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Comparison: Coaching & Therapy

“The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

One of the challenges in deciding to get help is understanding the kind of help you need. I’m often asked how Coaching and Therapy are different and how they are the same. While not all-inclusive, hopefully this list highlights the distinctions and helps you figure out what is best for you. If you’re not sure, let’s discuss it.

Coaching and Therapy Differences:

Therapy generally focuses on the past.
Coaching focuses on taking the client from where they are now to where they want to be.

Therapy typically helps the client figure out “WHY.”
Coaching helps the client figure out “HOW.”

Therapy usually analyzes problems, trying to “fix” them.
Coaching views situations as challenges, not problems, and encourages the client to learn and grow from them.

Therapy sometimes pre-supposes a relationship imbalance.
Coaching is a partnership always based upon the client’s needs.

Therapists work with patients.
Coaches work with clients.  I work with partners.

Therapy often last for years.
Coaching, being solution and results-oriented, usually lasts for months.

Therapy might look at the behaviors of others.
Coaching is about taking responsibility…and moving forward.

Therapy can work for drug and other addictions, clinical depression, eating and personality disorders, traumas, and mental illnesses.
Coaching cannot (should not) work with the above (although can work with addictions if in recovery and working to develop and achieve goals).

Coaching and Therapy Similarities:

  • Professionals (suggest only working with if certified and trained). Inner work (while Coaching is results-oriented, we also do a lot of in-depth inner exploration). Going deep is not the same as going back.
  • The Past (while different in focus, in Coaching, the past is recognized, discussed, and accepted. The client may realize the past directly affects present situations, but the realization usually comes from the clients themselves).
  • Helps you, the client, move forward and live a better, healthier life.

The above list of similarities also is not all-inclusive.

In Praise of Therapy:

  • Therapy has helped millions of people. It often helps them discover and use the tools they need to make sense of the pain they feel, and the traumas they may have experienced. Healing can take place simply through the act of bringing emotional, physical and psychic traumas to light. Therapy can help clients find new ways to cope with stress and anxiety- to manage anger, depression, and other emotional pressures and heal old psychological wounds, repairing damage from the past. Therapy offers many other benefits as well. Therapy works for many, including some who choose to combine Therapy and Coaching.

I will (can) refer some professional therapists, if after our initial conversation we feel that Therapy is more appropriate for you.

Note: Many colleagues, who went through the same Coaching Certification as I, were therapists who were transitioning into Coaching. Some clients work simultaneously with a therapist to resolve issues from the past and a coach to help them move forward in a different way.