With this first blog, I want to address frequently asked questions about the differences between psychotherapy and life coaching. It’s not uncommon for people to confuse these two professions and to be sure, similarities do exist. However, these professions are not interchangeable. These waters can become even murkier as many counselors, like me, are shifting away from practicing as licensed counselors to becoming life coaches.
Some differences between counseling and coaching are:
- Coaching sessions are focused on the agenda set by client at the start of each session
- Coaching is action oriented and results driven
- Coaching takes place in the here and now, not in the past
- Coaching assumes that you are resilient, strong, capable and healthy
- Coaching focuses on aligning your strengths with your stated goals
- Coaching assumes that you are the expert of your own life purpose
- Coaching is a collaborative process
- Coaching can take place by phone, video or in person across the USA or worldwide
- Therapy is process oriented and often focuses on emotions, behaviors and thoughts
- Therapy assesses for and diagnoses mental health disorders
- Therapy is often considered “medically necessary” and is covered by health insurance
- Therapy has an inherent power dynamic in which the therapist is often considered the expert
Some similarities between counseling and coaching are:
- Both professions require specialized trainings, certifications, course work, internships and/or in-vivo field practice
- Both professions have the same inherent goal of assisting clients create fulfilling lives
- Both coaches and therapists are highly trained, emphatic and intelligent
- Both professions recognize and honor that each person is different and that there is no ‘one size fits all’ recipe for clients
- Both professions adhere to ethical guidelines which foster safety within the relationship
It’s the job of the coach to help you, the client, understand these differences so that you choose the appropriate service for your needs. As the consumer, you are entitled to understand what coaching is, and is not, so that you can knowledgeably enter the coaching contract. In traditional psychotherapy, we would make this part of the informed consent process. A thorough initial phone call or video call should include: establishing rapport, assessing your readiness for coaching and explaining the limitations of coaching.
It’s my belief that both coaching and therapy are vital and helpful services for many people. There is no ‘better’ or ‘less than’ helping profession. It’s actually this diversity which allows us to have access to the services we need most at a particular time in life.
“Just as the boat is guided to shore by careful planning, following the map and visualizing the light house, we too must have these tools to reach our goals. Without preparation, planning and a vision of the future we are just afloat in the sea at the mercy of the winds”Carrie Mead