LIFE COACH VS THERAPIST: Can a Therapist be a Life Coach? (Detailed Comparison)


One of the most widespread misunderstandings about life coaching is that it is nothing more than a disguised kind of therapy—or, worse, therapy provided by an unlicensed practitioner. In truth, life coaching is a distinct service meant to assist ambitious achievers in achieving the goals that would lead to success and fulfillment in all aspects of their lives. Here we write on what is a life coach vs. a therapist, the differences between a life coach vs a therapist, and a basic guide for when each service is 

What is a Life Coach vs Therapist

What exactly is therapy? Therapy, often known as counseling or psychotherapy, is a long-term process in which a client collaborates with a healthcare practitioner to identify and overcome harmful beliefs, behaviors, interpersonal troubles, moods, and, in some cases, bodily responses. The goal of therapy is to transform self-destructive habits, heal and restore relationships, and work through painful feelings by focusing on past traumas and concerns. In this view, therapy focuses on the past, reflection, and analysis in order to resolve previous concerns and create a happier, more stable future.

What is the definition of life coaching? A client works with a coach who is not a healthcare professional to explain goals, identify obstacles, and identify problematic habits in order to establish action plans to attain desired results in life coaching. The fundamental difference between a life coach and a therapist is that the life coach uses the client’s existing starting point as an acceptable neutral ground and then becomes more action-oriented from there. A life coach empowers the individuals receiving treatment to take charge of their lives and take steps to achieve their objectives.

Life Coaches are not Therapists

Although a life coach and a therapist may work with clients who have similar issues on occasion, their practice is not the same. The following are the key distinctions between a life coach and a therapist.

Focus of the Program

One of the key differences between life coaching and therapy is the focus. Life coaches help clients identify and characterize problematic behaviors so that they may work to change them. Therapists use their clients’ histories to better understand their current actions. In other words, therapists concentrate on “why” particular behavioral patterns emerge, whereas coaches concentrate on “how” to achieve a goal.

Objectives of the Program

When considering the differences between coaching and counseling, it’s crucial to remember that counseling allows clients to explore and understand their subconscious and unconscious minds. Its purpose is to have a comprehensive understanding of habits and patterns in order to improve overall mental health. This is why counseling and treatment for sadness and anxiety can be beneficial.


Talk sessions with a skilled expert are used in both life coaching and counseling. There are a lot of similarities in how they’re arranged, but that’s where the similarities end. More unstructured sessions are used in treatment, which is guided by the client as well as the style of therapy. Life coaching sessions are significantly more structured, with an emphasis on practical strategies and demonstrable progress.

Similarities Between a Life Coach vs Therapist

While the answer to the question “What is therapy?” differs greatly from what a life coach does, there are some parallels between the two. Both assist individuals in making positive life adjustments and becoming more productive. While therapists diagnose and treat patients from a medical standpoint, not all therapy clients are sick; many healthy people seek the help of therapists and life coaches. Therapists may work toward a specific outcome, such as the termination of harmful behavior. The activities and procedures of therapists and life coaches are unique, notwithstanding some overlap.

Can a Therapist be a Life Coach

When deciding between a life coach and a therapist, it can be difficult to receive accurate information. Due to the rivalry that often occurs between therapists and life coaches as they compete for clients, there is a lot of skewed reporting out there.

Some publications claim that therapists are only skilled at assisting persons with mental health issues and are unable to assist healthy people in setting objectives. Others claim that life coaches are scumbags who are unqualified to do anything. None of it is correct.

Myth #1: Life coaching vs therapist is almost the same

It’s reasonable to assume that therapists’ training qualifies them to be life coaches. However, comparing life coaching to therapy isn’t entirely accurate. There’s a reason why an increasing number of therapists provide separate therapy and life coaching services. Here are several methods to tell the difference between therapy and coaching.

Therapy is intended to aid in your recovery. It’s also meant to assist you in maturing and becoming more self-aware. When you want to “feel better,” you need therapy. A therapist creates a safe environment devoid of the pressure to perform that you face at work or at home—pressure that may be making you feel pressured, depressed, or anxious.

Life coaching is intended to assist you in achieving your goals. It’s also meant to assist you in growing and becoming more effective. When you want to “do better,” you need life coaching. A coach provides an encouraging environment in which they offer light pressure while holding you accountable for your goals. A coach can assist you in making significant progress on everything from writing a book to reducing weight, as well as determining which goals you want to pursue in the first place.

Myth #2: A therapist vs a life coach are two  different things entirely

A lot of what life coaches do is already done by therapists. While it’s true that therapists are trained to treat mental illnesses, it’s not all they’re trained to accomplish. Therapists can also assist you in defining your life objectives and overcoming difficulties to reach them. Therapists have aided people in their personal development throughout the field’s history. They continue to do so.

