Therapist vs. Life Coach - Which Path to Pursue

  Monday, October 18, 2021

Therapy is a multidimensional field, inculcating different types of practices. Consider it more as an umbrella term, which covers various areas of treatment. The umbrella includes psychotherapy to treat multiple mental health disorders and life coaching to improve quality of life. Therapists and life coaches have long since been seen as opposites instead of two sides of the same coin. This view is valid when considering the underlying years of practice, certification (or lack of accreditation in life coaching), and clientele. However, we should not discount either of the practices in terms of efficiency, relevance, and helpfulness. 

Therapy has been around for many years, starting early on in history when humans first started studying the workings of the mind. There is extensive research and experimentation to back psychotherapies that are being used today. On the other hand, life coaching started in the eighties, as a trend took over an already existing human instinct to better ourselves. There is no one person to credit. There is no specific origin story to the concept of coaching someone to improve their life. 

Difference of Opinions

If you are suffering from mental health disorders diagnosed by professionals, then therapy is the first course of action you take in your journey to recovery. On the other hand, you go to a life coach to fill gaps in your personal or professional life. When life coaching came first into the public's view, much curiosity and controversy followed. It was regarded with feelings of skepticism, and people immediately turned away from it. It was considered the latest trend pursued by the privileged and was going to blow over soon. Now, the opinions are quite different. More and more people are becoming a part of this multi-billion dollar industry. Life coaching has fought its way into prominence and now has become an integral part of many lives.

Many therapists have shifted to the life coaching industry or started dual practices taking on clients that require either of the two types of treatment. This shift owes to multiple factors, especially having to do with the therapist's satisfaction with the work they do. Even life coaches transition into the vast world of psychotherapy. However, there are also professionals in both industries that consider it sacrilege to transition to either. In their eyes, life coaching is a weak and mimicked expression of psychotherapeutic practices like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), behavioral activation therapy (BAT), etc.  

It's important to discuss different aspects in which these practices differ, to understand them and their requirement better. 

Therapy vs. Life Coaching: How do they differ? 

Following are how life coaching and therapy are viewed and function differently:

Who They Treat

One of the essential distinctions between a life coach and a therapist is the type of clients they treat. Psychotherapy is for patients with mental health diseases such as personality disorders, anxiety-inducing trauma disorders, or other scientifically documented illnesses. Treatment of these illnesses necessitates extensive education and research in the disciplines listed.

Life coaches deal with people who want to pursue a new perspective on life. These people are often looking to find a new version of themselves as they work to improve the quality of their personal and professional life. Life coaches help broaden your scope and help you achieve your deepest desires. 

What They Study 

To legally perform psychotherapy, one must have a master's degree and a state license. To receive a license to practice psychotherapy, one must first pass a test and complete a certain number of supervised hours of practice. Hence, there are a lot of levels one must pass through before being certified and trusted with a patient's past trauma and disorders.

There are no governing boards for life or success coaches, even though numerous coaching certification programs exist. There is also no regulation of the theories and studies that are provided by these programs. Despite the absence of a governing body in the profession of coaching, many coaches offer excellent services, and several started out as psychotherapists. Life coaches must still adhere to basic legalities, such as not giving any advice in the domain of a therapist or mental health professional. 

How They Bond with Clients

You can consider therapists to be sponge-like, absorbing everything their patients throw at them in sessions. They absorb, interpret and understand. Their job does not entail reciprocity. They help their patients and respond during these discussions with insight. This insight is a collection of the patient's development, story, and the therapist's knowledge regarding a particular area of psychotherapy. It is devoid of all personal experiences and biases. You don't really know your therapist, and that is instrumental for effective treatment. 

In stark contrast, life coaches can become one of the most influential people in our life. Befriending them, becoming close to them, and trusting them wholeheartedly are the most important things for a client's journey. As a life coach, your customers don't want to be sent a branded brochure with pages to read when they sign up for your service. Instead, they want a fully immersive experience that allows them to get to know you. Life coaching works when the coach uses examples from their lives. It is necessary to create a deep bond. 

Professional-patient relationships need to be strong in both of these cases. However, there is variation in the degree of openness which differentiates them. 

What Resources They Use

In terms of where and how they can provide services, psychotherapists have more limitations than coaches. For example, they must be licensed in the state where they practice, whereas coaches can operate anywhere in the United States and overseas.

Psychotherapy is typically done in a doctor's office, whereas coaching is frequently done over the phone or the internet. Nonetheless, some psychotherapists and coaches provide services over the phone or via the internet, and some coaches have offices where customers can meet with them. 

Coaches are more likely than psychotherapists to meet with clients in a public setting. You probably have lunch with your life coach every week. Can't do that with a therapist.

What They Hope To Achieve

On the other hand, coaching is more concerned with helping you reach your long-term goals, whereas psychotherapy is more concerned with the past and present. However, many coaches should be able to assist you in understanding how your history influences your gift, and psychotherapists can assist you in achieving your long-term objectives.

In psychotherapy, the focus is on healing from the past, whereas in coaching, the focus is on bringing you to where you want to go next.

Do You Need a Therapist or a Life Coach?

When dealing with life's obstacles, everyone might use a little additional help, and one way to receive it is to speak with a professional. Consider the following before dismissing the idea: Verbalizing feelings has been demonstrated in studies to have a significant therapeutic effect on the brain. In other words, talking about your issues (even the "insignificant" ones) with someone trained to help you deal with them is beneficial to your health.

So, let's say you've decided to seek expert assistance. Should you see a therapist or enlist the help of a life coach?

Therapy is well-known for its problem-solving skills and its use in treating anxiety, despair, and addiction. It's also a strategy to improve your mental well-being in everyday life. To put it another way, you don't need to have experienced a significant life event or tragedy to benefit from counseling. Talking to a professional can help you get a sense of how you seem to others, provide feedback on whatever feelings you're experiencing and insight into how those emotions influence your daily life. Whether you want to lose weight or make a significant career move, speaking with a professional life coach can help you overcome any mental barriers you may face. 

Therapy can help you establish a strategy to deal with a current difficulty, just as a life coach can help you formulate a plan to make a substantial change in your life. Researchers emphasize the value of opening up to a professional, whether a life coach or a therapist when talking about what you're struggling with and where you'd like to go from there. This helps you to work toward a goal, which can provide you more confidence, peace of mind, and, eventually, meaning in your life.

Therapy and life coaching are currently both well-respected trades in the mental health industry. Slowly, we are coming to the realization that everyone deserves help to become a better version of ourselves. Whether it be because of underlying trauma or because you are tired of your everyday routine. 

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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