“Maybe you should talk to someone”
You agree with the suggestion but then feel overwhelmed about next steps. Maybe you don’t want to see a “shrink” and you feel a sense of shame around managing your mental health. Perhaps you’re unsure of the level and type of care you need. Psychiatrists and psychologists are different in that the former is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication while the other is not a medical doctor, though they might hold a doctorate degree, and usually specializes in talk therapy. The term “therapist” encompasses those who are trained and licensed to provide a variety of treatments or to help rehabilitate people. So how is therapy different from life coaching? This guide will explain what each role and area excels in to help point you in the right direction.
The Benefits of Therapy & Life Coaching
Therapy is typically used to treat mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or trauma. It involves talking to a therapist about past experiences and current feelings in order to gain insight into the underlying causes of a person’s struggles.
Life coaching, on the other hand, is more focused on helping people achieve specific goals and objectives in their life. The coach works with the client to identify areas that need improvement and then creates an action plan for how they can get there. Life coaches often help people find clarity around their purpose in life and create strategies for achieving success in various aspects of their lives such as career, relationships, finances, and more.
When to Seek Support From a Therapist or a Life Coach
Therapy and life coaching are two very different approaches to help people reach their goals. Therapy focuses on understanding the root causes of a person’s issues, while life coaching is more goal-oriented and action-focused.
In the field of psychotherapy, many of the founders were focused on the patient’s background and childhood. Therapy is the appropriate place for getting a diagnosis and dealing with unconscious, repressed emotions and trauma from the past. Additionally, brain disorders, addictions (e.g. alcoholism), anxiety and depression, and personality disorders (e.g. narcissistic and borderline personality disorders) are within the purview of therapy. Looking into the past with therapy can be the place to start when people feel they cannot function in their lives or that their career, relationships, and other aspects of life just not working. These people might find it hard, if not impossible, to pull themselves up by their bootstraps much less pull themselves off the couch.
Outside of this, there are many issues that don’t require therapy in order to be solved. With life coaching, instead of being stuck in the story of the past, you’re creating a new narrative for yourself. There’s an analysis of your current state and then a distinct movement forward. Changing thoughts and behavior along with active problem-solving are involved. This person tends to be ‘functioning’ in life but they want to do, be, and have better. Support around optimizing and thriving to get to the next level is the name of the game. These people aren’t severely depressed and struggling to get out of bed; instead, they might be thinking of how to best structure their morning routines for increased productivity.
Think of functioning on a spectrum; there is non-functioning (which could include people with severe anxiety and/or depression, suicidal thoughts, or PTSD), functioning being more in the middle (being able to get out of bed and hold down a job, etc) and then thriving. Therapy can really help move from non-functioning to functioning. Life coaching can really help people move from a functional level to more of a next-level way of playing the game of life.
Therapy vs. Life Coaching: How do They Differ?
A therapist and a life coach are both professionals who can help individuals to make positive changes in their lives, but they do so in different ways. Here are some key differences between the two:
Training and qualifications: Therapists are trained mental health professionals who have a degree in psychology, social work, or a related field. They must also be licensed in order to practice. Life coaches, on the other hand, come from a variety of professional backgrounds and may or may not have formal training in a specific field. Some life coaches may be certified through a coaching program, but this is not required in order to practice. here is a responsibility for self-regulating and appropriately referring out clients who need therapy.
Approach to treatment: Therapists use a variety of techniques, such as talk therapy, to help individuals address and overcome mental health issues or personal challenges. Life coaches don’t “treat” anyone; they help individuals to set and achieve specific objectives, and may use techniques such as visualization, goal-setting and accountability to help their clients make progress.
Past-focused vs. future-focused. In short, therapy tends to be more past-focused and life coaching is more future-focused. Through focusing on the past, as well as present concerns, therapists can help individuals identify and work through underlying emotional issues. Life coaches, on the other hand, focus more on the present and future. They can help you develop a sense of purpose and satisfaction in work and life, resilience, meaningful connection with others, and create more joy and balance in life so that you can optimize fulfillment.
- Scope of practice: Therapists are trained to work with individuals who have mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma. They are qualified to diagnose and treat these issues. Life coaches, on the other hand, do not diagnose or treat mental health issues. They focus on helping individuals to achieve specific goals or make positive changes in their personal or professional lives.
Overall, the main difference between therapists and life coaches is the scope of their practice and the approach they take to treatment. While both can be helpful in making positive changes in one’s life, it is important to choose the right professional based on your specific needs and goals.