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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lofshult

Coaching vs Therapy: What's the Difference?

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Sometimes clients wonder, why should I have a coach? I already have a therapist. What's the difference.

While coaching and therapy have many things in common, they also differ in several ways.

Some things they have in common are:

  • They are both helping professions with a goal of helping clients improve some aspect of their well-being and achieving their full potential.

  • They both have their origins in the study of psychology.

  • They often use similar approaches such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy/Coaching, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy/Coaching, Motivational Interviewing, and others to help clients achieve their goals.

They way they differ is important, however. Five key differences between life coaching and therapy:

  1. Focus: Life coaching focuses on setting and achieving goals, while therapy focuses on understanding and addressing emotional or psychological challenges.

  2. Goals: Life coaches help clients identify and achieve specific goals, such as career advancement or personal growth. Therapists help clients understand and work through psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety.

  3. Approach: Life coaches use a supportive and motivational approach to help clients reach their goals, while therapists use a more structured and in-depth approach to address emotional and psychological challenges.

  4. Length of engagement: Life coaching is often a shorter-term commitment, while therapy may require several sessions over an extended period.

  5. Assumption: Life coaches assume clients approach clients from a wellness perspective assuming clients are already doing well and want to know how to make their lives even better. Therapists take a disease perspective and assume there is something in clients that needs to be diagnosed and fixed. Hence, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that is used to analyze and diagnose clients.

That being said, both life coaches and therapists can play an important role in your well-being. A good coach can help increase your well-being, set and achieve goals, and help you build the life you want. However, a therapist can help you address deeper emotional issues and trauma you want to work through.

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