If you are interested in personal development and looking for ways to improve your satisfaction with your life, you may come across two overlapping terms that are growing in popularity lately: Life Coach and Therapist (Counsellor). While both of them emphasise personal growth and development, there are marked differences between them in terms of how they approach the issues, what they offer, and what they can do for you.
What are a Life Coach and a Therapist?
What is a Life Coach?
A life coach is a wellness professional who helps people to set and achieve personal or professional goals. Essentially, they help people set and reach their goals, maximize their potential, build better relationships, and overcome personal issues that prevent them from achieving success or happiness.
What is a Therapist?
A therapist or counsellor works with clients experiencing issues such as anxiety, stress and depression. Typically, they have a degree in counselling and may be accredited by a professional body. In Ireland, a counsellor will usually be accredited by a body such as the IACP or IAHIP.
Often counsellors attend regular supervision to explore how they can best serve their clients. Unlike life coaches, who are future-oriented, therapists offer counselling and therapy sessions to help clients develop coping skills and behavioural patterns and may delve into the past to help you understand how certain issues may have arisen.
What are the main differences between a Life Coach and a Therapist?
Mental and Emotional Care
The most significant difference between a life coach and a therapist is the realm of mental health. While life coaches do not work with mental health issues and focus on behaviour changes to achieve goals, therapists specialise in working with issues such as anxiety, stress and depression and mental and emotional healing.
Different Approaches and Techniques
Another difference between life coaching and therapy is the approach or technique used. A life coach primarily focuses on actionable plans, tools and techniques to help you achieve your goals. A therapist (counsellor), on the other hand, may utilise a range of therapy approaches such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, talk therapy, and person-centred therapy to help you identify and overcome the root cause of the issues that have brought you to therapy.
Can a Coach or Therapist help me achieve my goals?
Action Plans and Accountability
If you are struggling to achieve your goals, both coaches and therapists can provide assistance. A life coach develops an action plan with incremental steps for realizing your objectives, provides accountability, and can help you to become unstuck. On the other hand, a therapist may help you identify patterns in your life that prevent you from attaining your goals and come up with helpful coping mechanisms.
Therapists help with Managing Trauma
Therapists can also help you deal with trauma in your life. They assist you in processing the events that led to the trauma and help you develop tools to cope with the aftermath. However, therapists are more adept at addressing PTSD symptoms and other acute trauma issues.
Coaching Sessions vs. Therapy Sessions
A crucial difference between life coaching and therapy is the style of interaction. Coaching sessions are generally scheduled weekly or bi-weekly, with an emphasis on developing actionable goals and progress. Therapy sessions focus on achieving long-term positive solutions to personal struggles.
When to see a Life Coach
When to see a Therapist (Counsellor)
you want to heal and feel emotionally well
you experience issues such as stress, anxiety or depression
you want to gain greater insight into patterns of behaviour in your life
you want to break patterns in your life that have been holding you back
Life Coach vs. Therapist (Counsellor) vs. Psychiatrist
Life Coach vs. Therapist
The main differences between life coaches and therapists (counsellors) have already been explored above.
Life Coach vs. Psychiatrist
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor specialising in treating mental health disorders by prescribing medications and other treatment methods. They may provide therapy services as well, but their primary focus is on medical treatment. Life coaches and counsellors differ from psychiatrists in that they do not provide medical treatment or diagnoses.
Although the line between coaching and therapy may seem blurred, both services provide different approaches to personal development and well-being.
A life coach helps you realize your potential, make actionable plans, and hold you accountable in achieving your goals. They help you to focus, prioritise your life, and identify what is essential to you. On the other hand, a therapist provides counselling, and therapy sessions to support you in managing issues related to mental or emotional well-being.
By understanding the differences between a life coach and a therapist, you can identify which is best suited to your needs and preferences.