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How is a Counselor Different from a Life Coach?

How is a Counselor Different from a Life Coach

Some people may wonder how a counselor is different from a life coach if they are trying to decide which type of professional they need to see. Both help people work through issues and make decisions about their lives, but there are a number of differences as well. It is important for a person to choose the right professional based on their situation and needs.

Solving Problems

Counselors and life coaches both work with people to help resolve their problems, and they generally do it by talking about those problems. They both help people identify positive changes they need to make in their lives, and they support them while they make those changes. People generally visit counselors or life coaches when they are at some crisis point or crossroads, to help them determine what they should do next. For some people, the great benefit of working with either a life coach or a counselor is having someone to talk to and bounce ideas off of.


One of the major differences between a life coach and a counselor is that counselors are generally licensed. While some life coaches may be accredited, this is not required. A life coach is not trained to deal with people who have mental health issues or problems such as attention deficit disorder. Programs that train life coaches will ideally teach them to refer these types of clients to a counselor. Some life coaches move into the field after a career in counseling.


As an article in the HuffPost points out, counselors generally focus on identifying and resolving issues from the past. The focus for life coaches is generally on the future. Counselors do look to the future in that they are trying to prepare people to improve their lives, but they do so by helping them deal with emotional trauma, patterns in relationships and other things in the past that influence the future.

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The ways in which a counselor is different from a life coach might be illustrated by two different people who are having problems in the workplace. One person might be struggling with depression and managing stress while the other might be bored or unfulfilled at work and want help in setting new goals or with a career change. The first person might want to consult a counselor to talk about how to deal with those emotions while the second might want to consult a life coach to discuss making a new life plan.


A counselor’s role is generally to listen to a client and guide the person toward finding their own solutions. Neither a counselor nor a life coach should push their own solutions on a client, but a life coach is more likely to directly give advice and make suggestions. A counselor will tend to deal with the underlying issues that are causing a person to fall into certain behaviors while a life coach is more likely to focus on brainstorming solutions and action-oriented plans.

Both a counselor and a life coach can play valuable roles in helping people, and in some cases, people can benefit from visiting both. However, while their work is similar in that they both listen to people and help them find solutions to their problems, a counselor is very different from a life coach in terms of training, focus and approach.

Related resources:

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