Should I work with a Coach or Therapist? What’s the difference between coaching and therapy? How do I pick? And does it even matter?
All the distinctions between the various coaching and mental health professionals can make you go cross-eyed 🤪. Between their education, their degrees, their certifications, their titles and the letters after their last name, or the letters on their LinkedIn (What do PPC or ACC mean again?) — it can be exceptionally confusing. Let alone talking about the nuances between a life coach, a business coach and a leadership coach. Or the differences between a psychotherapist, a therapist and a clinical counsellor.
Before we dive into the differences, let’s talk about the similarities.
- Both coaches and therapists are trained professionals with a goal to help their clients
- Though the term coach gets thrown around loosely these days, like therapists, true credentialed coaches are trained & deeply experienced professionals
- Like therapy, coaching can feel therapeutic. You can get a release, feel a sense of calm and it can reduce stress
- You pay for their professional services in order to learn about yourself, better yourself and improve your quality of life. Unlike a much more casual mentorship relationship
Now, the differences:
- A therapists purpose is to serve as your Mental Health Care Practitioner
- Therapy (psychotherapy) and counselling tend to treat a problem. Therapy helps you understand or uncover a traumatic past experience that is influencing their life and livelihood
- Therapy is often treatment based in a response to a diagnosable mental health issue. Think depression, bi-polar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, adjustment disorder, etc. It is often in-depth and can be used in conjunction with medication
- Therapy has been around a lot longer than coaching. Coaching as an industry was formalized about 40 years ago and is now hitting its stride. Coaching is scientifically understood and a proven resource for introspection and personal & professional growth
- That being said, as a profession in its infancy, the coaching industry is highly unregulated. This makes vetting coaches on your own more difficult (psst - let us help). Therapist have required education, a minimum requirement of supervised practice, a licensing board and governing body.
Generally, therapy is focused on problems rooted in the past to restore health in the present. Whereas coaching is action-orientated, as well as both present and future-focused.
Therapy takes someone from negative to zero or neutral. Coaching takes someone from zero to positive, or increases already positive development.
Therapy is a vehicle to restore health. Coaching is a vehicle for growth in all areas of life. Therapists work with the unconscious mind; Coaches work with the conscious mind.
While Coaching and Therapy are distinctly different, there are professional overlaps.
Like in any profession, someone can be trained in multiple disciplines. In fact, many therapists and counsellors, have sought out coaching training and certification.
Working in this space for over a decade, I have witnessed an increasing trend in professionals moving from what we call 'reactive care', to 'proactive wellbeing' modalities like coaching.
As our Coaching Ecosystem grows, we see an increasing amount of certified coaches come to Sphere who were previously trained and working as therapists or counsellors. Coaches like Beth, Ranbir, Kiran and Kevin.
This layering of training and experience gives these professionals depth, range and even deeper insights that benefit them in their coaching work.
Our goal in exploring this here is to help you make an informed decision between the many professionals capable of helping you. Both a therapist and a coach have the potential to be effective.
This is why some people have both a therapist and a coach. Lives are a medley of healing and perseverance. I think in some cases people are called to therapy because they have heard that "it's a great way to understand yourself". Coaching can do that too. Therapy is typically a resource if you need to heal and understand something so you can return to a healthy baseline. If you want something more future-facing & action-orientated, coaching might be a better option.
Overall, our intent isn’t to tell you, “If you’re dealing with X, you should seek out a Y.” Because quite frankly, it's up to you to determine.
At Sphere, though we have many Guides who are both trained therapists and coaches, we specialize in offering coaching experiences and are definitive about what that means.
If you believe you are in need of medical support, a prescription or diagnosis, Sphere is not the appropriate support system. Please contact your doctor or mental health care practitioner, or if you are in crisis call your local emergency services.
PS - If you've read this piece and think coaching is something you'd like to try, start for free here. We will not auto-enrol you. Have your first time sessions for free with any coach. When you're ready you can explore our memberships.