5 Differences Between Life Coaches and Counselors

5 Ways Life Coaches Differ From Counselors

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

Life coaching and therapy seem very similar. So much so, that many people do not understand how or even if these professions differ from one another. While it’s true that they share many of the same characteristics, these professions also have many differences. When a person is faced with a difficult challenge, knowing when to consult a life coach versus when to consult with a therapist can be extremely helpful in terms of solving the problem at hand. For those who are trying to decide on which one professional to consult, here are the main differences.

Related resource: The 25 Best Masters in Counseling Online Programs

1. Accountability

Coaches hold 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. Coaching is about action, results, and accountability.

2. Future Focused

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

The purpose of coaching 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 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. 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.

Final Words

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.