Life Coach vs Therapist: Which One is For You?

Needing support at different times in life and seeking professional help is completely normal. There are many different reasons why a person may want a professional in their corner from emotional support to problem-solving through a tough decision. The question is, are you looking for a therapist or a life coach? While both will provide support and clarity to their clients, the roles they served are different.

Life coaches are professionals who counsel and encourage clients on matters having to do with careers or personal challenges. While some coaches are certified, it is not a requirement in order for them to begin working with clients. Approaches to coaching vary, but most focus on personal empowerment, motivation, and strategies to define and reach the goals their clients desire to achieve.

On the other hand, therapists are professionals with master’s or doctorate degrees and are licensed. They are either classified as a psychologist or counselor which varies depending on what therapy they focus on. For example, psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy; focus on the long-term ways to understand your thoughts, moods, and behaviors.

Here are some additional key differences between life coaches and therapists:

Clear Structure vs Treatment

Life coaches are not considered mental health professionals and do not diagnose mental health issues. They often begin with a longer initial session to gather all of the necessary information about the client. The following sessions deal with prioritizing the client’s strengths and values, coordinating goals, and visualizing future plans backed with effective strategies. Sessions are structured to facilitate progress.

On the other hand, therapists use diagnostic methods to determine specific mental illnesses to clinically treat their patients. Therapy normally begins with an initial session known as intake, a patient-therapist relational assessment to get to know one another. Subsequent sessions may vary depending on the doctor. Therapy session structure depends on the type of treatment being used.

Roots vs Goals

During the intake session with a therapist, patients are often returning to emotional experiences of the past – the background, how they were raised, the beliefs, the trauma they may have gained – and connecting those to understand why they are behaving the way they do. This information is then used to dig deeper into addressing and moving forward from it. In therapy, patients face the past in order to move forward.

Coaching, as compared to therapy, focuses on improving the here and now. Coaches are also interested in their clients’ past and life experiences but not necessarily for the reason of addressing it or healing it. They will want to know that for reference as to what brought you to where you are. Coaches work on where you are now and where you want to be.

Achieving vs Healing

The primary difference between a life coach and a therapist is the focus of work; life coaches focus on setting and achieving goals, while therapists focus on mental and emotional healing.

Life coaches focus on helping you pursue your passion and break you from feeling stuck and stagnant. They will also lead you to discover new and bigger goals, strategize the way to achieve those, and build a positive mindset. While therapists address your deep-rooted issues and foster healing.

You might want to consider life coaching if you need help realizing your potential, and try seeking therapy if you are dealing with mental health issues and want to get healed from them.

Measurement of Success

Therapy often consists of a series of sessions that may take months or even years. Success with a therapist is measured by the change of behavioral patterns of the patient.

With life coaching, coaches offer service packages ranging from 6 weeks to 3 months series of sessions. Although this may vary, it is often short-term. Clients usually agree to a given timeframe that has pre-specified goals to achieve. Success in coaching can be measured by the client’s ability to obtain the set goals. It’s important to note here that life coaches are only responsible for providing clients with tools to support their goals, not necessarily accomplishing them for the client. The client still owns the ultimate result.

Note that coaches and therapists all have different philosophies and approaches. And when it comes to self-care and help-seeking there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all, what works for others might not work for you. If you’re still weighing whether you would want a therapist or a life coach – think of therapists as people who will help you with your past traumas and address mental issues, and life coaches as powerful help to make positive life change from where you are today and what you wanted to achieve.

If you’re looking for a coach to help you achieve your goals, let’s connect! I would love to learn more about what you’re looking to accomplish in the near future.