Myth #3: From therapy to coaching, there is a clear progression.

It’s true that you may require treatment before working effectively with a coach. It’s pointless to put pressure on yourself to perform while you’re still recovering. Furthermore, pursuing goals makes little sense if you don’t believe you deserve what you’re pursuing. Pursuing objectives might be bad if you’re suffering from the unpleasant conviction that you must perform or achieve in order to be deserving of pleasure or love.

Myth #4: Life coaching Is not the same as other forms of coaching

It’s difficult to tell what distinguishes life coaching from therapy, and it’s much more difficult to tell what distinguishes it from other sorts of coaching. Coaches assist clients in making improvements in several areas of their lives in practice. Good coaches, like therapists, have a diverse skillset and rarely confine themselves to a single function.

Myth #5: Life coaches aren’t held to a high standard of professionalism.

Therapy, on the other hand, is a certified professional, but life coaching is not. This means that therapists must adhere to strict guidelines in order to conduct therapy, whereas life coaches are not required to adhere to any guidelines at all.

To keep their license and legally perform therapy, therapists must have particular degrees, complete supervised practice hours, and adhere to ethical and professional norms. Because life coaching is an unregulated profession, life coaches are not required to do any of these things.

Myth #6: It’s impossible to vet life coaches because they don’t have licenses.

You can check a therapist’s license to see if they’re qualified, but you can’t do the same with a life coach because there aren’t any. This isn’t to say that you can’t vet one but not the other. It also doesn’t mean you’re safe after checking a therapist’s credentials. A therapist’s ethical behavior is not guaranteed by a formal license.

Myth #7: Therapists only work with people who are suffering from mental illnesses.

Therapists do more than only treat mental illnesses. They can aid in the recovery of creativity, the improvement of relationships, and the discovery of one’s actual self. In other words, they can assist you in achieving your personal development objectives.

We at OpenCounseling believe that personal development is for everyone. Regrettably, not everyone shares this viewpoint. Therapists who specialize in personal development sometimes charge more than those who specialize in mental health therapy. Life coaches are frequently more expensive than therapists.

Myth #8: Therapists are concerned with the past, while life coaches are concerned with the future.

It’s true that therapists can — and frequently do — assist you in exploring your past. They can assist you in making sense of it and recovering from it. That isn’t to say that they always do. In fact, certain therapeutic styles and procedures are nearly entirely focused on the present moment. Therapists can assist clients to manage anxiety by teaching them how to reconnect to the present moment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness-based therapy both help you engage with your thoughts as they come without requiring you to go back in time.

When should you seek the help of a life coach vs a therapist?

Choosing between a life coach vs a therapist is, of course, a very personal decision. Imagine yourself getting ready to climb a mountain to help you relax. For your expedition, you might either hire a skilled Sherpa and guide or a doctor. Which one will you pick? Which one will be the most useful on your particular journey?

A sherpa and guide won’t help you if you’re physically unable to complete the climb or if you’d be in danger if you did. Before you attempt the climb, you must be in good health – if you aren’t, you should see a doctor before doing something so difficult. If you’re in good shape and merely need assistance with climbing tactics, carrying supplies, and locating the best way, a sherpa and guide is your best option.

This example is akin to coaching vs. counseling. The doctor is the therapist. They explore your mental and emotional well-being to get you well enough to take on huge difficulties in your life. The Sherpa and guide is the life coach. They are knowledgeable about your climb and can assist you in reaching the top.


Finally, we recommend that you trust yourself and your instincts. When you think you’ve found the right person, trust your instincts and give them a chance. If they’re not a good fit, you can always try again. Or they could be just who you were looking for.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is life coaching better than counselling?

Counseling can help you cope better on a daily basis, while coaching can assist you to take constructive action. A counselor can assist you in finding a way to deal if you’re feeling overwhelmed and having trouble coping with routine chores. If you’re getting by on a day-to-day basis but know you want to do more, a coach might be a better fit.

Can Life Coaches provide therapy?

Coaching assumes a certain level of emotional well-being and concentrates on the here and now. As a coach, you’ll help customers define a future vision, set goals, and create a tactical action plan to attain their objectives. You cannot conduct therapy in a coaching setting, even if you are educated to do it.

1 comment
  1. The following paragraph is not accurate “whereas life coaches are not required to adhere to any guidelines at all. To keep their license and legally perform therapy, therapists must have particular degrees, complete supervised practice hours, and adhere to ethical and professional norms. Because life coaching is an unregulated profession, life coaches are not required to do any of these things.”

    Although it’s true that many coaches are self-proclaimed coaches, many others, like myself, study for it. We get our Master, we do supervised practice hours, and we need to adhere to ethical and professional norms set up by the Internacional Coaching Federation (ICF). We need to pass their exams (CKA), and we need to provide CE (continuing Education) credits.

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