"What is the difference between therapy and life coaching?" I am asked this question almost daily. It's an important question. If you are seeking professional help and support, it helps to know which professional can provide you with the best and most appropriate care.
So let's start with some definitions! Merriam-Webster defines therapy as: treatment of a mental or emotional disorder or of related bodily ills by psychological means. A life coach is defined as: an advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals, or deal with problems. The main difference between a therapist and a life coach is that a therapist treats more psychological based challenges, with more frequency, whereas a life coach will focus more on day-to-day challenges concerning decision making and moving through life circumstances. A therapist can do what a life coach does, however, a life coach may not be equipped nor trained to do what a therapist does. The education and licensure requirements for therapists and life coaches is different, this leads to the differences in what they are trained in and capable of offering to their clients. Therapy focuses more on the healing past traumas, challenges from your family of origin, and healing the self in general in order to manage present symptoms. Whereas life coaching assists clients with current challenges in order to help them shape and guide their future. There are therapists who consider themselves a hybrid of the two. I am one of those therapists! I enjoy working with clients who have done therapy and the work that goes along with therapeutic sessions and healing. I can coach clients on how they can use the tools they have learned from therapy to propel them to their next level in life. Also, if challenges from the past arise, as they most often do, or if a client has a mental health diagnosis, I can effortlessly put on my therapist hat if/when needed.
How do you know which is the best fit for you?
Consider working with a therapist if:
- Your current challenges are related to traumas of the past.
- Your current challenges are related to childhood experiences.
- Your current challenges are related to a mental health diagnosis and the associated symptoms.
- Your current challenges involve your partner, significant other, family members (couples or family therapy).
- More challenges that might lead you to consider working with a therapist are listed in my previous blog post found here.
Consider working with a life coach if:
- You are you struggling with decision making (unrelated to a mental health diagnosis)
- You have participated in therapy before, healed from past traumas, understand your triggers and are ready to move toward creating a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Considering making a life changing choice? (accepting a new job, relocating, starting school)
- You would like assistance with creating a life plan and putting that plan into action.
- You need consistent support and encouragement.
Keep in mind that you don't necessarily have to choose between one or the other. You can work with both a life coach and a therapist as long as they also work together and communicate. You can build a mental wellness team!
When you are looking for a therapist or a life coach, be honest with yourself about what you hope to gain. Think about the goals you wish to accomplish before contacting potential therapists and coaches. In the initial phase, communicate openly and transparently about your needs and expectations. Sometimes, a conversation with a therapist or a coach can help you determine which is best for you. Most therapists and coaches offer phone consultations free of charge or at a reduced rate. This may be the best way to figure out exactly what you need!
Love, peace, and light.