Life Coach vs. Therapist
One of the most common misconceptions about life coaching is that it is 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. Here are some of the differences between life coaching and therapy, and a basic guide for when each service is appropriate.
Defining terms: Life coach vs. therapist
What is therapy? Therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy, is a long-term process in which a client works with a healthcare professional to diagnose and resolve problematic beliefs, behaviors, relationship issues, feelings and sometimes physical responses. The idea behind therapy is to focus on past traumas and issues to change self-destructive habits, repair and improve relationships and work through painful feelings. In this sense, therapy focuses on the past and on introspection and analysis, with the hope of resolving past issues and creating a happier, more stable future.
What does a life coach do? The difference between a life coach and therapist is that a life coach sets clients up with a process that may be long or short-term, instead of regular sessions. In life coaching, a client works with a coach, who is not a healthcare professional, in order to clarify goals and identify obstacles and problematic behaviors in order to create action plans to achieve desired results. The process of life coaching takes the client’s current starting point as an acceptable neutral ground and is more action-based from that point onward. A life coach enables the person receiving treatment to take control of their life and take action to steer it toward their goals.
Life coaching is truly its own unique service designed to help ambitious achievers meet the outcomes that will bring them success and fulfillment – Tony Robbins
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Similarities and differences between life coaches and therapists
The fundamentals of life coaching are what distinguishes it from therapy. Life coaches do not diagnose the people they work with, while therapists determine illnesses and pathologies so their patients can be clinically treated. Therapists analyze their client’s past as a tool for understanding present behaviors, whereas life coaches simply identify and describe current problematic behaviors so the client can work to modify them. In other words, therapists focus on “why” certain behavioral patterns occur, and coaches work on “how” to work toward a goal.
When you look at a life coach vs. a therapist’s practice, it’s important to recognize that therapists help clients explore and understand their subconscious and unconscious mind. Their goal in this exploration is a deep understanding of behaviors and patterns. Life coaches focus on an individual’s actions and results. Life coaches measure their client’s success with key performance indicators and specific behavioral outcomes and goals.
Therapy and life coaching do share certain traits and aims. However, whether you choose to work with a life coach or therapist, both work to enable clients to make positive changes in their lives and become more productive. While therapists diagnose and treat from a healthcare perspective, not all therapy clients are ill; many healthy people seek the services of both therapists and life coaches. Therapists may at times work with specific results in mind, such as the cessation of a particular problematic behavior.
Despite occasional areas of overlap, the work and processes of therapists and life coaches are distinct.
Should I seek out a therapist or a life coach?
Naturally, the decision to seek out a therapist or a life coach is a very personal one. It might help to imagine yourself getting ready to climb a mountain. You could either hire an expert sherpa and guide for your expedition or a doctor. Which should you choose? Which one will be most helpful during your specific journey?
If you are physically unwell, or would be in danger if you even attempted the climb, a sherpa and guide wouldn’t do you any good. You need to be at a baseline level of good health before you can make the climb at all, so if you’re not, you might need to see the doctor before trying something that challenging. However, if you’re healthy and just need someone to help you with climbing strategy, carrying the load of supplies and finding the best path, the sherpa and guide is the best bet.
In this example, the therapist is the doctor. He or she gets you well enough to take on major challenges in your life by exploring your mental and emotional well-being. The life coach is the sherpa and guide. He or she has an expert knowledge of your climb and can help you reach the summit.
A life coach would be able to offer guidance by:
- Clarifying and achieving personal and professional goals
- Creating business plans
- Working to improve communication skills
- Achieving financial independence and security
- Achieving a work/life balance
- Starting a new business or growing a current business
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 affect your ability to function at home or work
- Survive a divorce or loss of a loved one
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Although life coaches and therapists occasionally help clients with similar problems, their work is not the same. In order to get the right kind of professional expertise, it is crucial to know which kind of guidance will serve you best. Do you need a therapist, or do life coaching services better suit you? Life coaching isn’t simply a watered-down version of therapy. It is a dynamic discipline designed to help motivate and inspire people to achieve more than they believe is possible.
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