If you are thinking about making changes in your life, coaching may be for you.  But it’s important to understand the difference between therapy and coaching in order to make the best decision about what will benefit you the most.

Most of us are familiar with therapy. But what is coaching? Therapy is about healing the past, but coaching is about taking people where they are now and helping them achieve a future they want.

In both therapy and coaching, we are working with people seeking change. In both therapy and coaching, change occurs over time.

However, therapy assumes that the person needs help with the past, while coaches are working with the assumption that a client is healthy, and wants to move to a higher level of functioning – in work, relationships, and life in general.

Coaching is different from therapy – coaching focuses on the here and now. With traditional therapy, we delve into the past and the impact it has on the present and future. In therapy, the therapist is considered the “expert.”

Coaching is about the present and how we can help a client to achieve their future goals. As coaches, we are facilitators of learning. The goal is to solve a problem and put into action solutions that will benefit the client. The coach encourages the client to learn new skills and make beneficial choices for the future.

Coaching believes that the client is the expert in his/her own experiences, and coaches work with their clients to bring out the best in them so that they can achieve the goals they want to achieve, or to figure out what goals they want for themselves. All areas of a person’s life can benefit from coaching.

A client comes to coaching to change how they are doing things. They are looking to set goals and make plans and strategies, and they want a coach to keep them on track and accountable. The coach helps them with their vision and works with the client to get them there, using their strengths, goals, and life purposes.

In therapy, the therapist is considered the expert. In coaching, the client is the expert of his/her life. The coach is more of an equal in the relationship.

Coaching is about enhancing the knowledge a client already has. A coach encourages client self-discovery and holds the client accountable. Coaching is a partnership – and requires that the client be motivated.

When would coaching benefit you?

A few reasons are listed below:

  • Your work-life balance is out of sync. You are spending too much time working, and not enjoying what you are doing.
  • You need help overcoming challenges that may be coming up in the future.
  • Fear that an exciting opportunity is beyond you – fear of stepping out into the unknown.
  • Difficulty with making choices.
  • Inability to identify core strengths and how to use them.
  • Help with achieving financial stability.
  • Making job changes.

A coach provides objective assessments and observations to aid the client in moving toward their goals. A coach encourages the client to shift thinking to gain a new perspective.

Life coaching helps clients achieve their goals through measurable results.  Therapists work to help clients achieve the goal of understanding how their past has impacted them and enable them to make the changes needed to have the kind of life they really want. The therapist works with the client’s subconscious and conscious mind. A coach works toward goals and outcomes. A coach is solution-focused.

Coaching centers on self-exploration and self-knowledge. It is used by people who are already successful but want to achieve even more. It focuses on how a client thinks and works with a client’s conscious mind.

If you are trying to decide if coaching or therapy is for you, understanding the difference between the two helps. If you are still confused or need more information, please contact me. I’m happy to help.

“Success,” courtesy of thinboyfatter, Flickr Creative Commons; “Autumn Road,” courtesy of Dhinal Chheda, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Meadow,” courtesy of Richard Ashley, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Dusk,” courtesy of Patrick McConahay, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License 


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