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Are Life Coaches and Therapists the Same Thing?

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Life coaching is often confused with therapy, but the truth is that these two disciplines are unique. Both can be appropriate options depending on your needs, but they should not be considered one in the same. If you think you need some extra help getting out of a rut, achieving a goal or exploring old wounds, it would be a good idea to learn the differences between the two before deciding which option is right for you. 

What is Life Coaching? 

A life coach acts as an accountability partner and support network for their clients. The coach works with clients to get clear on their goals, explore personal barriers that prevent them from attaining those goals and create plans for achieving the results they desire. The coaching relationship focuses more on the future than on the past, with priority placed on taking action to get to the end goal, whatever that might be for the client. 

Work with a life coach may revolve around developing motivation, confidence and concrete strategies for getting a client where they want to go in their lives. Life coaches may work with clients on achieving aims related to their relationships, finances, spiritual connection, career and health. Generally, life coaches are not trained medical professionals and do not provide medical diagnoses to their clients. They can obtain coaching certifications from accredited institutions. 

Key Features of Life Coaching 

  • Life coaching is goal-focused and emphasizes action, moving forward and achieving results. 
  • Life coaching teaches skills to help people break through their negative patterns or beliefs about themselves, break out of a rut or achieve the life of their dreams. 
  • Life coaching is forward-looking and does not focus on healing the past. Instead, there is a focus on creating a better present and future.
  • Life coaching is tailored around the needs, strengths and goals of the individual and may vary in the duration and structure of sessions. 
  • Life coaches use their knowledge and personal experiences to help clients make breakthroughs in their lives. 

Summary

A certified life coach might be the right fit for you if you are struggling to gain clarity on your passions, establish goals, get out of a rut or hone your skills. When working with a life coach, you must be ready to do the work as a coach cannot do it for you. If you think you are struggling with past traumas or mental illness, a therapist may be a better option for you. 

What is Therapy? 

Therapy involves counseling done by a healthcare professional with specific licensure to help patients with their mental health issues, emotional wellbeing and recovery from past traumas. As a medical professional, a therapist can diagnose and treat conditions related to a patient’s mental health. 

The work of a therapist is often focused on the past. The goal of therapy is to dive deep into past traumas, negative patterns and beliefs to achieve healing. The process of working through difficult feelings and experiences is meant to heal and help a patient move forward into a more positive future. Generally, therapy does not focus on creating and attaining goals but on the inner work to free oneself from past experiences that may be holding them down.   

Key Features of Therapy

  • Therapy is focused on healing one’s emotional self so that the patient is free to move forward in their lives with a sense of relief and positivity. 
  • Therapy requires a patient to go deep within themselves to unearth, understand and heal their old wounds. 
  • Therapy is focused on the past and inner reflection. It often requires a certain level of reliving past trauma to gain a better understanding of why one acts and thinks the way they do in the present. 
  • Therapy is often a long-term commitment and requires consistency to achieve healing. 
  • Therapists often specialize in certain areas such as divorce, depression, body image or trauma. Find a therapist who specializes in your area of need and who makes you feel comfortable in opening up.  

Summary

A therapist may be the right choice for you if you desire to dive deep into your past to discover the “whys” of your current behaviors or thought patterns. The most successful patients will commit to therapy long-term. They will be curious to explore their inner selves and willing to take their knowledge to make changes in their lives. 

Although there are some similarities between life coaches and therapists, they work differently to help people attain greater levels of peace and happiness in their lives. Do some research before deciding which discipline is right for you. 

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