• Molly Arnall

COACHING VS. THERAPY - WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

This is one of the most commonly asked questions when speaking with prospective clients about coaching, so I’m going to break it down for you here. One of the main misconceptions about coaching is that it is therapy in disguise, or even worse, therapy from an unlicensed healthcare practitioner.


While it is true that both therapy and coaching are designed to facilitate positive change in clients’ lives, there are distinct differences that should be noted. Let's dive into it.

The American Psychological Association defines psychotherapy as a service provided by a trained and licensed professional that includes diagnosis and evidence-based treatment modalities. Dictionary.com defines therapy as the treatment of disease or disorders, by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process. Simple, right? In layman’s terms, therapy also referred to as psychotherapy or counseling, addresses a wide range of diagnosable mental health concerns. These include depression, anxiety, or grief largely due to past traumas. A therapist will diagnose and help resolve problematic beliefs, relational issues, feelings, and sometimes physical symptoms as well.


Therapy is a practice based on a medical model that focus on past issues that are causing problems in the present. It helps the patient work through the painful emotions they are suffering from. Therapy focuses on the why. Why does someone feel and act the way they do? It helps a client go through self-reflection and self-discovery to understand their current emotions and behaviors.

Coaching, on the other hand, is defined as a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the "here and now" rather than on the distant past or future.


It facilitates self-discovery and sees the client and their personal experiences as their own best resource for progress. It invites the client to take meaningful action to explore the path of, "what's possible"? Coaches and the client act as thinking partners to determine how to not only start down that path, but continue on it.


Rather than following a medical process, certified coaches adhere to core values and ethical principles follow must be consistent with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). These are guiding ethical reflection, education, and decision-making, to ensure integrity in their practice.


Coaching is all about identifying and clarifying current problematic behaviors, beliefs, obstacles, blind spots, and issues to move forward and positively impact your mindset and future. Coaching tackles the how. How to move forward from the problem. How to put an action plan in place. How to take the next steps to reach your goals. How to see your life from a different perspective. It’s an investment into your future, personal growth, and professional development. A commitment to yourself.


Simply put, coaching is a technique that aims to find your hidden potential and give you all the necessary tools to develop and grow. It’s about setting actionable steps to help you progress forward.

Both coaching and therapy are incredibly beneficial. Both services tackle complex issues and provide a safe environment to let clients explore openness and honest communication. It’s tackling vulnerabilities and is a lot of hard work, so it's a personal decision when deciding to seek out either support system because both will challenge you to think and feel differently. If you’re unsure which service will benefit you, consider the following.


If you’re experiencing painful emotions from past traumas, want to understand destructive relationships, need to work through depression or anxiety, or have survived the loss of a loved one (relationally or physically), then therapy may be the path to explore.


If you’re looking to articulate and achieve goals, improve communication, leadership skills, manage work-life balance, mentally challenge yourself, or improve personal development, then I’d suggest coaching.


Additionally, coaching and therapy can work hand in hand. By taking steps to understand why you are the way you are you can heal old wounds. Then, you're able to continue challenge yourself further to move past those issues to move forward and improve all aspects of your life. They are both long-term commitments to your personal development that are designed to support and encourage you!

If you are interested in learning more or think you may benefit from coaching please reach out to one of our coaches for a free connection call.


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