We’ve all heard of life coaches, and many of us have wondered if we need one. What is a life coach, anyway? What do they do? How can they help us?

What is the difference between coaching and therapy? How can I tell which one I need? Let’s talk about the differences to help you decide what would be the best fit for you.

Coaching is different from therapy in several ways, and it’s important to make the distinction between the two so that a person can decide which would benefit him or her more.

A therapist can be a coach and vice versa, but there is a difference in the approach between coaches and therapists, as I’ll describe below.

In therapy, the therapist is the expert. Traditional therapy is often long-term and is about finding healing through delving into the past to find out what makes us tick and help us move toward resolution of emotional issues in the present and future. It is about helping you understand what motivates you – your thoughts, emotions and past experiences. It’s about looking back to begin to look forward.

When you are struggling with anxiety, depression, negative core beliefs, and issues from the past, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine the future that you want.

Until these issues are dealt with, moving forward will seem like climbing a mountain without the proper gear to keep you safe. You wouldn’t climb Mt. Everest without training, preparation, and the proper equipment. Therapy is about the preparation for the next steps.

In coaching the coach is a guide, helping you set the course of your life going forward. At this stage, if you needed it, you would have already been through therapy and are now ready to move forward with your life.

Coaching is about creating a new “life path” toward achievable goals. Life coaching is about helping you, the client, figure out what you want in your life by giving all the power to you. Coaching is for those who feel stable and able to determine what they want next.

Life coaching is designed to help you be successful in life. Life coaches hold you accountable for reaching your goals – the ones you set for yourself. They can help you look at a problem from all angles and then help you decide how to solve it. Or you are thinking of making a change by moving to another state or starting a business. Coaching can help you with those things.

That’s where coaching comes in. You, the client, want something different but don’t know how to go about getting it.

Maybe it’s a raise at work, or a different vocation, or making a decision to continue education that’s concerning you. Or maybe you don’t even know what it is that you want, but you do want to make changes going forward.

Coaches act as cheerleaders and professional helpers, almost friends, on a short-term basis. Perhaps you want to change jobs, but don’t know what to do about it.

From a wonderfully written article entitled “Do you need a Therapist or a Coach” by Bill Cole, MS, MA comes the following partial list of differences, quoted verbatim.

  1. COACHING is an educational, discovery-based process of human potential.
    THERAPY is based on the medical model that says people have psychiatric maladies that need to be repaired.
  2. COACHING focuses on self-exploration, self-knowledge, professional development, performance enhancement and better self-management.
    THERAPY seeks to heal emotional wounds.
  3. COACHING takes clients to the highest levels of performance and life satisfaction.
    THERAPY seeks to bring clients from a dysfunctional place to a healthy functioning level.
  4. COACHING rarely asks about your childhood or family life.
    THERAPY continuously explores early-childhood, family and relationship issues.
  5. COACHING uses the terms blockages and obstructions to denote what needs to be removed.
    THERAPY uses the term “pathology” to describe the “patient’s” issues.
  6. COACHING focuses more on the present and future.
    THERAPY focuses more on the past and present.
  7. COACHING advances the client’s potential.
    THERAPY “cures” the patient.
  8. COACHING is used by people who already are succeeding, but who want to succeed even more and at a faster rate.
    THERAPY is used by people whose lives are not working.
  9. COACHING focuses more on thoughts and behavior and how the client acts and thinks about things.
    THERAPY focuses more on emotions and how the client feels about things.
  10.  COACHING focuses on solving problems in the now.
    THERAPY explores the historical roots of problems.

Hopefully, this article has been able to shed some light on the differences between coaching and therapy in order for you to make a more informed decision.

Please let me know if I can help. As a Christian counselor, I’m here for you.

“The Old Times”, Courtesy of Timothy_ckc, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Mountains”, Courtesy of Jonas Bengtsson, Flickr.com, CC BY 2.0 License; “Spring Meadow”, Courtesy of Johan Neven, Flickr.com; CC BY 2.0 License; “Forest”, Courtesy of Filip Stepien, Flickr.com; CC BY 2.0 License


Articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All opinions expressed by authors and quoted sources are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, publishers or editorial boards of Bothell Christian Counseling. This website does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.