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Therapy and Life Coaching: What’s the difference?

To the majority of the general population the terms life coaching and therapy are used interchangeably. This common and unfortunate mix up leaves folks confused as to which would be the best for them to pursue at any given time in their life.

Both therapy and life coaching are focused and rooted in overall wellness. In both coaching and therapy a client’s goals will guide the sessions. Both a therapist and a coach will provide support and encouragement. These are just a few of the shared foundations of coaching and therapy. No wonder folks get the two confused.

Let’s pinpoint the stark differences. Two of the main differences between a licensed therapist and a certified life coach are the scope of practice and the scope of competency. One’s scope of practice is defined as what the profession lawfully does and places limits upon the functions persons within a profession may lawfully perform. For instance, unlike a life coach, therapist are trained to effectively and lawfully assess, diagnose and treat individuals, couples, and families. It is not in a coach's scope of practice to diagnose, evaluate or treat mental health conditions. One's scope of competency is determined by one's education, training, and experience. Scope of practice defines a whole profession while scope of competency is individually determined by each individual professional. Both scopes do have some overlap and even though a therapist may have the scope of practice to support a client in certain goals, they may lack the experience to effectively provide services do to the lack of competency.

Therapy can be a short term or long term process where resolving problematic beliefs, behaviors and relationship dynamics will be the main focus in assisting clients to improve relationships and cultivate a more fulfilling life. Life Coaching is commonly a short term process where a coach provides support in identifying goals and obstacles in order to create an action plan to move clients towards the life the feel they desire and deserve.

Both life coaching and therapy highlight the strengths of their clients and provide folks with the support necessary to make lifestyle changes. Even though their are similarities in approach and even some client goals, life coaching is not therapy and therapy is not life coaching. Both professions have their benefits and places in helping folks become their most optimal selves.


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