What’s the difference between coaching and counseling or therapy?
In this article, you’ll learn eight distinguishing features that differentiate coaching and counseling.
Coaching vs. Counseling
Many people wonder whether they would benefit from coaching or from psychotherapy or counseling. If you’re confused about the difference between coaching and therapy, you’re not alone! Coaching and therapy serve two distinct purposes but there is a fair amount of overlap, so it can be confusing.
Coaching and Counseling or Therapy
Coaching and therapy both create a positive, healing relationship between the coach or therapist and client that is the medium for change. Coaches and therapists are trained in understanding human behavior and motivation. Both help clients set and achieve their goals.
Counseling / Therapy
- Focuses on both the past and the present
- Therapy can help heal wounds from the past
- Treats a mental health or substance use problem (which includes everything from severe issues such as PTSD to minor, short-term issues such as adjustment disorders)
- Because therapy treats mental health or substance abuse problems, it’s generally covered by insurance and health savings accounts
- Providers are licensed and regulated by the state, which helps insure proper training and ethical and legal standards are followed
- Unfortunately, there is a stigma for many individuals, cultures, and families in seeking psychotherapy or counseling
- Confidentiality (with certain limitations) is protected by law
- Focuses on setting and achieving goals in the present and future (doesn’t deal with the past)
- Coaching does not involve a mental health diagnosis
- Coaching helps mentally well people function at a higher level
- Is NOT covered by insurance or health savings accounts
- There is no licensing or particular training or credential required to work as a coach
- Coaches often work online as they aren’t limited to working within a state-issued license like a therapist
- Generally more acceptance of coaching, less stigma
- Confidentiality is not protected by law
So, which would best meet your needs? If you know that you have a diagnosed mental health problem such as depression or anxiety, therapy is probably the better choice, at least initially. On the other hand, if you’re looking for focused help in reaching specific goals in the present, then a coach would be a great choice.
Coaching is also an appropriate choice if you’ve previously worked with a therapist and your depression or anxiety (or other mental health) symptoms are well managed. For some, it will be important to first work with a therapist and resolve some core issues and then work with a coach later for help achieving particular goals.
It is important that you consider your own needs and goals, the professional’s training and experience, and whether there is a good “fit” with the professional’s personality, approach, and values.
Ditch Your Rigid, Perfectionist & Self-Critical Thinking
Do you hold yourself—and perhaps others—to extremely high standards? Do you have a nagging inner-critic that tells you you’re inadequate no matter how much you achieve? Do you procrastinate certain tasks because you’re afraid you won’t carry them out perfectly? If you’ve answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, chances are you’re a perfectionist. And while there’s nothing wrong with hard work and high standards, perfectionism can take over your life if you let it. So, how can you find balance?
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