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  • Laurie Teixeira and Jari de Jesus

Mental Health Therapy VS. Coaching: What Is It You Need?

mental health therapy vs. coaching

Therapy may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of getting help from a trained expert to improve your emotional and mental health or life and develop as a person. However, in recent times, the idea of hiring a life coach has likely also come up in conversation.

Many people mistakenly believe that life coaching is really just a cover for therapy, or even worse, therapy from an unqualified individual. In truth, life coaching is essential, especially for those who want to obtain results that would bring them happiness and success in some facets of life.

Life coaching and therapy serve different purposes, and it's crucial to recognize their differences before seeking help.

What Is Mental Health Therapy?

Mental health therapy, also known as counseling or psychotherapy, is when the client and therapist work together throughout several sessions to identify and address the root causes of the client's emotional, behavioral, relational, and even somatic distress. Therapy aims to address underlying problems and traumas to break destructive patterns, mend broken relationships, and cope with uncomfortable emotions. In this view, therapy involves:

  • Looking backward.

  • Engaging in self-reflection and analysis.

  • Working to improve one's present and future conditions.

What Is Life Coaching?

Life coaching involves a client working with a coach to define success criteria, brainstorm solutions to problems, and develop new habits and routines. The primary difference between a therapist and a life coach is that the latter accepts the client's current situation as a sufficient neutral ground and proceeds from there with a greater emphasis on action. With the help of a life coach, a client is better equipped to take charge of their situation and make positive changes.

Difference Between Mental Health Therapy and Coaching

Below are some distinctions between mental health therapy and coaching.


Coaching typically entails brief sessions between a coach and their client. Client sessions with therapists might last for quite some time. Coaches tend to look toward the future, whereas therapists tend to focus on the past and its impact on the present.

On average, a therapist's time spent with a client will be more extensive than that of a life coach. Therapists and clients have a distinct dynamic from coaches and trainees. Many people continue with therapy for many years, sometimes the rest of their lives.

The primary function of a life coach is to equip clients with the tools and framework they'll need to become their own coaches in the long run, distinguishing them from traditional therapists.

There is a time limit on life coaching services. Therapists, through psychosocial evaluations, determine the root causes of the client's emotional, behavioral, relational, and even somatic distress, so they can receive clinical treatment to improve these areas, but life coaches do not do this.

Sessions or Program

One of the key distinctions between life coaching and traditional mental health therapy is the latter's emphasis on the client's mental health.

While the goal of therapy is improvement in the present and anticipation of a better future, the past often serves as a helpful starting point.

When compared to coaching, therapy is more inward-looking and less results-oriented.

During therapy sessions, therapists help clients work through their feelings, thoughts, and actions. Typically, these discussions examine the root causes of observed phenomena.

But coaches are there for their clients right now, with an eye toward the future. Life coaching focuses on what needs to be accomplished, what needs to be avoided, and how to get there. The method is outcome and action-driven.

Life coaches help clients pinpoint and define specific negative behavior patterns during their sessions. To better comprehend the client's current actions, therapists often look at the client's background.

While therapists investigate the "why" behind a client's actions, coaches teach clients "how" to achieve their objectives.

The therapist will inquire about your internal experiences and how they have shaped your outlook. Though these ideas may come up in the context of dismantling limiting beliefs and analyzing your blueprint, the primary emphasis of life coaching is on the here and now and the future.

Therapists and coaches both use questioning to gain insight from their clients. Therapists are trained to ask more exploratory questions that may lead to wisdom. A coach's questions are designed to elicit a response that focuses on the future and helps the individual reach their goals.


Life coaching, like therapy, typically includes meetings between the client and an expert in the field. That's about where the parallels in their structures begin and finish.

There is greater flexibility in therapy sessions, with the client and the modality serving as the primary guides. Sessions with a life coach are more organized and goal-oriented, emphasizing taking measurable steps forward.


When comparing coaching with therapy, it's crucial to remember that the latter aids clients in delving into and making sense of their inner worlds and psyches. Ultimately, it promotes good mental health by helping people gain insight into their habits and routines. For this reason, therapy and counseling can help address mental health concerns, including sadness and anxiety.

Getting "unstuck" is what life coaching is all about. Action and results are the focus of life coaching.

Key performance indicators and measurable behavioral outcomes are the yardsticks by which life coaches evaluate their client's progress. On the way to realizing your ambitions, they will assist you in developing smart objectives, provide support in the form of accountability, and applaud your successes.

When Should You See a Therapist?

Many people potentially benefit from therapy, including those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness, are under a great deal of stress and anxiety, are unsure of what they want out of life, or are trying to recover from trauma.

Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are difficult to cope with. If you want to progress in therapy and overcome the difficulties that brought you there, you need the help of a competent professional. Therapy is an excellent option if you need an empathetic ear, some probing inquiries, and a companion as you return to health.

When Should You See a Life Coach?

Hiring a coach could be the best option if you want to improve your mental game or complete your objectives. Experts like life coaches and business coaches can assist you in this endeavor. It's possible that you would like to improve your finances, or you may want to establish your own company. Then, you could benefit from the advice of a business coach.

You may also want someone to help you achieve specific goals around career, love, family, health, and fitness. Hiring a life coach is a fantastic option if you want to get somewhere and need help.

How To Decide Between Life Coaching and Therapy

It can be challenging for individuals to decide whether they would benefit more from coaching or therapy. If they have the means, some people opt for doing both. However, only some have the financial means to pay for therapy and coaching.

Goal-setting can help you decide between coaching and therapy. Therapy is the best option if you need ongoing support for your mental health. The treatment process can still include goal-setting sessions with your therapist. And if you do come into therapy with specific goals in mind, they will likely seem different from the ones you would discuss with a life coach.

Coaching is an excellent choice if you want to focus on a single area of improvement, such as altering your outlook on money or reaching specific business goals. The majority of people benefit from working with a coach for a limited amount of time.

Don't hesitate to schedule a consultation session if you feel you could benefit from some direction or coaching in a certain area of your life.

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