Life Coaching vs Therapy

A life coach pushes you to move toward your goals and use your past experience as a catalyst for change.

When you are deciding whether to hire a life or health coach or to hire a therapist, you should look at the similiarities and differences to their approach and scope of practice. Once you are clear on what you want to achieve, you can make a confident decision and begin working toward your end goals.


Therapists and coaches work to create collaborative partnerships with their clients. They both establish trust and respect and use active listening to make sure a client’s voice and concerns are heard.

Both ask a lot of questions to guide a client to find solutions from within. Both adhere to high standards of ethics and live by the rule of confidentiality.

Therapists and coaches stay within the scope of practice based on their training, education and certification or licensing and refer to appropriate professionals when a client’s needs are out of their scope of practice.


Many people are confused about the difference between a life coach and a therapist. While they both have similar goals, to help you, there are many differences in their scope of practice and approach to working with clients.

In general, a life coach is not a licensed therapist or medical professional (though some may be both.) Clients choose a coach to figure out their goals and challenges and determine a plan of action towards making the changes in their life to achieve their end goal.

A coach approaches each client from where they are “today” and helps the client create a set of short-term goals and long-term goals to reach the results they desire.

A good coach looks at how to solve problems now and not stay buried in the root of the issues at hand.

Life coaches do not diagnose or treat medical or mental illnesses. If a client, for instance, mentions suicidal thoughts or asks for a cure for a disease, it’s their obligation to refer the client to the appropriate medical professional.

Life coaching brings more power and control to your life by teaching you the practical skills you need to make positive changes in your life.

While therapy focuses on revisiting and healing the past, coaching focuses on changing your perspective of the past and bringing the positive outcomes to the present to help you move forward to the future.

Life coaching uses timelines to establish points along the journey to guide a client to better success at reaching their ambitions, whether personal or professional.

Life coaches are not in the business of maintaining clients in sessions for life. Their expertise lies in helping clients through challenges and finding the motivation and self-confidence to make the changes that will move them toward their ultimate goal.

Life coaching is not mock-therapy. It is a dynamic skillset that can help you to achieve your goals and move forward in life with more confidence and the tools to get there faster.

A life coach wants to help you create your future by establishing achievable plans of action.

A coach sets a definitive time-frame for you with a beginning and end date with the intention of providing you the skills to continue moving forward on your own. Sometimes clients need additional coaching or come back for help with other concerns or goals, but coaching is not meant to be open-ended.

A coach helps you become “unstuck.”

A coach asks what you want out of life.


A therapist works with clients to evaluate past experiences and end habits and routines that are destructive. They help clients work through emotional valleys by looking inside.

Therapy is often covered by health insurance, while life coaching is rarely covered by health insurance (as of 2018.)

Therapy is used to discover what the problem is and develops a treatment plan to remove a client’s pain.

Therapy is highly focused on curing an emotional or mental disorder or dysfunction.

Therapy continually looks at your past – childhood, family or relationships – to heal your “condition” or circumstance.

Therapy gives clients licensed medical oversight when they are dealing with clinical depression, severe mental health disorders, diagnosed diseases or deficiencies.

Therapy generally has no end-date and often goes on for years on end.

A therapist asks why you feel the way you do.

Who is right for you – a life coach or a therapist?

The only person who can answer this question is you.

If you are looking for someone to talk things out with and revisit your past or you have a serious medical or mental health condition, seek therapy and makes sure you are comfortable with the professional you choose. Never downplay the seriousness of your physical or mental health.

Choose a therapist when you are easily set off or defensive to the advice of others, if you have an addiction that requires treatment, or if you are not ready to talk about all of the issues that a coach can work with you to resolve, find a therapist.

Choose a coach when you are stable and generally healthy and when you are truly ready to make changes in your life. A coach can only help you if you are willing to do the work to find the plan and solution that is right for you. You can even work with a coach in conjunction with your medical doctor or mental health professional for a team approach.

Whether you are looking to improve your confidence in business or social settings, change careers, lose weight, change your diet, become more productive, build your character or reduce anxiety, a coach can be the right person for you.

Whichever you choose, prepare to be open and honest and ready for change.

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