So you want to improve your life and you are considering getting some outside help to guide you. Should you see a therapist or hire a life coach?
Both therapists and life coaches work with clients to improve their lives. However, there are several significant differences between therapy vs. life coaching.
When to See a Therapist
Therapy is an important option, particularly for individuals who are struggling with mental and emotional disorders. Therapists are specially trained and licensed to diagnose and treat mental health challenges. Therapy is a highly regulated field. Counselors and therapists must hold specific licensures to ensure they can safely assist their clients in coping with mental illness.
Life coaches, on the other hand, are typically not licensed therapists and do not provide counseling and support for mental illness. If a life coach recognizes that a client may be struggling with a mental illness, they will refer the client to work with a licensed therapist to address these needs.
How a Life Coach Can Help
Life coaches partner with their clients to support them in achieving goals, reaching their full potential, and improving their lives. It is important to note that a life coach will not tell you how to live your life or make decisions for you. Life coaches do not dole out advice or answers. Instead, the job of a life coach is to help you develop more personal awareness that will empower you to make your own choices based on your values and beliefs. A life coach believes that the answers you seek about your own unique life are already inside you. The life coach helps you uncover these answers.
A life coach can listen to your struggles and asks powerful, thought-provoking questions designed to help you reflect and develop more awareness about your situation. From there, the life coach will provide support and a framework to help you identify your strengths, values, opportunities, and solutions to your challenges. The life coach will help you create an action plan to reach your goals and then provide the accountability and support necessary to help you persevere and achieve your goals.
Life Coaching Always Has a Purpose
Coaching is a very objective-based practice. While therapy may not have a specific, measurable goal that the client is working toward, coaching nearly always does. There may be multiple goals you work through with your coach over a long-term period, but most coaching sessions will have a definite purpose. We do not meet in a life coaching session to vent and commiserate. The goal is to improve, grow, and thrive.
Life Coaching is Client Directed
In life coaching, the client sets the agenda, not the coach. The coach and client form a partnership to work together toward the client’s individual goals and desires. The discussions are future-oriented and look at possibilities and options. Therapy may spend a lot of time looking at the past to understand the present. Life coaching looks at the present and builds a pathway to pursue the client’s desired future.
Do You Need a Therapist or a Life Coach?
While there are some similarities between a life coach and a therapist, the work they do is not the same. A person who has experienced trauma or is struggling with mental illness needs to seek a qualified therapist for help. Someone who wants guidance, motivation, and accountability to do more with their life should get in touch with a life coach.
For a more detailed look at different types of life coaching and how it differs from therapy, check out this article.