Many people wonder, What’s the difference between a therapist and a life coach?  While there is overlap in what they do (particularly if the therapist uses cognitive behavioral therapy), therapists and coaches have different backgrounds and approaches. In this post, I’ll share my take on how life coaching differs from therapy.

The Therapy Model

Therapists have the academic training necessary to diagnose psychiatric disorders.

Therapists typically:

  • Begin with diagnostic interviews and tests.
  • Identify mental, emotional, or behavior disorders.
  • Develop strategies to help non-functioning individuals return to functioning.
  • Offer treatment to alleviate or manage symptoms.
  • Spend time focusing on past wounds and trauma.

Therapists must abide by state licensing board regulations and their services are often paid for by medical insurance.

The Coaching Model

Coaches do not diagnose psychological disorders.

Coaches typically:

  • Begin by listening to a client’s problems, goals, and desires.
  • See clients who are functioning yet want to improve their lives and relationships.
  • Teach skills and offer tools that quickly empower the client.
  • Specialize in solving specific problems or work with specific groups.
  • Focus on the present and future rather than the past.

A coach may or may not be certified. The coaching industry is not regulated and medical insurance doesn’t usually pay for coaching services.

Some people find great benefits when they have both a therapist and a life coach.