Therapy vs Coaching: Do I need a life coach or a therapist?
You may be confused as to whether you should hire a life coach or a therapist – here is some insight as to what might be the most beneficial direction to go…
I am quite often faced with the same, common question, “What is the difference between a therapist and a life coach, or therapy vs coaching, and which one would be best for my situation?” In some instances, that question can be easily answered – however, more often than not, determining which is right for you is not so simple. There are numerous reasons as to why this is, the most obvious being that it is very difficult for an individual to diagnose him or herself and any pertinent situations affecting their lives on a psychological level. For example, someone with an inability to form deep emotional bonds with others might be clueless to the fact that this inability stems, at least in part, from constant relocation in early adolescence. This kind of childhood trauma may make truly developing long-standing emotional bonds with friends an impossibility. It is always easier to recognize the manifestations of a problem than to adequately diagnose the problem itself.
A good place to start in successfully assessing whether to proceed with therapy or life coaching is to take a look at the nature of the issue that drives this question in the first place. Does the issue exist on an action level or on an emotional level? Are you, for example, unable to physically complete tasks because you feel distracted and get lost in the process? An issue like this would point more towards a life coaching solution, as opposed to, for instance, an inability to complete tasks based on an unrelenting “what is the point, anyways” type of mindset – which could point to something much deeper, possibly stemming from upbringing or early environment.
Here is a perfect initial question to ask yourself: “Am I struggling to attain certain goals or objectives in my life, or am I struggling with issues that are connected to specific feelings I’m having?” Take this analogy: A parent is having a difficult time managing and getting along with a combative child. Assuming that the household is, for the most part, healthy, loving and emotionally supportive, a situation like this would likely leave the parent wondering why this is happening and how he or she can go about improving the situation. Speaking exclusively from an analogous perspective, the parent would represent an individual in dire need of coaching. The child, on the other hand, would likely represent an individual in need of therapy. Again, this is not a diagnosis – but rather, an analogy. Truth be told, both parent and child would likely benefit greater by both coaching as well as therapy.
Therapy vs Coaching:
Listening to the problem vs. focusing on the solution
Therapists tend to focus exclusively on processing feeling and issues. Depending on their area of expertise, they may focus on things like relationships, childhood, early environment, trauma, loss, etc. Their main objective is to understand why some behavioral pattern or situation is happening, and determine what it stems from. Life coaches, on the other hand, tend to focus more on the here and now. Perhaps you are a B-level executive that has difficulty in making the right decisions within your quest toward becoming an A-level executive. Perhaps you are an alcoholic or addict who has a propensity for relapse at certain points within your sobriety, and are in need of practical direction in overcoming this downfall. Perhaps you are somewhat stuck in a marriage that is seemingly loving and genuine, but for some reason you both keep driving each other crazy. These are all scenarios that would definitely benefit from an experienced, licensed life coach. However, this isn’t to say that working with a therapist would not also be beneficial – it likely would.
Given my personal background of therapy, counseling, and life coaching, I have had the opportunity to apply a healthy balance of all three components, and I have experienced great success in doing so. I am always sure to be very clear in expressing to my clients that coaching is not therapy; but a good life coach will maintain certain therapy-based nuances in the manner which they coach clients based on their individual needs. One thing is for certain – each case is highly unique, and should only be assessed by a trained, licensed and experienced healthcare professional. I always recommend that my clients write a list of questions and pose them to all of their prospective coaches and/or therapists once they have finally decided it is time to seek outside help. When posing questions, keep in mind that you are not necessarily looking for responses that feel ‘good’, but rather looking for responses that feel ‘right’.
You get one shot at life – you might as well have the very best people in your corner!