Is Therapy Or A Life Coach Better?
There is a lot of noise out there as to what coaching is and what it isn’t. At first, I thought coaching was a bunch of self-helpers trying to be therapists without putting in the dedicated work of getting licensed. I figured these coaches were wanna-be influencers who had something to sell. It seemed a little scammy, at first.
But, I took a chance on it anyway. And… It worked.
So much so, that I decided to get certified and start my own coaching practice.
That said, if you’re considering a coach, you need to know what coaching is, what it isn’t and what to look for in a coach.
There Is a Difference Between Coaching and Therapy
If you are looking for someone to help you change your life, the first thing that will matter is how they do it. Life coaching and therapy can both be used as tools in personal growth but there are some fundamental differences between them.
In a nutshell, therapy is about digging deep into your past while coaching focuses on your present status with future goals in mind. Both use dialogue as a primary means for change: therapists are focused more directly on getting you to understand yourself better (through self-reflection), coaches focus more directly on helping you get what you want out of life by making necessary changes in how we live our lives now.
To me, coaching is like learning a new sport. I hire my coaches based upon whatever goal I’m currently working on: Improving time management, starting a business, learning to write, running a marathon, improving my public speaking. I hire them to teach me a new “sport” and trust they know the “drills” to put me through, anticipate the roadblocks I’ll need to overcome and understand I am trying something new.
As an example, my coaching focuses on discovering where my clients are losing precious time to idling habits (over-scrolling, over-working, over-sharing). Clients build their own awareness around what they’d like to do less of with their time. From there, we provide tools and insight to track if and/or how they’re re-purposing that time to do things they find fulfilling/enjoyable. We discuss time management, valuing priorities and setting boundaries. Yes, we talk about feelings from time to time. But no, we won’t dissect the childhood origins the clients’ behavior. I’m going to leave that to the professional.
Therapists usually focus on past traumas and issues. They are highly skilled at identifying thoughts and behaviors that indicate mental illness. Therapists and psychotherapists are licensed healthcare professionals. They have the training needed to help their clients cope with clinical anxiety, heal from trauma, tackle substance abuse and combat abuse (to name a few).
A coach simply does not have the training or background to diagnose or treat mental illness. Therefore, you should only hire a coach if and when you have a specific goal in mind. A coach is a mentor – not a therapist.
Coaching and Therapy Can Work Well Together
I have been blessed to work with many therapists over the years. They’ve helped me tackle some pretty tough obstacles: processing trauma, overcoming an eating disorder and unpacking a plethora of unhealthy thought processes. I will likely continue to seek therapy throughout my years – I believe therapy helps me live a better life.
As does coaching.
You know what happens when you have a coach pushing you to achieve higher goals and a therapist to help you let go of past shit?
When it comes to self help, you don’t have to choose one over the other. You can work on a goal while you work on yourself. Sometimes I’m only working with a therapist. Other times, I’m only working with a coach. When needed, I choose both.
Do Your Research
Listen, there are people out there who are simply trying to sell a program and make money. That’s why you need to do your research.
The coaching industry is fairly unregulated. That means anyone can start a website, say they’re a coach and start “coaching.”
When hiring a coach, make sure they are accredited. I have been trained and certified by the Life Coach School. In order to become certified, my coaching has been supervised and continually reviewed. More so, I am trained to recognize what topics are within the scope of coaching and which topics should be referred to a licensed professional. In order to maintain my certification, I must meet continued training requirements and annually complete a suicide preventation course.
This is also why I require an intake form and a consultation call: I need to make sure that my work is the appropriate tool for each individual. The best coaches are the ones who aren’t shy. The best coaches are the ones who can lovingly tell you, “You need to seek professional help for this.” The best coaches aren’t ashamed to say, “This is where my work ends and another’s begins.”
Whoever you choose as your coach – make sure their clients (not their bank accounts) are the heart of their work.
Have Fun Not Having Fun
No matter what you choose – you have work to do! Both coaching and therapy are an emotional process. With either, you will challenge yourself. You will grow. You will become a better version of yourself.
When you enter therapy and/or coaching, you are asking yourself to change. If you can welcome either challenge in with open arms, you will blow your own damn mind at just how fun life can be (even when it’s not fun!).
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