Life coach vs. therapist

UNDERSTANDING THE DISTINCT ROLES

Considering a life coach? Or therapy? This page covers everything you’d want to know about the differences between life coaching and therapy. You’ll learn the differences between the two, how a sense of purpose ties into both, and when to seek out a life coach vs a therapist.

One of the most common misconceptions about life coaching is that it’s actually just therapy in disguise – or worse yet – therapy from an unlicensed practitioner. In reality, life coaching is truly its own unique service designed to help ambitious achievers meet the outcomes that will bring them success and fulfillment in any and all areas of life. Below are some differences between a life coach vs. therapist, and a basic guide for when each service is appropriate.

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UNDERSTANDING LIFE COACHING AND THERAPY

Life coaching is a distinct service that empowers people to proactively achieve their goals and lead the life they desire. It is not therapy, or any other form of mental health treatment. However, life coaching can complement these forms of mental health treatment, offering a much more complete system for creating an extraordinary life.

DEFINING THE ROLES: LIFE COACH AND THERAPIST

What is therapy? Therapy, sometimes called counseling or psychotherapy, is a reflective process that involves working with a healthcare professional to address problematic beliefs, behaviors, relationships, or emotions. In therapy the focus is often on managing past traumas, emotions, or behaviors. The goals of therapy can vary but often include things like changing a self-destructive habit, improving a relationship, developing coping strategies, resolving past issues, or creating a happier, more stable future. Techniques in therapy may involve cognitive behavioral therapy or psychoanalysis, but several forms of therapy exist depending on the specific needs of the client. Traditionally, therapy tends to be reflective and some therapies may take longer to see results than others.

What is life coaching? In life coaching, a client works with a coach (not a healthcare professional) to design goals, identify strengths, and create an action plan for success. The coaching process is more future oriented, with a focus on closing the gap between where you are and where you want to be in life. One of the main differences between a life coach vs. therapist is that life coaching is more action-based and focuses on accountability rather than healing. A life coach empowers you to take control of your life and find the most effective strategies to reach your goals.

Therapist vs Life Coach Iceberg graphic showing the differences of a life coach and therapist. In North America there are currently 15,800 Life Coaches and 106,500 Psychologists. A growing industry, life coaching, increase of more than 575,00 engagement/speaking opportunities every year.

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KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LIFE COACHES AND THERAPISTS

Although life coaches and therapists occasionally help clients with similar problems, their work is not the same. Here are the main differences between a life coach and therapist:

DIFFERENCE ONE:

FOCUS OF THE PROGRAM

The focus of life coaching is one of the main things that distinguishes it from therapy. Life coaches tend to focus more on the future, helping clients identify where they are now, compared to where they want to be. Then through accountability and effective strategy, the life coach guides the client toward achieving those goals. For example, some strategies a coach might use to guide a client toward success is helping them overcome limiting beliefs and examining their blueprint (another name for a set of beliefs that creates your model of the world).

On the other hand, therapists often focus on analyzing their client’s past as a tool for understanding present thoughts and behaviors. In other words, therapists focus on understanding the cause of certain behavioral patterns and how to change those patterns whereas coaches focus on closing the gap between the present and  a future goal.

DIFFERENCE TWO:

GOALS OF THE PROGRAM

When you look closely at coaching vs. counseling or therapy practices, you recognize that counseling helps clients explore and understand their subconscious mind, often through reflection, diagnoses, or sometimes mindfulness. Counseling aims to reach a deep understanding of behaviors and patterns with a goal of overall mental health, helping you move past difficult emotions. This is why counseling and therapy can be helpful for issues like depression and anxiety.

Meanwhile, the goal of life coaching is to help you reach specific goals, especially when you feel stuck. Life coaching is about taking action and getting results. Life coaches measure their client’s success with key performance indicators and specific behavioral outcomes. They help you set SMART goals, provide accountability and celebrate your wins – all on the road to achieving your dreams.

DIFFERENCE THREE:

FRAMEWORK

While both life coaching and therapy use talk sessions with a trained professional, the formats differ in many ways. Life coaching sessions are typically more focused on specific goals and operate on a shorter term basis. They’re often more frequent to reflect the action-based nature and ideal for clients who have clear objectives and want to measure their progress towards achieving their goals.

In contrast, therapy involves less structured sessions that are guided by both the client and the specific type of therapy. The sessions tend to be less frequent, but have the benefit of addressing complex emotional and psychological issues. Since they go more in-depth, the total number of sessions can vary greatly depending on the client’s needs – ranging anywhere from a few weeks to several years or more. Nevertheless, it can be a powerful tool for self-discovery and healing.

SIMILARITIES BETWEEN A LIFE COACH VS. THERAPY

While the answer to “What is therapy?” is very different from what a life coach does, there are some similarities. Both work to enable clients to make positive changes in their lives and become more productive. 

Another similarity is that both are useful for healthy people. It’s true some therapists diagnose and treat from a healthcare perspective, but healthy individuals can still benefit from a deeper understanding of themselves or even use therapy as a preventative measure.

