Many years ago, I transitioned into working more as a “coach”, and less as a “therapist”, for many good reasons that my clients find valuable, so I thought I would share here on this blog for anyone else wondering what the difference is between the two. The word “coach” and the word “therapist” can be a bit confusing, because there is some overlap in the sense that both aim to help people. However, there are some very important subtle differences that I want people to know if you’re considering working with one or the other.
Coaching and therapy are two distinct approaches to supporting individuals in improving their lives. While they both aim to help people make positive changes, they differ in important ways in terms of their focus, methods, and goals.
I have always believed that people are unique and shouldn’t be in a “one-size-fits-all” box when it comes to getting the help they need. That’s why it’s so important to know the difference between coaching and therapy.
Having spent thousands of hours as a licensed therapist, as well as a peak performance business coach, here is my quick and humble take on how they are different.
✅ Coaching is a goal-oriented, action-based approach that helps people identify and achieve specific objectives. If you like going after specific, actionable, targets of change, coaching is probably right for you.
✅ Coaching is typically focused on the present and the future, and is designed to help people take action to create the outcomes they desire. Therapy is most often focused on understanding the past, in search of family-of-origin problems to make sense of current challenges. Although coaching does incorporate a historical perspective to make sense of the present, that is not the focus of the work.
✅ Coaching is designed to help people move from “good” to “great” in all areas of their lives, from business, to relationships, to health, etc. and therefore does not treat mental illness problems. Therapy, on the other hand, is a process that helps people explore emotional, psychological, and behavioral health issues. The aim of therapy is to address mental health issues, and coaching does not.
✅ Coaching is generally shorter-term in duration because it’s designed to help people get from point A, to point B, as quick as possible. Coaching typically involves a shorter-term commitment than therapy, which can be more appealing to some people who may not want to be in therapy for sometimes years.
✅ Coaching is a more collaborative relationship between coach and client working together to achieve a goal, and the nature of the relationship between the client and the coach feels more peer to peer. In contrast, therapy relationships are often more one-sided, with the therapist providing insight and guidance to the client, like a doctor would to a patient. The collaborative approach to coaching can make coaching more effective for individuals who are looking for a more active and hands-on approach to addressing their challenges.
Coaching and therapy are both forms of professional assistance that can help individuals address challenges, however, there are some key differences between the two approaches that may make coaching more effective for certain people in certain situations.
Therapy and coaching can be great resources, depending on the person, the circumstances, and the desired outcomes. The quickest way I can summarize the difference is this: Therapy is going to a mechanic to fix something, and coaching is going to a carpenter to build something exciting. Both have relevancy, depending on where you’re at in your own life.
If you’re considering one or other, I would love to chat with you about how my coaching process is life-changing and unlike anything else!
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