How do you know if you need a therapist or a coach?  This is a question I get a lot, since I am both licensed as a therapist and certified as a coach. Both are useful. Both have a purpose, and both may be useful in your life at one time or another. For the most part, therapy and coaching are different. However, there is a middle ground where they overlap. So how do therapy and coaching differ?  How do I choose which is right for me?

Therapy Focuses on Mental Health Issues

If someone is feeling depressed or anxious or is an incest survivor or has addictions or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), therapy is the place to start.

Therapy covers mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.  The mental health issue may be minor and caused by life circumstances or a major disorder that causes great long-term distress and even problems functioning such as bipolar, borderline or obsessive compulsive disorders. Trauma can be the result of rape, incest or war. Therapists, both support and empower their client to overcome these issues and lead a normal life – whatever normal is anyway – or may be necessary long term to deal with ongoing issues. The main purpose of therapy is to increase the level of functioning to a normal state.

Only Therapy is Covered  by Mental Health Insurance

If mental health insurance is used, there must be a mental health diagnosis in order to use insurance. A mental health diagnosis is anything from mild depression or an adjustment disorder to a more serious diagnosis such as debilitating depression, anxiety or schizophrenia or bipolar or post dramatic stress disorder. The mental health diagnosis if turned into an insurance company will stay forever on your permanent health record, just as there will always be a permeant record that you had cancer or broke an ankle.

Sometimes Therapy and Coaching Look a Lot Alike

Sometimes therapy and coaching look a lot alike. Some therapists use short-term solution focused therapy to help clients deal with specific issues around life transitions. These are often not insurance billable because the client does not meet the criteria for any type of mental health disorder according to the DSM-V or the new ICD-10 Codes.  In the middle ground the distinction between coaching and therapy dims, whether not it looks more like therapy or more like coaching, is based more on the practitioners approach.

Coaching Focuses on Goals

Coaching has a different primary goal. It is to support and empower clients to go from good or even just OK to great. I want to empower my coaching clients to thrive in ALL areas of their lives. Coaching is present and future focused and devoted to closing the gap from where one is now to where one would most wants to be. Coaching clients are willing to acccept responsibility for their own actions.  Life Coaching focuses on empowering and supporting clients in achieving their goals in all aspects of their life.

Coaches are not advice givers. Powerful coaches ask powerful questions to empower clients to determine their own answers and actions that are best for them.

Coaching requires that the client take action!  This is why I have started including Next Action Step in all of my blog posts!

What About Relationship Coaching?

People with relationship issues may seek either a relationship coach or a relationship therapist. Again to use mental health insurance, one or both of the clients must have a mental health diagnosis. I call myself a relationship coach because I deal with clients who are interested in improving their relationships and improving the quality of their communication as well as clients are just trying decide whether they should stay or go in their relationships.

What About Other Types of Coaching?

Coaches often combine powerful questions, which is the hallmark of coaching, with subject matter expertise and or a particular style or coaching approach.

For instance you may talk to a life coach, a business coach, a relationship coach, an organizational coach, a career coach or a coach with other specific specialties.

Coaches can also work with  clients who may have been in therapy to help them move forward with their lives.

Coaching is Based on a Different Agreement Between the Coach and the Client

As a coach, I see my clients as whole and okay just as they are. I do not see them as someone with a problem who “needs to fixed.”  Okay, you may not like where you are and want something different but coaching clients are motivated toward a positive goal.   As a coaching client you are ready and willing to do what it takes to move towards your goal.  You have the resources you need inside you.  A goal can be very concrete such as start a business or find a job or it can be to gain clarity on one or more issues or to increase personal growth, happiness or the quality or a relationship.

My Coaching Expertise

My focus is on personal growth and transformation and relationships.  This focus empowers my clients to have increased happiness, clarity and a sense of meaning and purpose plus increased confidence as their goals are met.  My clients are generally successful in one or more areas of their lives.  They have generally read a number of self help books and want to improve the quality of both their lives and relationships.

I work with clients dealing with relationship issues such as communication, affairs, dating, divorce and should I go or should I stay and taught divorce recovery classes for over six years.  Couples also come who just want to improve the quality of their relationships.  I have experience and training both as a relationship coach and a therapist with over 20 years experience working with individuals, couples and groups.

My expertise as a coach comes in many areas that I have both personal training and experience in.  I’m an entrepreneur and have been involved in family businesses. I’m very creative.  I have an MBA and also work with entrepreneurs and small businesses.

My Coaching Style

My style of coaching comes from a variety of sources.  My business background, my training as a therapist, my spiritual background and being a stay at home Mom all contribute to how I coach. I have a degree from seminary, am a certified Gestalt Practitioner and also have certifications and training in life and relationship, leadership and entrepreneurial coaching from the Hendricks Institute. I use a variety of techniques including cutting edge, whole body, whole mind technics which fall into what is referred to as somatic or body centered coaching.

How Do You Find a Coach That is Right For You?

In seeking a coach I recommend having a trial consultation preps to determine if you and the coach are a good fit for each other.  With so many different styles of coaching and so many ways of working with people, the most important ingredient in working with a coach is that you both feel comfortable with each other.