What’s The Differences Between a Life Coach and a Therapist?

Do you understand the differences between a life coach and a therapist? Many people don’t. Let me clarify it for you!

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery and transformation often involves seeking guidance and support.

In the realm of personal development, two professions that frequently come into focus are life coaches and therapists.

Both play vital roles in facilitating growth and well-being.

Understanding the distinctions can help individuals choose the right path for their unique needs.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a life coach and a therapist so you can be sure to make the best choice for you.

The Differences Between a Life Coach and a Therapist

At its core, therapy tends to delve into the past, exploring deep-seated issues and traumas to promote healing.

Therapists, often licensed mental health professionals, employ various therapeutic modalities to address:

  • mental health conditions
  • emotional struggles
  • relational challenges

The focus is on understanding, processing, and resolving issues rooted in the past.

On the other hand, life coaching primarily looks to the future.

Life coaches collaborate with clients to:

  • identify goals
  • overcome obstacles
  • create actionable plans for achieving desired outcomes

While therapy may address mental health concerns, life coaching centers around personal and professional development, empowering individuals to unlock their full potential and life’s purpose.

For more information on finding your purpose read Finding Your Why: A Guide To Developing Your Purpose.

Empowering Forward Momentum: How a Life Coach Can Help You Transform

Consider a scenario where an individual feels stuck in a repetitive cycle, yearning for a transformative change.

A therapist might explore the origins of these patterns, seeking to understand the root causes and promote emotional healing.

In contrast, a life coach would work collaboratively to set specific, measurable goals, identify limiting beliefs, and create strategies for forward momentum.

For someone seeking to unearth their true purpose, a life coach becomes a strategic ally.

Through targeted questioning and reflective exercises, a life coach helps individuals articulate their aspirations, values, and passions.

Learn how to Turn Your Passions Into A Purposeful Life!

By crafting a roadmap and providing ongoing support, a life coach facilitates the process of aligning one’s life with their authentic purpose.

Let’s consider an example: Sarah, a professional feeling unfulfilled in her career, desires a profound shift towards a purpose-driven life.

A therapist might explore past experiences influencing her career choices.

A life coach would focus on clarifying her values, strengths, and aspirations.

Together, they would design a step-by-step plan to transition towards a career that resonates with her authentic self.

Life coaching is represented by a butterfly to show transformation and the difference between a life coach and a therapist

Differences Between a Life Coach and a Therapist:

1. Time Orientation:

   – Life Coach: Primarily future-oriented, focusing on setting goals, creating action plans, and achieving desired outcomes.

   – Therapist: Often past-oriented, delving into historical issues, traumas, and unresolved conflicts to promote emotional healing.

2. Scope of Practice:

   – Life Coach: Works on a broad spectrum of life areas, including career, relationships, personal development, and goal achievement.

   – Therapist: Specializes in mental health, addressing specific diagnoses and emotional well-being within the context of psychological disorders.

3. Client Focus:

   – Life Coach: Typically works with clients who are functioning reasonably well but seek improvement, growth, or change in specific areas of life.

   – Therapist: Often works with clients dealing with mental health conditions, emotional distress, or significant life challenges.

4. Approach to Challenges:

   – Life Coach: Takes a proactive and solution-focused approach, guiding clients in overcoming obstacles and creating actionable plans.

   – Therapist: Explores the root causes of challenges, with a focus on emotional exploration, understanding, and healing.

5.Duration of Engagement:

   – Life Coach: Engagements are often shorter-term, focusing on achieving specific goals within a set timeframe.

   – Therapist: Engagements can be longer-term, especially in cases of chronic mental health conditions or complex emotional issues.

6. Educational Background:

   – Life Coach: Certification in life coaching or related fields, often based on practical coaching skills and personal development expertise.

   – Therapist: Typically holds advanced degrees (Master’s or Doctorate) in psychology, counseling, or social work, with specialized training in therapeutic techniques.

7. Crisis Intervention:

   – Life Coach: While supportive, not trained for crisis intervention or managing severe mental health emergencies.

   – Therapist: Equipped to handle crises, with training in crisis intervention and dealing with acute mental health issues.

8. Depth of Exploration:

   – Life Coach: Focuses on achieving results and forward momentum, emphasizing actionable steps and practical strategies.

   – Therapist: Explores deeper emotional and psychological layers, aiming for insight, self-awareness, and healing.

9. Role in Decision-Making:

   – Life Coach: Collaborates with the client, offering guidance and tools for decision-making, but the client retains ultimate responsibility.

   – Therapist: Provides insights and interpretations, often guiding decisions through a therapeutic lens, with an emphasis on the therapeutic relationship.

10. Professional Regulations:

    – Life Coach: Generally, there are fewer standardized regulations or licensing requirements for life coaches, contributing to a diverse range of coaching approaches.

    – Therapist: Typically subject to state or country licensing boards, ensuring adherence to ethical standards and established therapeutic practices.

These differences highlight the complementary nature of life coaching and therapy, each offering unique strengths based on individual needs and goals.

If you wish to research hiring a therapist, read How Do I Find A Good Therapist? from the American Psychological Association.


 What is life coaching, and how does it differ from therapy?

 Life coaching is a collaborative process that focuses on setting and achieving specific goals for personal and professional development. Unlike therapy, which often explores past issues, life coaching is future-oriented, aiming to create actionable plans for success.

How can a life coach help me in my personal and professional life?

 A life coach can provide support, guidance, and accountability as you work towards achieving your goals. Whether it’s navigating career transitions, improving relationships, or enhancing overall well-being, a life coach helps you identify and overcome obstacles.

Is life coaching only for people facing challenges or can anyone benefit from it?

Life coaching is beneficial for anyone seeking positive change, growth, or transformation in their lives. Whether you’re facing specific challenges or simply aiming for improvement, a life coach can help you unlock your potential.

What types of goals can I work on with a life coach?

 Life coaches can assist with a wide range of goals, including career changes, personal development, time management, stress reduction, relationship improvement, and goal setting in various areas of life.

How long does a typical life coaching engagement last?

The duration of a life coaching engagement varies based on individual needs and goals. Some clients may achieve their objectives in a few sessions, while others may benefit from a more extended engagement.

What can I expect in a life coaching session?

Life coaching sessions involve collaborative discussions where the coach asks powerful questions, explores your values and aspirations, and works with you to create action plans. Sessions are typically focused on forward momentum and accountability.

 Do life coaches provide advice or therapy?

Life coaches do not provide therapeutic interventions or offer advice in the traditional sense. Instead, they guide you through self-discovery, helping you find your own solutions and strategies.

How often should I have sessions with a life coach?

 The frequency of sessions depends on individual preferences and goals. Some clients prefer weekly sessions, while others may choose bi-weekly or monthly engagements. Consistency is key for progress.

Can life coaching be done remotely or online?

Yes, many life coaches offer remote or online coaching sessions through video calls, making it convenient for clients to engage in coaching from anywhere.

Is life coaching only for individuals, or can it benefit couples or groups?

Life coaching is versatile and can be adapted for individuals, couples, or even group settings. Coaches can tailor their approach to address the unique dynamics and goals of each situation.

I hope this helps you understand the differences between a Life Coach and a Therapist.

If you are interested in life coaching, or just have some questions, contact me or check out my True North Transformation Program.

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