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Blog > Coaching vs. Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Coaching vs. Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Should you see a therapist, a coach, or both? Coaching serves those seeking better performance and outcomes, while therapy serves those seeking to better their mental health and explore their personal history. Here are the different ways in which coaching and therapy typically differ.
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If you’re seeking mental health care, you’re not alone. As more and more people around the world experience anxiety in the wake of COVID-19, the stigma of asking for help has nearly disappeared. According to CNBC, the global telehealth market, beyond just therapy, is projected to reach $312 billion by 2026.

Yet, you may be unsure about where to seek support. Should you see a therapist, a coach, or both? Individuals who already have a therapist might be curious about how a life coach could improve their well-being. Those who don’t need a therapist may feel that they don’t need a coach either. However, it’s important to understand that there are many differences between coaching and therapy. Don’t assume that you can’t benefit from working with a life or career coach, either as a supplement to therapy or as an undertaking removed from therapy altogether.

Coaching serves those seeking better performance and outcomes, while therapy serves those seeking to better their mental health and explore their personal history. While there might appear to be similarities between therapy and coaching, the basis, experience, and outcomes can be very different.

Here’s how the coaching and therapy experiences typically differ from one another and how coaching can help you achieve your life and career goals in ways that you may not examine or address in therapy.

Coaching and Therapy Akin to Basketball

You might not be familiar with coaching in adulthood, but you are probably familiar with sports. Think of coaching and therapy like you might think about the physical therapist and coach for your favorite basketball team. A basketball player has both physical therapists and coaches on their team, doing very different jobs. The physical therapist helps the players recoup and heal from past injuries, while the coach helps the players increase their skills and follow a strategy on the court to win the game. Neither professional can effectively nor safely do the other’s job.

The same holds true for business professionals. While a therapist can help their clients explore their past and move forward from emotional trauma, a coach is focused on helping clients build the skills to optimize their future.

The Benefits of Coaching That Often Can’t Be Found in Many Types of Therapy 

Business publications such as Forbes and CNBC discuss the best reasons to hire a coach and offer clear guidelines to help their readers determine whether to seek care from a coach, a therapist, or another professional. Here are three major benefits of coaching that clients typically don’t experience in therapy.

  1. A Coach Can Help Guide You to Your Next Career Move.

Many people find that coaching greatly benefits their career, and there are many life coaches from an array of industries who can support clients in developing the skills they need to meet their goals and optimize their futures. Typically, clients struggling to make their next career move can learn to develop better focus and goal-setting skills from a coach so that they are in a better position to make the best choices to achieve the future they desire.

2. A Coach Can Help You Develop Tools Directly Related to Your Goals.

A coach can help you develop the skills and strategies necessary to reach your own goals. Whatever that goal is, a coach can help you identify potential areas of growth to work on and cultivate the necessary skills to give you the greatest chance of achievement.

Let’s say you need to work on goal setting, either in your personal or professional life, to reach the next step of your career. A coach could help you improve your soft skills to become a better leader in the workplace or a better family member or partner in your personal life. Whatever the case may be, a coach can help you identify those areas to work on and provide you with tools to improve your future.

  1. A Coach Focuses on Helping You Optimize Your Future.

Don’t want to dig up past mistakes and failures? No problem. A coach typically helps clients approach problem areas in their lives by focusing on the future and empowering them to meet their goals. A therapist, meanwhile, is often more likely to spend time analyzing their client’s past and present conditions.

Recall the analogy of a basketball player. That basketball player’s physical therapist will treat their current condition while keeping their past injuries in mind. Meanwhile, the coach has March Madness on their mind and wants to help the player make it to the Final Four and win the National Championship.

Sometimes, You Need Both

For some people, a coach isn’t sufficient for helping them improve their performance in life. After all, how well would a basketball player perform if they were going into March Madness with multiple untreated injuries?

While coaching can benefit anyone who is serious about reaching the next goal in their life or career, coaching doesn’t provide what therapy can. For example, therapists focus on rehab, support, and healing, while coaches primarily focus on helping clients make changes in support of their optimal future. Therapists also focus on mental health and the treatment of mental health illnesses and disorders; meanwhile, coaches are not qualified to offer clients this kind of support. Therapists often focus on helping their clients navigate emotional conflicts, while coaches draw out insights and different options for a client to consider with a focus on actionable steps to overcome obstacles and achieve goals in their life.

So, for some clients, both a therapist and a coach are necessary for overall happiness, wellbeing, and success.

How to Know if You’re Ready for a Coach

If you still aren’t sure if a life coach is the right option for you, you can ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Are you ready but struggling to take your life or career to the next level?
  2. Are you looking for support and accountability for your challenging plans?
  3. Do you need objectivity to help you understand how to make tough decisions?

If so, now might be the perfect time to work with a coach.

The Bottom Line

While there might appear to be similarities between therapy and coaching, the basis, experience, and outcomes can be very different. Coaching does not serve those in need of mental health care; it serves those who want to focus on goals and performance. Coaching sessions are action-oriented and forward-thinking. Results go past wellbeing, towards high achievement and peak performance.

If you are interested in making changes that could help you optimize your future, Arootah offers coaching services to support a range of needs.

Our Executive Coaches support leaders in making decisions, navigating new professional terrains, and effectively managing their teams. Similarly, our Career Coaches position professionals to help them reach the next stage of their career, no matter where they currently find themselves.

Life Coaching focuses on broader needs and goals, helping clients find balance, harmony, and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives. For those who want to focus primarily on leveling up their health habits, Arootah offers Health Coaching.

For those who don’t need one-on-one support and are seeking a community of achievers, Arootah offers unique Group Coaching.

Learn more about the best coaching service for your needs and sign up for a free introductory coaching session today. 

Did you have any misconceptions about coaching and therapy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be taken as professional medical, psychological, legal, investment, financial, accounting, or tax advice. Arootah does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or suitability of its content for a particular purpose. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read in our newsletter, blog or anywhere else on our website.

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1 year ago

Nice basketball example. Totally makes sense. When I was a kid I had both to help me excel in sports. So why not now?