Therapy vs. Coaching

Earlier this week I was having a discussion with a mental health practitioner who is just starting her career. I mentioned to her that I work as a Coach to which there was a positive response. She said “Wow that’s awesome! I have a friend that does life coaching. It honestly seems like a form of psychology… training the mind to think positively and efficiently.” This statement has planted a seed for me to distinguish just what I perceive to be the difference between Therapy and Coaching in addition to what I offer and do as an ontological coach which will be covered in my next post.  

So; what do I perceive to be the differences between therapy and coaching? In my opinion coaching, therapy, consulting and a lot of other modalities all seem to exist within a larger category of support professions. All of which have the goal of aiding or assisting their clients with various issues or needs. The primary difference between coaching and therapy resides in the issues or content of what is to be addressed during sessions. Now there is a great deal of overlap in content between therapy and coaching; however there some issues that are not intended to be addressed through coaching. (e.g., addiction, depression, trauma etc.)

There are a few other key differences that are important to our understanding.

  • Therapists diagnose illnesses and pathologies, so they can be clinically treated. Coaches do not.

  • Therapists analyze the past in order to understand present behaviors. Coaches note and describe current behaviors or blocks so the client to modify them or create breakthroughs.

  • Therapy seems to be more focused on the past, while coaching is more future-oriented.

To me, both professions offer immense value for my own personal well being and the well being of my clients. Personally, having gone through some more challenging times in my life; such as a divorce I can say that therapy is incredibly beneficial. Therapy helped me to process through issues, emotions, and feelings in a beautiful way so that I could get back to my baseline. Coaching has also helped me immensely; I have been able to clarify my goals while breaking through limiting patterns and self-destructive behaviors with the assistance of other coaches. I feel both professions offer a lot individually on their own and do not perceive them to be competing in any way. Both have their specific issues and topics that they address, because of that I feel that there is a beautiful synergistic relationship and benefit that can result if one were to engage in both coaching and therapy at the same time.