Life Coaching Vs. Therapy: What’s the Difference?
Sometimes life challenges go beyond our coping mechanisms, and we need support in overcoming them. It’s important to find the correct support system and you may feel uncertain about where to seek help – should you reach out to a friend, speak to your GP, find a therapist, or hire a life coach? Many people opt to seek support from professionals, who are not emotionally involved in their lives. And you can often hear that your family member, friend, or coworker goes to therapy or has a life coach. But what is the difference between these life coaching vs. therapy?
What is Life Coaching?
A life coach is a wellness expert who doesn’t have to be a healthcare professional. Life coaching involves either short-term or long-term approaches in working with clients to:
- Identify barriers holding them back
- Come up with strategies for overcoming challenges
- Clarify goals
- Recognize and modify problematic behaviors
- Reach greater life fulfillment
Life coaching is about empowering individuals to face difficult situations, solve problems, and overcome obstacles that might be stopping them from achieving goals.
A life coach will not diagnose you and will not analyze your past or focus on your earlier experiences. They are future-oriented and will guide you in overcoming life challenges, help you figure out how to work toward your goals, and support you in building a more meaningful life.
When Should You Work with a Life Coach?
Hiring a life coach might help you if you experience high levels of stress and anxiety that impede your daily life. If you experience persistent feelings of irritability, lack of fulfillment in your relationships, or dissatisfaction with your personal and professional life, you might benefit from working with a life coach.
A qualified coach can also help you overcome unproductive behavior patterns or break unhealthy habits, improve self-care, boost creativity, and attain success in life.
While some life coaches have a more general approach, others specialize in specific areas. Knowing what areas of your life you want to change or improve can help you find the right life coach. Some of the most common types of life coaching include:
- Relationship coaching
- Family life coaching
- Fitness coaching
- Mental health coaching
- Spiritual coaching
- Career coaching
- Business coaching
- Leadership coaching
- Sports coaching
- Financial caching
- Retirement coaching
Since there is no formal licensing requirements, anyone can call themselves a life coach these days. However, many life coaches have specific training from accredited institutions with the International Coach Federation (ICF).
What is Therapy?
Psychotherapy or therapy (also known as counseling or talk therapy) is a long-term practice of working with a client to identify and resolve problems. A therapist is a healthcare professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker) who sets a client up with regular long-term sessions. Therapists determine and diagnose illnesses and pathologies so their patients can receive clinical treatment.
Unlike life coaching, therapy is past-oriented; it focuses on past issues and traumas to find the origins of your self-destructive thoughts or behaviors and teach you strategies to change them.
A therapist works with clients in one-on-one or group settings, in person or online. Therapy might be the right choice if you want to:
- Resolve past issues
- Work through painful emotions
- Improve relationships
- Overcome anger issues
- Overcome addictions
- Develop strategies for coping with stress
- Make healthy future decisions
Although therapists do not prescribe medication, they can prescribe other treatments and self-care strategies and connect clients with other resources such as rehab treatments or support groups.
Life Coaching vs. Therapy
To sum up, here are the main differences between a life coach and a therapist:
|A life coach||A Therapist|
|Focuses on the future||Focuses on the past|
|Does not diagnose||Diagnoses illnesses and pathologies|
|Works with emotionally healthy clients||Works with emotionally unwell clients|
|Focuses on exploring the possibilities||Focuses on the root of problems|
|Driven by goals||Driven by unresolved issues|
It depends on your needs, symptoms, and nature of your difficulties whether you will seek help from a life coach or a therapist.
Although working with a qualified life coach can help resolve some life issues and improve your life, coaches cannot treat mental health conditions such as anxiety, mood disorders, addiction, etc.
If you struggle with symptoms of a mental health illness or carry out unresolved traumas and other issues from your past, you should go for psychotherapy.
Consult a mental health professional if you experience:
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Mood disturbance
- Anxious or intrusive thoughts
- Persistent worry and fear
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disruption
- Disproportionate anger and rage
- Problems with appetite
- Difficulty in relationships
- Social withdrawal
- Inability to work or go to school
How to Distinguish Life Coaching From Therapy
While therapy focuses on addressing your mental and emotional health challenges, life coaching teaches you how to overcome obstacles that might hold you back and achieve your dreams.
In psychotherapy, you will gain insight into how your past affects your present and learn strategies to resolve your issues. Counseling can help you heal past traumatic experiences, solve relationship issues, improve mood, and attain a greater sense of well-being and happiness.
On the other hand, life coaching is oriented toward discovering your strengths and pursuing your dreams. A life coach can help you build a positive mindset and overcome the feeling of stagnation. In my personal coaching work, we work deeply on how can we learn from the old habits and old mindset and step into a generative way of being. Ultimately we work on solidifying the relationship with oneself.
However, therapy and life coaching are not polarities; they can work together. In many cases, a client can achieve more when working with a life coach while going on therapy.
Combining life coaching and therapy has many advantages. For example, linking theory-based therapy and life coaching can help you achieve more substantial changes and long-lasting improvements. It can raise self-awareness of underlying mental health issues and improve understanding of what is holding you back from achieving desired life.
Many clients see their therapists as somewhat uninvolved, while coaches are perceived to offer a more personal means of solving life problems. So, combining life coaching with psychotherapy allows for a more responsive experience.
Combining these two experiences allows you to continuously work on yourself. With healing support from your therapist and guidance from your life coach, you can reshape and improve your life.
If you’re interested in what a life coach can offer you, please fill out this brief form and I’ll be in touch with you directly so we can discuss it in more detail.