There are a lot of comparisons made between therapy and coaching. If you Google therapy vs coaching you will find many pro/con arguments in support of one or the other, as if there is a competition. It is my opinion that therapy and coaching can, and often should, co-exist. However, it should be noted that while a therapist may also coach clients, a coach, without the proper training, should not be practicing therapy.
When I worked as a therapist I often found myself coaching my clients towards their goals. I didn’t recognize the difference between coaching and therapy at that time but, in retrospect, I think I spent as much time outlining the steps to improving their lives as I did on the issues that brought them to my office. Although the issues of the past certainly figured into our work it seemed that the present, and more importantly the future, had the greatest opportunity for enhancement. I found myself most fulfilled when I focused on motivating my clients towards change. And I saw the changes that they made shift the course of their lives.
My clients were not in my office for simple, straightforward assistance. Theirs were complicated, life-long challenges that had blocked them from living the lives they desired. They functioned in a cycle of negativity and destruction. Time after time, however, I saw the work that we did together have a massive impact on having the life that they had always wanted to have. Were they “cured”? I am not sure how to answer that question although it’s been asked of me many times. All I can tell you is that they were more satisfied, more aware, more thoughtful and more motivated in their lives. I realized early on in my career that I was really a coach in a therapist’s office. The skills I have to coach people have carried me through several incarnations of my career through most recently my position as a HR Director. Being a coach though is my passion and I have now dedicated myself to it completely.
As a coach I would be very inclined to include therapy as part of a life plan if there are bona fide reasons to seek the support of a therapist such as a mental illness or emotional trauma. Given my experience as a therapist this determination would be relatively easy for me. This referral wouldn’t mean that coaching is unnecessary. Coaching involves creating a plan, taking action based on that plan and reaching the goals that you set for yourself. Therapy is simply a component of that plan for many of my clients.
So before you read the pro/con arguments to decide if you should seek therapy or connect with a life coach, think about this: do you want to focus on your past or your present? Do you trust that your life coach will recognize if therapy would be valuable for you? Does it really matter? You may meet a wonderful therapist that helps you to unravel all of the issues of your childhood and gets you on a path to living healthy – that is a great thing. You may also meet a coach who motivates you to outline a plan to creating lasting, sustainable changes in your life so that your childhood issues are exactly where they should be…in your past. If you really want to make a difference, find a coach, like myself, who has the insight of a therapist and the drive of a life coach. Either way, it will change your life.