Life Coaching vs Therapy According to Experts

When you are struggling in your life and in need of guidance, consulting a professional immensely helps. The question on a lot of people’s minds is, “Do I consult with a life coach or a therapist?” To answer this question, we’ll discuss life coaching vs therapy according to experts.

Life Coaching vs Therapy

The differences between life coaching vs therapy is a hot topic in the mental health arena. There are some who passionately swear that life coaching is in a completely different realm than therapy. Then, there are some who argue that they are essentially very similar and fall under the same umbrella. 

When it comes down to the specifics, life coaching and therapy are completely different professions. There is no debate, however, that there is overlap between life coaching vs therapy. They are both highly beneficial and help millions of people. Clients of both are making massive improvements in their life by hiring these experts and receiving guidance. 

If you are deciding whether to hire a life coach or a therapist, it is important that you do your research to understand the fundamental differences between both professions in order to see the results you are looking for.  

In this article, we do that for you.

We took a look at what expert life coaches and therapists are saying about life coaching vs therapy. We found out exactly what you must know to make this important decision a little bit easier. 

What the Experts are Saying

Sherpa or Doctor?

Arguably the most famous life coach in the world, Tony Robbins believes there are similarities and differences between life coaching and therapy. He writes that “both work to enable clients to make positive changes in their lives and become more productive”. He acknowledges that therapists work with both mentally healthy and unhealthy clients, discrediting the claim that therapists only work with the mentally ill. 

However, he explains that when you are deciding whether to hire a life coach or a therapist , take into consideration your own mental health. He compares this decision to climbing 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?”

Tony Robbins

Life Coaching is More Immersive

Psychotherapist Rachel Lee Glass shared her opinion on life coaching vs therapy on psychcentral.com. She admits that many esteemed therapists roll their eyes at life coaches, including her past self. 

Nowadays, however, she offers life coaching services and therapy to her clients depending on their individual needs. She describes her life coaching as being a more immersive experience, comparing it to taking “a college course with you as the subject”. Whereas her therapeutic services are for “building new neural pathways and unlearning faulty beliefs” to overcome mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety. This takes more of a long-term weekly approach.

Past vs Future

Jenev Caddell, PsyD is a licensed psychologist, relationship coach, and author. On VeryWellMind.com, she discusses the 5 differences between life coaching and psychotherapy. She emphasizes that “psychotherapists are trained to help people who are facing mental illnesses, and coaches are not”. She also explains that “the focus in psychotherapy is more on healing from the past, while the focus in coaching is more on getting you to where you wish to be next”.

A Matter of Choice

Certified coach and licensed therapist Diann Wingert argues on GoodTherapy.org that deciding whether to hire a life coach or a therapist is a matter of choice. 

“If you are more comfortable knowing that the person helping you is a highly educated professional who is licensed and regulated by the state, shares a common language with other health care providers, and is trained to deal with the symptoms of mental health issues as well as the dramas and traumas of ordinary life, a therapist is your best bet. If you don’t need (or want) a mental health diagnosis, are not looking for insurance reimbursement, and want someone who will push you to move toward your goals rather than facilitate insight into your past, a growing number of coaches are waiting to work with you.”

Diann Wingert

Vetting 

On BetterHelp.com, Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC discusses the differences when it comes to vetting life coaches and therapists. She relates that “whether you decide to go with a therapist or a life coach, you’ll want to make sure that they know what they’re doing”. While you can verify a therapist’s qualifications and educational background with their state’s counseling licensing board. 

Life coaching, on the other hand, is an unregulated profession with “no state licensing boards or universally accepted standards of education or training”. This makes it so life coaching cannot be covered by health insurance, whereas therapy can. When vetting life coaches, checking their educational background, career history, and certifications is an important part of the process.

Accountability 

Huffington Post’s Senior Wellness Editor, Lindsay Holmes, explains in an article that life coaches help people get over mental blocks that keep them from overcoming challenges when they want to make a significant life change or lose weight. Life coaches hold people accountable, without whom people would feel alone facing these challenges and more likely to give up. She backs up this claim with a scientific study showing that social support builds resilience against stress.    

Limits 

Counseling Today, A Publication of the American Counseling Association (ACA), posted an article written by Jim Paterson on life coaching vs therapy. In the article, Jim shares the consensus formed after he interviewed various life coaches and therapists regarding this subject. 

They all agreed that in both professions, clients will be “better off if both services are available from well-trained practitioners”, meaning that life coaches should have the necessary certifications, just as therapists have the necessary degrees. 

They also agreed that “there are limits to what life coaches can and should do with clients, with both sides agreeing that coaches should refer clients to a therapist if a significant psychological problem is discovered”.

To Sum Up

According to the experts, there are many similarities and differences between life coaching vs therapy. Both professions aim to help their clients make significant changes in their life. What those changes specifically are, the mental health of the client, and the overall process are all factors to consider when choosing between the two.

With life coaching and therapy, you want to work with a professional with all of the right credentials.