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Therapist Vs. Life Coach 🧑‍⚕️ Differences Explained

You have a variety of options when it comes to seeking treatment for mental health issues and other struggles. A therapist and a life coach are two common choices for those who need help navigating their lives. However, each option offers separate approaches to helping you achieve your goals.

A therapist is a licensed mental health professional that is trained to help patients work through various mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. A life coach is an individual who specializes in helping people reach their personal goals. 

Yet, there is much more to both professions. If you want more out of life, you may want to learn more about the differences between a therapist and a life coach. 

What Is a Therapist?

A therapist is a licensed mental health professional. Therapists are trained to provide therapeutic techniques for addressing various mental health issues and psychological disorders. This typically involves discussing your emotions and thoughts before receiving insight and advice from the therapist.

Therapists often provide ongoing treatment across multiple sessions. Each session may last 30 to 60 minutes. Many patients talk with their therapist one to four times per month.

All states require therapists to obtain licenses, which allows the state to ensure that only qualified individuals offer therapy services. A licensed therapist is trained to treat serious mental disorders and trauma. A therapist may help patients cope with anxiety, depression, grief, or other concerns.

Check out: Talkspace Vs. Calmerry

What Is a Life Coach?

A life coach is an individual who helps clients identify and achieve their personal goals. A life coach may work with clients to improve their careers, relationships, or wellness. 

You may receive help setting goals and techniques for following through on your plans. A life coach helps you create and execute a plan for achieving what you want in life. 

Unlike therapists and counselors, life coaches rarely focus on mental health concerns. They are not typically qualified to treat psychological disorders and are not regulated by the state. While a life coach may offer advice for dealing with depression or anxiety, they are not licensed to practice therapy. 

Similarities Between Therapists and Life Coaches

Life coaches and therapists are distinctly different professions with major differences when it comes to licensing and educational requirements. However, they also have several similarities.

Both professions provide guidance and support to individuals who want to experience personal growth or change specific behaviors. Therapists and life coaches can also help people set and achieve goals.

Therapists and life coaches both use active listening and other types of communication to better understand the needs of their patients or clients. They also encourage self-reflection.

Differences Between Therapists and Life Coaches

Therapists and life coaches both help people overcome specific struggles and get more out of life. However, the educational requirements, available treatments, and areas of specialty vary significantly between the two professions. 

Education

Therapists are licensed professionals who need to meet specific educational requirements. The educational requirements for therapists vary based on the type of therapy that they specialize in. However, some of the general requirements for this profession include:

  • A master’s degree 
  • Clinical experience
  • A license to practice

The field of study for the master’s degree may depend on the area of specialty that a therapist chooses. For example, some states require a marriage therapist to complete a marriage and family counseling program. Other common fields of study include psychology, counseling, and social work.

The clinical experience needed depends on the state and type of therapy practiced. However, most states require 2,000 to 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience. Therapists gain clinical experience through internships or work programs.

The licensing requirements also vary from state to state, but therapists typically need to pass an exam after meeting the educational and training requirements. Therapists also need to continue their education. Each state has continuing education requirements for therapists who want to keep their licenses.

Life coaches are not regulated by the state in the same way. They do not need to meet any educational requirements or obtain a license. However, many life coaches have backgrounds in psychology and social work. Life coaches who specialize in helping entrepreneurs and business owners are likely to have backgrounds in business. 

Life coaches may also obtain certifications in related fields. For example, the following certifications do not require an advanced degreeOpens in a new tab.:

  • Mental health technician certification
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) coaching certification
  • Anger management paraprofessional certification
  • Substance abuse counselor certification

Most of these certifications require a minimum of a high school diploma. Life coaches may obtain these or other certifications to provide clients with a more well-rounded approach to their issues.

Treatment

Therapists and life coaches develop specialized treatment plans based on the needs of each patient. However, they use different approaches and offer different types of treatment.

Therapy is typically focused on addressing various emotional challenges and psychological disorders. Life coaches focus more on helping individuals reach personal or professional goals. As people go to therapists and life coaches for different reasons, each profession provides different types of treatment.

Some of the most common types of treatment offered by therapists include:

  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Humanistic therapy

Behavioral therapy focuses on how your behaviors may negatively affect your life. Therapists who use behavioral therapy try to help change the way that you react to situations, which is useful for dealing with anxieties and phobias. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) includes a focus on both your behaviors and your feelings. Your thoughts may help contribute to your mental health issues. By focusing on both your behaviors and thoughts, CBT may be more effective for certain problems, such as eating disorders or mood disorders.

Psychodynamic therapy involves talking about your emotions and thoughts to help uncover patterns that may contribute to your issues. With psychodynamic therapy, the therapist examines the connection between your unconscious mind and conscious actions. It is commonly used as a long-term treatment for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and negative behaviors. 

