What’s the Difference Between Life Coaching and Therapy?
As recently as a decade ago, no one had ever heard of life coaching, and the notion of giving advice in counselling was heavily frowned upon. In just a few year’s time, all of that has changed. While many people opt to hire life coaches independent of their therapists, more and more counsellors are incorporating life coaching into their work, or offering life coaching as a separate service.
But what’s the difference between the two? The line is a nuanced one, but knowing what you are getting can help you make a smart decision that maximises your benefits while minimising your costs.
What is Therapy?
The goal of therapy, or counselling as we often call it, is to help you better understand your own mind. In so doing, you can connect your thoughts to your behaviour, helping you to change unhealthy or unwanted behaviour. This can happen in both individual and group therapy, such as when a parent seeks help with a child, or a married couple needs assistance communicating and interacting more effectively.
Therapists gently guide you to the right choice, without telling you what to do. Some hallmarks of therapy include:
- An emphasis on exploring your beliefs.
- Discussing your past.
- Analysing recurring themes in your life and relationship.
- Asking you questions about yourself, your choices, and your values, in an attempt to guide you.
- Exploring alternative avenues for understanding your feelings, such as recurring dreams.
What is Coaching?
Coaching is more directive in nature, and often focuses on helping you achieve a single goal or improve a specific area of your life. You might seek coaching to get your business back on track, to quit lying to your spouse, or to lose weight. Some hallmarks of coaching include:
- An emphasis on taking specific actions, rather than exploring your thoughts and beliefs.
- Helping you act in a way that comports with your values and beliefs.
- Helping you set goals.
- Giving you a specific plan, such as daily, weekly, or monthly tasks, for reaching your goals.
How to Choose
A lot of times, there’s no right choice. If you’re experiencing minor creative blocks or frustrations, you may benefit more from life coaching. But if you want to explore your mind more deeply, therapy is the way to go. Life coaching cannot address all issues, so if you experience any of the following, talk to a therapist first:
- Compulsive thoughts or behaviours
- A history of trauma or abuse
- Abusive behaviour directed at others
- Behaviour you do not understand
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others
- Symptoms of mental illness
- A family history of mental illness
- A history of psychiatric hospitalisation
Ultimately, both therapy and coaching are remarkably effective at helping you achieve your goals and live the life you want—but only if you’re willing to be honest, open, and to put in the necessary work.