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Therapist or Coach… which to approach?

What is the difference between a life coach and a therapist and why is it important to know?


The world of personal development and self-improvement is vast, with many professionals offering services to help individuals achieve their goals and overcome challenges. Two of the most popular professions in this field are life coaching and therapy. While both professionals aim to help people improve their lives, there are significant differences between them. The length of intervention and outcomes achieved can also vary significantly.



A life coach works with clients to help them achieve their goals and make positive life changes. Life coaches use various techniques and strategies to help clients identify their strengths and weaknesses, set achievable goals, and develop action plans to achieve them.


Life coaches typically work with clients seeking guidance and support to achieve personal or professional goals, such as career advancement, better relationships, improved health and wellness, or increased self-confidence. Life coaches work with clients to identify their core values, beliefs, and priorities and help them align their actions with their desired outcomes.


It is important to note that a life coach is not a therapist (unless they have trained in this modality) and they do not diagnose or treat mental health disorders. Instead, they focus on helping clients identify and overcome obstacles to their success and happiness, using a solution-focused and action-oriented approach.



Therapy is a form of treatment for mental health disorders and emotional issues. Therapists work with clients to diagnose and treat mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. Therapists help clients address and manage symptoms, develop coping strategies, and improve their overall mental health and well-being.


Therapists use a variety of evidence-based approaches, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychoanalysis, and interpersonal therapy, to help clients work through their emotional and psychological challenges. Therapy is often a longer-term process than life coaching and involves regular sessions over an extended period.


What are the differences between life coaching and therapy?


While both a life coach and therapist aim to help individuals improve their lives and achieve their goals, there are significant differences between the two.


Focus and Goals


One of the main differences between life coaching and therapy is their focus and goals. Life coaching focuses on helping clients identify and achieve their goals, while therapy focuses on treating mental health disorders and emotional issues.

Life coaches work with clients to identify their strengths and weaknesses, set achievable goals, and develop action plans to achieve them. Life coaching is forward-thinking and action-oriented, focusing on the present and future rather than the past.


Therapists, on the other hand, work with clients to address and manage mental health disorders and emotional issues. Therapy focuses on exploring past experiences and their impact on current thoughts and behaviours to improve overall mental health and well-being.


Approach


Another critical difference between life coaching and therapy is their approach. Life coaching is solution-focused and action-oriented, while therapy is more introspective and analytical. Life coaches use techniques and strategies to help clients identify and overcome obstacles to success and happiness. They focus on creating actionable plans and strategies to help clients achieve their goals and improve their lives.


Therapists use a variety of evidence-based approaches to help clients work through their emotional and psychological challenges. Therapy involves exploring past experiences and their impact on current thoughts and behaviours to promote healing and growth.


Summary


Both approaches aim to support and enhance individual well-being and are equally valuable if implemented by trained and experienced practitioners. Accreditations exist to ensure life coaches are adhering to ethical standards and have at least some form of training. We hope that as these requirements strengthen, they will only add more credibility to the coaching profession and enhance the support capabilities of the individuals who enlist them.


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Danny Rahim is a highly experienced life coach accredited by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC). Having trained initially in counselling studies (CPCAB) and then as a Mental Health First Aid England Instructor (MHFAE), he broadened his knowledge and expertise into the coaching world to ensure his clients had the best possible chances of success. In 2022 Danny began his MSc. in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology (MAPPCP) at the University of East London (UEL) where he enjoys taking the latest in research and scientific methods to enhance his client's well-being and performance capabilities.

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