Creating informed consumers of mental health services: A discussion

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I read this CBC article on life coaches (Cowley et al., 2022) and felt great alarm. My alarm was not caused by the fact that anyone can call themselves a life coach, nor was it caused by these particular life coaches offering mental health advice. While I found this information disappointing, I cannot say that I was surprised. Instead, my alarm was caused by the fact that discussion of life coaches has not been included in our collective Intro Psych curriculum. We could do a much better job at arming the millions of students who take Intro Psych with the information they need to be informed consumers of mental health services.

The therapy chapter would be a good place to use a jigsaw classroom. Divide your students (synchronous or asynchronous) into five groups. Assign each group one of the following professions. If you have a large class, divide the class into, say, ten groups, so that two groups will be working on each profession.

Life coach

Counseling psychologist

Clinical psychologist

Prescribing psychologist


Next, give each group the following set of questions to answer. Ask students to cite the sources they used to answer each question.

What education is required for this profession?

Does this profession require a license? If so, what is required to get licensure?

What kinds of issues are typically treated by people in this profession?

What kind of treatments can people in this profession provide?

Once each group has the answers to these questions, assign students to new groups so that each new group has at least one member from the original groups. The new groups will be comprised of “experts” from each profession group. Give the new groups these instructions.

In the following order, each group member will share what they learned about each profession: life coach, counseling psychologist, clinical psychologist, prescribing psychologist, psychiatrist. Once everyone has shared and all group members feel like they understand each profession, for each of the following issues, identify which profession or professions would be best and why.

Lack of motivation for keeping a clean home

Stress at work or school

Relationship issues

Severe anxiety

Suicidal thoughts

Heavy drinking

Grief following the loss of a loved one

Uncertainty in how to make a career change

Once each group has finished its work, ask a spokesperson for each group to share what they generated. Start with “lack of motivation for keeping a clean home.” Once each group has shared, move on to the next topic.  



Cowley, J., Sampson, A., Szeto, E., & News ·, A. T. · C. (2022, February 26). Almost anyone can become a life coach. A hidden camera investigation reveals why that’s a problem. CBC.


About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology since 1992. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award. She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed. and is co-author with Charles Stangor on Introduction to Psychology, 4.0.