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Coaching or Therapy – What’s the Difference?

There is an important difference between life coaching and therapy or a counseling.

First, before I go on, let me be clear. I am not a therapist, or a psychologist, nor am I a psycho-therapist or a counselor and I don’t play one on TV or anywhere else.

Biggest difference between therapy and coaching

The biggest difference, or maybe the most obvious, is that Life Coaches are NOT health care professionals or provider.

That means the focus is different.

Those who do therapy are health care professionals. They’ve worked long and hard to learn how to be a psychologist, psychiatrist or marriage and family consular.

They usually start by looking for a diagnosis of some sort. Although not all deal with illness or disease, and these days more and more are aiming at helping patients with lifestyle choices, they tend to think of the people they help as patients – as if something’s wrong with them that needs to be treated or cured.

Life Coaches, on the other hand, are more likely to take the person where they are and help them discover and achieve the goals they, the client want.

Therapy may be what’s needed

coaching or therapyI’m a believer in good therapy. I’ve used it myself. More than once, and may again. Finding the right therapist is often a matter of luck, and at least for me and often a matter of trusting my intuition. In other words I’m picky about therapists as I think we all should be. We should be picky about choosing a Life Coach as well.

As a Life Coach I don’t hesitate to suggest therapy if I think my client would benefit.

Here’s why I think Life Coaching is different than therapy

Here’s why I think my Life Coaching is different from therapy. I start with the premise that the client is okay and that they actually have the solutions they’re looking for right inside them.

Sure they want something or many somethings to be different than it seems to be right now. But they are basically fine. Even before we begin, I hold them mentally in the position of knowing what they need.

My job is to listen deeply. Then I ask all sorts of questions.

Some of the questions are simply to deepen my understanding of what, exactly, changes they want to make. Then I questions about what they are expecting from the desired change. I ask what’s preventing them from making those changes and I ask how I can help.

It’s not unusual for their solution to surface during these questions. Sure, I don’t hesitate to make suggestions, but more often than not they are simply a reframe of something client already senses. As we begin to see what would move them in the direction they want to go we work out some accountability.


Accountability is a great tool. Let’s look at a simply example. Suppose a coaching client wants to be better organized and after talking it through,  recognizes that a detailed calendar of the next week or month would help. They decide develop or at least begin to develop such a calendar and this is what they choose be be accountable for in this session. If in the next session they’ve started or even completed the calendar we celebrate and move on to something else. If they haven’t we take a look at what went wrong and how it might be different.

How it might be different ranges from deciding not to do a calendar, through doing a calendar for a week, to making a bigger effort to get the calendar at least started.

I think it’s that assumption of mine that the client knows what they need even if they can’t see or actualize it yet that makes the real difference between therapy and Life Coaching.

What do you think?

Love and blessings,



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