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Coaching VS. Therapy

It's not uncommon to hear people use the terms "coaching" and "therapy" interchangeably. But what exactly is the difference between these two types of services? And more importantly, which one is right for you?

As a life coach, I often get asked whether coaching or therapy would be a better fit for someone seeking help with a specific issue. The answer, of course, depends on the individual and their unique situation. However, there are some key distinctions between coaching and therapy that can help you decide which route to pursue.

Coaching For Personal Change

What is The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy

Coaching is an approach to personal development that involves the collaboration of a coach and the coachee. A professional life coach works with the coachee to identify goals and strategies for achieving them. Coaching can equip one with insight, wisdom, and strategies for more effective decision-making. The coaching process helps you achieve greater fulfillment in both your professional and personal life by creating an atmosphere of understanding that can provide clarity, enhance self-confidence, and spark creativity. It provides deeper insight into how certain behaviors affect outcomes in your life while also providing accountability to pursue desired actions or results. Ultimately coaching leads to improved life satisfaction by helping you discover what matters most to you and inspiring action toward realizing meaningful change in your life.

Therapy on the other hand is a form of mental health treatment conducted by licensed practitioners, such as counselors and psychologists, to provide support for individuals struggling with various mental health issues. Therapy can be administered in one-on-one sessions or group therapy settings. It helps people coping with anxiety, depression, trauma, and maladaptive behaviors learn tools to navigate their day-to-day lives more effectively. Through therapy, an individual learns practical strategies to communicate better with those around them and establish healthier relationships; they also create insight into the origins of their issues and the triggers that stir up feelings of fear or anger. Through therapy, an individual can better understand themselves and lead a fuller life.

Similarities and Differences

Coaching and therapy have a few similarities. On the surface, therapy and life coaching both focus on helping individuals cope with life's issues. However, the primary differences between therapy and life coaching are in the method of treatment and the type of goals targeted. Therapy is focused on managing mental health illnesses while a life coach encourages clients to go beyond their perceived limitations to actively pursue their goals and visions. In therapy clients often work to understand and mitigate triggers or root causes of distress while in coaching they look at how they can utilize strengths or build paths that lead to meaningful goals. While therapy is limited to addressing mental health issues like depression or anxiety, a coach works with clients on any areas where an individual might want help in their lives. Ultimately therapy and coaching both provide important ways for individuals to improve their overall well-being.

When to Seek Out a Coach

When we have exhausted all possibilities to find a solution to a problem, sometimes we may realize that it's time to get input from an outsider. A life coach or therapist can bring a different perspective, help us gain clarity, and take steps toward positive growth. Coaches and therapists specialize in different areas, so when life throws us a curve ball, it’s essential to know who to seek help from. When dealing with mental health issues that make it extremely difficult to function daily, take care of your responsibilities, and meet your commitments, therapy is often the most appropriate course of action. This might include finding a licensed clinical counselor or psychologist as part of your care team. Other times, if you are coping but feeling stuck in life and are ready to make a change in your career, relationships, financial status, or overall well-being, it might be beneficial to work with a professional life coach for guidance and support. At any rate, therapy and coaching both provide invaluable tools for self-improvement!

How Coaching and Therapy Complement Each Other

Coaching and therapy can be extremely beneficial when used in conjunction with each other. Therapy is focused on addressing the root causes of underlying issues while coaching looks to build upon existing strengths and skills to help individuals progress toward achieving their goals. A life coach helps clients break down those goals into manageable steps and provide support, encouragement, and motivation along the way. On the other hand, a therapist focuses on exploring psychological tendencies under what may be holding a client back from reaching their desired outcome, potentially also engaging in trauma-informed therapy if needed. By combining therapy with coaching strategies, an individual can get to the source of their challenges and heal from past pains which then will help them more effectively utilize the skills offered by a coach for personal development.

How to Find a Reputable Life Coach and Therapist

Unlike therapy, coaching is an unregulated field, meaning that anyone can decide to call themselves a life coach without having any credentials or training. Therapists undergo several years of schooling and thousands of hours of interning and on-the-job training and testing to obtain a license to practice. In addition, once they are licensed they take ongoing educational courses to maintain their license. Even though coaching isn't regulated there are a set of scientifically proven skills a coach should possess to help a client achieve meaningful change, so having the right education and experience is essential. Although certification is not required for coaching, there are various governing boards that coaches can credential with. This means that they have the necessary education and hours of training to be considered a certified coach. This also means that they are required to follow the ethical standards of the various governing boards. The two most popular and reputable boards include the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and The National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC).

Finding a reputable life coach can be a difficult and daunting task. Consider researching therapy and coaching websites to compare the services of different life coaches, check their credentials, and select one that matches your needs. If possible, speak to someone who has used the life coach in the past to learn more about the services provided and how successful they’ve been for others. It is important to remember that therapy and coaching are highly personal experiences and only you can decide if a life coach aligns with what you need from them. Make sure to take the time to meet with any potential therapists or coaches, before committing to any therapy sessions, so that you feel comfortable with their methods, approach, and qualifications.

Written by Tania Wright, M.S, CPC, CEIC

Tania is a Certified Professional Coach and Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach who helps individuals change the patterns and behaviors that limit their life so they can unlock their potential, accomplish their goals, and achieve a life of fulfillment and joy.

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