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5 Differences Between Life Coaches and Counselors

Life Coach vs. Counselor

In the realm of mental health and personal growth, two distinct yet complementary professions emerge: the life coach and the licensed therapist. The dichotomy between life coaching and mental health treatment, often referred to as therapy, has sparked considerable debate and discussion within the international coaching federation and mental health professional circles. This ongoing debate seeks to shed light on the contrasting approaches these two disciplines employ in addressing the diverse range of mental health challenges and personal development goals.

Life coaching, characterized by its focus on achievement, personal growth, and self-improvement, has gained prominence in recent years. Life coaches specialize in assisting their coaching clients in setting and attaining life goals, whether they relate to career advancement, managing stress, or overcoming past trauma. Their coaching techniques emphasize forward-looking strategies, empowering individuals to harness their potential and unlock their mental fitness.

On the other hand, licensed therapists, who often hold a master’s degree and undergo extensive training programs, are mental health professionals equipped to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. Therapy sessions conducted by these healthcare professionals, sometimes known as talk therapy, have a primary objective of addressing mental health problems, ranging from anxiety and depression to eating disorders and more severe mental illnesses. Therapists focus on exploring the past, managing present issues, and prescribing medication when necessary to treat mental illness effectively.

While both life coaches and therapists share a common goal of supporting individuals in their journey towards improved mental health and well-being, they diverge in their methods and expertise. Life coaches are not licensed to treat mental health conditions, and their coaching services primarily revolve around enhancing personal growth and managing life challenges. In contrast, licensed therapists possess a deep understanding of therapy techniques and are equipped to treat mental health issues within a structured therapy practice.

Below we will delve deeper into the 5 main distinctions between life coaching and traditional therapy and explore the unique contributions each profession makes to mental health care. Not only are these key differences important for aspiring professionals to know and understand, they can be just as helpful for clients. Understanding when to seek the guidance of a life coach vs. a mental health professional is crucial for individuals facing mental health conditions or pursuing personal development. Keep reading as we aim to navigate the terrain of mental health and self-improvement, shedding light on the roles of these two vital professions and empowering individuals to make informed decisions on their journey to well-being.

5 Ways Life Coaches Differ From Counselors

  • Accountability
  • Future Focused
  • Education
  • Less of a Stigma
  • Certification Vs. Licensing

As you have likely gathered so far, both life coaches and counselors have very fulfilling and rewarding careers due to the impact they can have on their clients lives. For clients seeking professional help, both professionals offer incredible insights and resources. However, it’s easy to confuse the two fields when in reality they are quite different. Let’s break down the 5 main differences.

1. Accountability

A life coach holds their clients accountable to the clients’ goals. Here’s a good example of how this works. Some people will see a health and fitness coach. That coach’s client wants to lose 10 or 20 pounds and to train for a marathon.

When the client isn’t following his or her workout routine and diet plan, it is the coach who pushes the client to get back on track. The deeper reason why the person may not be able to stick to the program is really a question to address in the therapist’s office. Life coaching is about action, results, and accountability.

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2. Future Focused

An article on the Huffington Post website, suggests that while counseling and therapy focus on a person’s past, life coaching sessions focus on a person’s future. When a person sees a life coach, he or she is encouraged to set goals to help them achieve personal goals and then identify the obstacles in front of those goals.

The purpose of coaching sessions is to help people meet their potential. There is also an assumption that the person seeing a coach has good mental health. Coaches also hold a fundamental assumption that people have the capacity to solve their own problems and that the answer to their problems is already within them.

3. Education

The educational requirements for coaches are different than it is for therapists. The coaching industry isn’t regulated, so the educational requirements for this profession may vary widely. Counseling and therapy is regulated. As such, there are likely to be specific classes that a future therapist must take in school in order to become a therapist. That isn’t the case with coaching necessarily.

4. Less of a Stigma

Despite how common therapy has become in modern society, for some people, there still is a stigma attached, according to Good Therapy. This anti-therapy stigma prevents them from getting the help they need to solve their problems.

However, the person who may feel reluctant to see a therapist may be much more willing to see a coach. While these clients may not receive the benefit of a therapist’s training, they do get the benefit of being able to talk about their problems. Talking about an issue allows people to gain clarity of mind and to feel less disconnected. That’s one reason why people have sought out therapists in the past, but now coaches can provide this support, too.

5. Certification Vs. Licensing

As has already been mentioned, there is no regulation or coaching certification required in the coaching industry. In the simplest terms, anyone can be a coach. The same can’t be said about being a therapist. A person must have the right education and licensing to become one.

That said, there are organizations that provide coaches with certification so that can be technically considered a professional certified coach. While it’s not exactly the same as the licensing that a therapist receives, organizations, like the International Coaching Federation, does provide some oversight for those coaching who choose to get credentialed through the program.

This organization also provides accreditation for coaching programs. This accreditation ensures that the programs being credentialed meet the organization’s high standards and provide quality educational content for the people who get trained through those coaching programs.

Interested in Becoming a Life Coach or Counselor?

Although life coaches’ and therapists’ jobs share many similar characteristics, there are also some key differences. While these differences may cause some people to believe that one approach is better than the other, the truth is, there is a place for both in a person’s life. The people who embrace both coaching and therapy are in a position to understand how their pasts influence their behavior and how to correct that behavior through encouragement and accountability. Regardless of which educational and career path you choose, it’s important to know all of the facts before you begin your journey.

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