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What is Mental Health Coaching?

what is mental health coaching?

Originally published by the iNLP Center Mental Health Coach Certification program.

What is mental health coaching? Mental health coaching is a new phenomenon emerging within the field of life coaching. What follows are the most important things you need to know.


The introduction of Prozac in 1986 marked a dramatic turn in mental health theory. For the first time, mental disorders such as depression were seen as a chemical imbalance in the brain that could be corrected with medication. And the rest is history. The mental health industrial complex embraced the controversial chemical imbalances theory, inspiring the development of hundreds of drugs, including antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, stimulants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.

As an agency counselor in the 1990’s, I recall the shift in policy away from extended talk therapy and toward medication evaluation. As counselors, we were instructed to refer our clients to the resident psychiatrist for a medication evaluation as the first order of business.

After decades of focus on brain chemistry and pharma treatment, many counselors have had enough. What happened to good, old-fashioned psychotherapy? As doctors have moved in on the mental health crisis in the world, treatment has become heavily biased toward meds. When you add in the complications of diagnosing, billing insurance, the red tape of counseling licensure, and liability concerns, many counselors have found themselves overwhelmed with regulation. The low fees paid out by insurance companies may be the final insult.

Enter Life Coaching

It’s been a trend: counselors leaving mental health in favor of life coaching. Inspired by humanistic psychology and sports performance, life coaching is a type of counseling that focuses on “partnering” with clients to create a better future. In life coaching, there is less emphasis on childhood, parental influences, and the theoretical roots of problems.

While many counselors have found a breath of fresh, unregulated air in life coaching, others have felt limited by the lack of depth in many life coaching models. So much of coaching focuses on productivity, accountability, and motivation, not the roots of the issues.

Mental Health Coaching

Mental health coaching is a possible solution for disgruntled therapists who are tired of the system, as well as anyone who’d like to coach others to become mentally healthier, without the entanglements of mental illness diagnoses, mandatory medication evaluations, and the paperwork required for insurance reimbursement.

For whom is mental health coaching intended?

Mental health coaching aims to help non-mentally-ill people increase their mental health. You do not need a diagnosis to benefit from improved mental health. The health of our minds is a concern for all of us.

The above spectrum shows three categories of mental health. (Remember, mental health applies to everyone, not just the mentally ill)! Optimal health suggests no real concerns and self-sufficiency. On the other side, there are those who suffer from diagnosable mental disorders, which are considered mental illnesses or medical conditions.

In the middle, we have your average mental health concerns experienced by millions. Non-diagnosable concerns include troublesome thoughts and moods that don’t prevent you from functioning. They just make it harder to do so. This is where mental health coaches come in handy.

Is mental health coaching legal?

Of course. Mental health coaches do not diagnose or treat medical conditions, which is what mental health licenses are all about. Mental health coaches strive to use non-diagnosing mental health models to help clients improve their moods and get the most out of life. Mental health coaching is a specialized form of life coaching, which remains unregulated as of this writing (2021). You do not need a license to practice, although training is highly recommended!

Is mental health coaching the wave of the future?

We’ve all probably learned that there is no telling what the future holds. Yet, mental health coaching is positioned to become a significant element in life coaching, for several reasons:

  • No diagnoses
  • No regulation
  • No insurance red tape
  • Freedom to practice as the pracitioner desires

In many ways, mental health coaching is a dream come true for therapists seeking to exit the system, as well as life coaches who’d like to work a little deeper with clients.