ME: That is such a clear clarification. Thank you for that.
You studied theology in school. Could you tell us about that and how it has influenced your work with clients?
JAY: Studying theology was important for a few reasons –
I have always been drawn to the study of religion and spirituality.
The classes that interested me most in college were about the intersection of psychology and religion and so that is why I chose to go to a seminary as a way to doing therapy and working with people.
I think the language is deep enough to address ultimate needs and issues, the “ground of being” as the theologian Paul Tillich calls it.
I also liked the fact that studying theology was inherently interdisciplinary; it included philosophy, linguistics, history, ethics, and almost as many disciplines as you would want to add to the mix.
It suited me very well. I wrote my thesis on the psychological effect of religious ritual and it included not only psychology but anthropology, ritual studies, and church history. It was really exciting.
With clients I feel like I use this background everyday. I search for a language in common and work hard at uncovering meaning – all very much theological enterprises. It is quite rewarding.
ME: I never thought about theology as providing a deep language, but that’s absolutely true. Thank you so much for talking with us, Jay.
JAY: Thank you, Anne.
We’ll close for today, but check back on Monday for Part Two where we talk about Jay’s poetry.
In the meantime, if you’d like to find Jay’s coaching site, it can be found at: www.jaykiddcoach.com.