Humanistic therapy is designed to help you live a more fulfilling life by staying true to yourself. Your therapist works with you to better understand your thoughts, experiences, and needs. Instead of trying to interpret your feelings and thoughts, your therapist helps explore ways to increase your self-acceptance. This form of therapy is commonly used to address self-esteem issues, relationship issues, and the effects of trauma.

A life coach does not offer treatment for mental health issues and psychological disorders. A life coach’s “treatment” is more of a plan of action for achieving your goals. They may provide tips and strategies for following through on your goals.

Life coaches also offer varying levels of involvement and support. Some life coaching programs are completed remotely. Instead of interacting directly with a coach, you may watch videos or chat online. 

Other life coaches offer one-on-one advice and support. This may include in-person or online coaching. Some life coaches provide advice for reaching your goals, while others help manage your entire routine, from what you eat to how you spend your day. 

Specialties

Therapists are more likely to have areas of specialty compared to life coaches. For example, a therapist may specialize in helping patients with specific mental health issues, such as:

  • Addiction/drug abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief
  • Personality disorders
  • Trauma

Some therapists also specialize in helping specific groups, such as families, couples, teens, and the LGBTQ+ community. 

Life coaches may market their services to specific demographics. For example, a life coach may focus on helping high-achieving professionals, such as rising executives or entrepreneurs. Others may focus on helping men or women. Some life coaches work with people on specific issues, such as anxiety.

How Do Therapists and Life Coaches Work Together?

Therapists and life coaches can work together, as they offer separate approaches and help with different issues. Therapists help get to the root of your mental health issues and provide methods for dealing with them. Life coaches help you plan ahead.

You can work with a therapist to overcome emotional challenges. You can work with a life coach to reach new goals. A therapist may help you move on from the past, while a life coach can help you work toward the future that you want. 

Should You See a Therapist, a Life Coach, or Both?

If you want to break out of your shell, achieve more in life, and reach your personal goals, a life coach can help. You can receive personalized advice and strategies for achieving what you want in life. 

A life coach is more focused on helping you achieve your goals. While this may include overcoming anxiety or depression, a life coach may not have the same training or understanding of the root causes of these issues.

If you want help with a specific mental health issue, such as anxiety or depression, you may receive more effective treatment from a therapist. 

A therapist is licensed to provide psychotherapy, which may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or another type of treatment. A life coach is not licensed to offer the same types of treatment options. 

Anyone dealing with a serious mental health issue should focus on therapy first. Before finding a life coach, prioritize your mental health. Look for a therapist who can address your specific concerns. 

Therapists and life coaches can also work together. They are unlikely to trade notes but may offer complementary services. 

For example, a therapist may be necessary for addressing your mental health concerns, such as mood disorders or OCD. A life coach can help you plan for life after overcoming these issues.

Check out: Therapist Vs. Counselor

How to Choose a Therapist or Life Coach

If you decide to see a therapist or a life coach, you should take the time to explore your options. First, here is a quick look at the steps involved in finding a therapist:

  • Consider your mental health concerns
  • Ask for referrals or search online
  • Think about your insurance coverage
  • Schedule your initial appointment
  • Decide whether you want to continue therapy

You should first think about the issues that you want help with. You can find therapists who specialize in treating specific issues, such as grief or mood disorders. 

After considering the type of therapist that you want to work with, start asking for referrals. You can get referrals from friends, family, co-workers, and doctors. For example, your primary care physician may be able to refer you to a therapist in the area. You can also find therapists online or use online therapy platforms to seek mental health services. However, not all therapists accept insurance. 

Before choosing a service, you may want to consider whether you can use your insurance to cover some or all of the costs of therapy. After narrowing your options, schedule an appointment with a therapist. 

Use the first appointment to decide whether you are comfortable discussing your feelings and thoughts with this individual. If you are happy with the session and have built a rapport with your therapist, go ahead and schedule your next session. If you are not happy with the session, continue your search.

Finding a life coach involves many of the same steps. You first think about what you hope to achieve, as some life coaches specialize in helping with specific goals. For example, if you want to achieve your career ambitions, you may want to work with a life coach who has experience in your chosen industry.

You should research life coaches online and look at customer reviews to get a better sense of their reputations and backgrounds. Schedule an initial consultation to learn more about their services and whether they are a good fit for your specific needs.

Check out: Betterhelp Vs. Calmerry

Final Words

Therapists and life coaches can help people navigate their lives and overcome various struggles. However, only a therapist is licensed to provide psychotherapy. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or any clinical mental health disorders, a therapist is better equipped to address your issues. 

A life coach offers help with your goals in life. If you want to improve your career, relationship, or health, a life coach can work with you to increase your chances of success. They can help create a plan and support you throughout your journey. 

In the end, therapists and life coaches offer vastly different services. If you have a mental health concern, start with therapy. 

A therapist can help resolve mental health issues that interfere with your happiness and well-being. A life coach is better suited for helping you reach your personal and professional goals. 

Check out: Therapist Vs. Psychologist

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