THE ROLE OF PURPOSE IN PERSONAL GROWTH

Clarifying your purpose in life can transform your life. Purpose is about knowing WHAT you want and, most importantly, WHY you want it. In life coaching, this is invaluable – it not only helps define the right goals but also adds an empowering MEANING to each step of achieving the goal. For example, if your goal is to make more money, why do you want this? Is it because you want to see a higher number in your bank account? Or is it because you think it will lead to a more fulfilling life, open doors for opportunities, and allow for you to spend more time doing what you love?? If an enhanced quality of life is the goal, a different set of strategies might be required.

In therapy, purpose and meaning in life are also valuable because they lead to better mental health and wellbeing. For example, volunteering helps counteract depression because it helps the person see beyond themselves, giving them a new sense of purpose in life.

In other words, we often do more for others than we do for ourselves because there’s no greater joy than GIVING to something greater than yourself and GROWING your ability to give.

To truly feed your spirit, remember this: The secret to living is giving. – Tony Robbins

HOW LIFE COACHING CAN HELP YOU FIND YOUR PURPOSE

Life coaching guides you in discovering your true purpose by encouraging you to explore not just what you want, but WHY you want it. This clarity is crucial in the early stages of coaching because it helps you select goals and transform those goals into meaningful pursuits. It helps determine the strategies you’ll use and gives you momentum as you make progress towards the goal.

THERAPY’S ROLE IN UNDERSTANDING YOUR PAST AND PURPOSE

Therapy plays a crucial role in discovering your past and purpose. Oftentimes, a meaningful sense of purpose comes from healing or overcoming a past pain. Overcoming a past pain enables you to support others who have been through similar situations. You develop knowledge or new skills to navigate future obstacles and with that comes a sense of ownership and pride. You’re able to give back. As a result, this meaning helps you feel better and can improve mental health. In this sense, understanding past events gives birth to an inspiring new purpose in life.

INTEGRATING PURPOSE WITH LIFE COACHING AND THERAPY

Integrating life coaching and therapy creates a powerful and complementary synergy. Life coaching maps out a purpose-driven action plan, while therapy explores and resolves past issues that might hinder this journey. For example, Josh Iris improved his internal psychology and personal business results through Tony Robbins life coaching by adding a purpose to everything he was doing. Others like Ellen Degeneres used therapy to overcome challenges after coming out – a journey that led to her resurgence as a successful television host and LGBTQ advocate.

WHEN TO SEEK OUT A LIFE COACH VS. THERAPIST

Naturally, the decision to seek out a life coach vs. a therapist is a very personal one. It might help to imagine yourself at the base of a mountain. You could set a goal to climb the mountain and hire an expert mountain climber to help prepare and guide you as you scale the mountain. This climber is like your life coach, ready to equip you with the tools, strategies, and accountability needed to tackle your goals as you ascend to new heights.

Or, you could be looking to simply take some time at the base of the mountain to reflect, and look inward. Perhaps it’s about focusing on how far you’ve come in life, and spending time to better understand yourself. So instead of focusing on the climb, it’s like a meditation where you focus on your own inner landscape and reconnect with the essence of who you are. In this scenario, the nature around you is more like therapy – a journey of self-discovery that can lead to emotional healing or new insights about who you are.

Coaching vs. counseling

 

Coaching vs. therapeutic counseling is similar to this example. Therapy is the nature that helped you heal by exploring your mental and emotional well-being. The life coach is the mountain climber with expert knowledge of your climb and helps you reach your goal of ascending to the summit.

THE IMPACT OF LIFE COACHING AND THERAPY ON PERSONAL GROWTH

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a life coach and therapist can contribute to your personal growth journey:

A LIFE COACH OFFERS GUIDANCE BY HELPING CLIENTS:

Clarify and achieve personal and professional goals

Create business plans

Work to improve communication skills

Achieve financial independence and security

Achieve work/life balance

Start a new business or grow a current business

traits of an entrepreneur

 

A THERAPIST, ON THE OTHER HAND, FOCUSES THEIR CONVERSATION ON WAYS TO:

Recover from past traumas

Explore why past relationships (business or personal) have been destructive

Work through depression or anxiety that affects the ability to function at home or work

Navigate a divorce or loss of a loved one

STARTING YOUR JOURNEY: SEEKING THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL HELP

In order to get the right kind of professional expertise, it is crucial to understand how a life coach vs. therapist are different. Do you need a therapist, or do life coaching services better suit you? Whatever you choose, remember that life coaching is not a watered-down version of therapy. It is a dynamic discipline designed to help inspire people to achieve more than they believe is possible.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PATH FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

On your transformative journey of personal growth, both a life coach and therapist can be invaluable allies that work hand in hand. The two are much like how overall physical health is not just diet and not just exercise. For example,  life coaching can push you to set ambitious business goals and develop effective success strategies, whereas therapy can uncover and address past experiences that might be preventing you from achieving those business goals. This dual approach of doing both simultaneously ensures a balanced development.

In other words, life coaches and therapists, each in their unique ways, offer a complementary system to navigate life’s challenges and reach your fullest potential. Both can lead to profound changes and accomplishments in life. So approach them with an open mind, an open heart, and remember that every step is one step closer to the extraordinary life you deserve.

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