One of the most common misunderstandings about life coaching is that it is therapy in disguise — or, worse yet, therapy from an unlicensed practitioner. In reality, life coaching is truly its own unique service designed to help motivated achievers accomplish specific goals in life, overcome a habit or acquire certain skills such as career management and progression, a better outlook on relationships and people, better energy management, more self confidence, and time management just to name a few. In contrast, therapy is used to treat mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorders, or trauma, emotional pain or conflict.
Therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy, is a long-term process in which a client works with a licensed healthcare professional to diagnose and resolve problematic beliefs, behaviors, relationship issues, feelings and sometimes physical responses. The idea behind therapy is to focus on past traumas and issues to change self-destructive habits, repair and improve relationships and work through painful feelings. In this sense, therapy focuses on the past and on introspection and analysis.
Here are some of the differences between life coaching and therapy, and a basic guide for when each service is appropriate.
The aim of Life Coaching is to help people achieve the highest live of happiness or success, regardless of whether they are experiencing any problems of difficulties or not. Therapy intends to help people heal their wounds.
Life Coaches may look into a client’s past only briefly. They mainly focus on the present and help clients look forward to the future. However, if a client’s past is preventing them from moving forward, the life coach may refer them to a therapist or a counselor. Therapy digs into the client’s past to identify and correct emotional problems and destructive behavioral patters.
Life coaches are not specialists in human behavior and work on the assumption that clients are capable of managing their emotions. Life Coaches cannot and must not try to be therapists. Therapists are specialists in human behavior and have the skills to treat emotional problems. Therapists can try to coach.
Life Coaches help their clients establish measurable goals, create action plans and break them down into achievable steps. Goals of therapy tend to be vague and difficult to measure. Success cannot be precisely quantified.
Life Coaches help clients learn new skills and tools to build a more satisfying successful future. Therapists help clients resolve old pain and improve emotional states.
Progress in life coaching is rapid and the whole process of coaching is usually enjoyable. Progress in life coaching is slow and in a way painful because the issues are often subconscious and fundamental.
The fundamentals of life coaching are what distinguish it from therapy. Life coaches do not diagnose, while therapists determine illnesses and pathologies so they can be clinically treated. Therapists analyze their client’s past as a tool for understanding present behaviors, whereas life coaches simply identify and describe current problematic behaviors so the client can work to modify them. In other words, therapists focus on “why” and coaches work on “how.”
Therapy and life coaching do share certain traits and aims, however. Both therapists and life coaches work to enable clients to make positive changes in their lives and become more productive. While therapists do diagnose and treat from a healthcare perspective, not all therapy clients are ill; many healthy people seek the services of both therapists and life coaches. Therapists may at times work with specific results in mind, such as the cessation of a particular problematic behavior.