The Difference Between Life Coaching and Therapy

Life coaching is truly a unique service designed to help ambitious go-getters have a strong will to achieve their personal or professional goals, that will in return bring meaning, success, and fulfillment, in many areas of their life.

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The most common misconception about life coaching is that life coaching is therapy — or, worse yet, therapy from an unlicensed practitioner. In essence, life coaching is truly its own unique service designed to help champions who are seeking a change in their life whether personally or professionally. These ambitious go-getters have a strong will to achieve that will bring meaning, success, and fulfillment, in many areas of their life.

Which One Is Appropriate?

Therapist - A therapist is typically classified as a psychologist or counselor. They are licensed by their state as a mental health professional. A therapist will have a masters or doctorate degree. Therapists use diagnostic methods to determine specific illnesses so that patients can be clinically treated. A therapist can focus on emotions, work through depression or anxiety that affects home or work, detrimental behaviors, survived the loss of a loved one, and past events to help you move forward.

Life Coach – Life Coaches are not mental health professionals. Many life coaches receive certifications through training programs accredited through the International Coaching Federation or other accreditation bodies. Some life coaches may also acquire a masters or doctorate. However, life coaches are not required to have a license. And, life coaches do not diagnose any mental health issues. A life coach can focus on communication, help achieve personal or professional goals, understanding emotions, unconscious or conscious behaviors, perceptions that affect one's decisions, confidence, and understanding the present to move toward their targeted goals. Many formal therapists move on to become life coaches. 

The American Counseling Association likens therapy and life coaching to step-siblings: sharing similar traits, but using different approaches. Many life coaches focus on creating a new life path in order to achieve goals, whereas therapy sometimes looks into emotional resolutions to past problems in order to move forward, according to Counseling Today.

But as author and clinical psychologist Michael Bader writes, it doesn't matter how conflated the two can be -- what matters is what you get from the practice.

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