Life Coaching vs. Therapy: What's the Difference?

life coach personal growth therapy Sep 13, 2021

Life coaching has been a popular profession in recent years, but many people are unsure of the difference between life coaching and therapy. Is there really much of a difference? These two professions can overlap when it comes to their clientele, so how do you know if you need one or the other? This article will discuss the differences between the two professions and when it is best to seek one or the other, or maybe both.

Life coaching and therapy

Life coaching is a process where a life coach works with the client to help identify goals and overcome challenges in attaining the goals. First, problems in behavior are identified, and from there, a life coach creates plans to help the client achieve the desired results in life.

Therapy is a process where a mental health professional, a therapist, works with the client to diagnose and solve problems involving behaviors, feelings, issues in relationships, and personal beliefs. Once the issues are identified, a therapist aims to change the client's problematic behaviors to improve relationships and get over hurtful feelings to bring a happier life.

Differences between a life coach and a therapist

Several areas illustrate the distinction between a life coach and a therapist. The following are the key areas where the difference lies.

1. Professionalism

Therapists undergo professional training by getting a degree and a license before they can become certified professionals. The training required can be rigorous as some even get a master's degree or a doctorate to become a professional therapist. Graduates must also pass exams from licensing boards to become fully qualified therapists.

Life coaches, on the other hand, can become one without even getting a degree or license. Life coaching is a mostly unregulated industry, and as such, it is quite common to come across individuals labeling themselves as life coaches. However, certifying and accrediting organizations like the International Coaching Federation provide coach training programs and accreditation for life coaches. These give a level of professionalism to many coaches and adds more credibility to their profession.

2. Purpose of the service

Life coaching and therapy are distinct in two points involving their client's life: the period of time in the client's life that they focus on and the main question they wanted to answer in solving the client's problems.

In life coaching sessions, a coach will usually conduct an initial interview with the client to grasp better who the client is. Then, the coach will ask questions regarding the client's vision and goals, attitude towards working on things, or the current situation. In other words, the coach wants to know the "present" situation of the client so that he can formulate plans and strategies on "how" to achieve the life goals and objectives of the client.

On the other hand, therapists diagnose their clients by looking at the client's "past" to understand the present behaviors of the client better. Such present behaviors can include problematic ones such as exhibiting bipolar disorder, engaging in substance abuse, or other mental illnesses. Therefore, therapists analyze the past to figure out "why" the present behaviors of the client happen and help solve them by focusing on the client's thoughts and feelings.

3. The result of the service

Helping people get out of the "stuck in a rut" situation is the primary goal of life coaching. Many coaching clients seek to improve and try to figure out what they want to do better in the future. Coaching services are action-oriented, and life coaches focus on this by telling their clients what to do exactly to get to the ideal future the client is envisioning. It is also the coach's job to use metrics and systems to gauge the client's success to ensure that their dreams are achieved.

Emotional wellness and improved mental health are the main goals that therapy seeks to achieve for clients. People who should seek therapy are those that are currently experiencing mental health issues and personality disorders. People who experience these problems usually have to be referred by somebody else since they themselves will most probably not realize that there is something wrong with their mental health. The clinical services provided by a licensed therapist aim to explore the client's subconscious and unconscious mind so that the therapist can better understand the client's present behavior patterns. Past trauma and past relationships become key to figuring out why the present behavioral patterns occur. Therapists can refer for further treatment if needed.

4. Structure of the service

Both life coaching and therapy involve sessions talking with the client but how they are conducted for both professions is different.

Coaches work with their clients in a more structured approach. A properly trained coach will usually give a timetable to the client on when certain objectives must be met in their plan, with a bigger end goal in the future. The client must do specific actions and meet them within specific time periods before progressing to the next one. Adjustments might have to be made on the client's progress, but in the end, the overall goal is what must be achieved in the end. Life coaches will not be there to babysit the client forever, and eventually, the client will learn to help themselves after being coached for a certain time, which can last for months depending on the number of sessions taken.

Therapy involves a more unstructured approach with sessions. These meetings usually happen where clients state to the therapist what's bugging them mentally and what areas they are having problems with. The therapist will then respond accordingly depending on what the client says and analyze and understand from there. Therapy is a long-term process and can last for years, depending on the client's general well-being. Changes in the client's mental health don't happen overnight, and adjustments will have to be made depending on how the client is acting and faring. A therapist aims to identify the mental illnesses the client might have to be referred for treatment and eventually become better mentally.

Similarities and when to seek which service

If there are differences between getting the help of a life coach and a therapist, there are also similarities between the two professions. Both professions instill positive changes in the lives of their clients so that they can lead a new life path that is more productive and less stressful and have improved general well-being. Both professions also help solve their clients' problems to achieve goals and break free from troubles. Knowing when to seek which one will depend on what area of your life you need to address the most.

Seek life coaching if you find yourself looking for ways to achieve your goals and dreams and do not know how to attain them exactly. Improving the way you communicate with others, finding work/life balance, or creating plans to help your business or self-improvement are some of the things a good coach can guide you through. It's even possible to get help in finance, relationships, or career since many coaches can specialize in different areas.

If, on the other hand, you are seeking some help to repair relationships that have been destructive in the past and are currently affecting you, or you want to recover from past traumas, or you think you might have depression or anxiety that is preventing you from achieving peak performance in your work and personal life, then see a therapist. Only therapists can provide the professional help needed to address past problems that affect the present situation. A therapist is a healthcare professional that can identify mental illness that their clients might have. Their job is to make their clients become healthy clients in terms of their mental and emotional health to have better interpersonal relationships and gain better self-esteem to overcome challenges in life.

As a client, you don't have to restrict yourself to get just one type of service, be it life coaching or therapy. You might even need to get the help of both. The important part is recognizing that you need help with something and identifying the professional who will be a personal fit to guide you in going through your life.

 

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