“Life Coaching isn’t the same as Therapy” isn't a simple truth. A Therapist's view as a LIfe Coach.

Many if not most Life Coaches are highly educated and trained in the same manner as MFTs but have chosen not to work under the governance and limitations of the medical paradigm or handle their very functional clients as if they were patients with illnesses and diagnosis. Like MFTs, Life Coaches see their clients as whole, functional folk that are brave enough and conscientious enough to know they don’t know it all and therefore ask for expert, professional help with certain aspects of their lives. They are clients, equals, partners, not patients. MFTs and Coaches are counselors, guides, partners, models to their clients, not fixers, or doctors.
I am a trained, experienced Psychotherapist practicing as a Personal Life coach because that’s my “style” of counseling. Some Therapists like to create a style like a doctor, others like a Momy… each is different. The same is true for Life Coaches which is why there are many different “specialization” names for them. I’m pretty sure that when you see Spiritual Coach, it tells you they are probably different in style to a Strategic or Executive Coach … etc. Each counselor/coach/therapist/ creates their own style of presentation, their own type of work and their own way of connecting with and supporting a client. Simply saying that “Life Coaching isn’t the same as Therapy” is kind of like saying Executive Coach Bill isn’t the same as Family Coach Ellen … and then in another way it’s kind of like saying apples aren’t like oranges. True. And True, but … not really. Apples and oranges are fruit and have many of the same nutrients and enzymes, so they are like each other. Executive and Family coaching are both counselors and guides so they too are like each other just as Therapy and Coaching are both meant to partner with a person in achieving the goals they set forth in the best way that they can without having to do it all alone. So they really are like each other!

Meaning no disrespect to Coaching Certification in any way, I have none personally because 6 years of higher education specialized in helping people plus 6 years of supervised, professional training and practice in the art and science of helping people define, create plans for and achieve their goals is pretty powerful qualification for something that some do with a weekend seminar certification. Of course let’s not overlook the basic, nature, personality and life experience of those of us that choose to become people counselors (Life Coaches, Therapists, Professional Counselors, etc.) The time we have spent overcoming difficulties and challenges in our own life, the tools we have learned and developed for successful transition and transformation of our own lives, the experience we have had as clients to Coaches, Therapists, Counselors, Mentors, etc. is a very powerful training ground.


There are a number of highly reputable coach certification programs out there and those who take the time to gain that training are to be commended for sure. I hope that this article has cleared up the muddy waters about the difference between therapy and coaching. Usually the difference is defined by someone that doesn’t really know what therapy is. Perhaps they had a poor experience with a badly matched therapist (or a bad one!) or are just simply prone to holding an archaic opinion of therapy in their mind. When they say the got some coaching or they have become a coach, they want people to feel at ease with the coaching venue and see it as different than therapy – just in case you too have a poor opinion or fear of them. It’s really not. There are as many different types of therapists as there are people in the field. Many are like me … coaches. The only significant difference between the two fields is the education and training requirements and the State Licensing Boards that create limitations around therapy. That’s about it.

Life Coaching and Therapy are the same thing: Counseling. They just do it from different guidelines. The real difference is the individual. My next article will be on How to Choose the Best Counselor for You, of whatever type you like.


Written by Stanlee Panelle, M.A., CHT, LBP, ALST
Professional Personal Life Coach
Former Psychotherapist, Career Counselor, Hairdresser, Health Consultant (510) 545-8308

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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