Coaching Q&A: What’s the Difference Between Coaching and Therapy?

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Today I’m answering one of the most common questions I get about coaching:  What’s the difference between coaching therapy?

I think Martha Beck gives the best answer to this question.  She offers this analogy:  Therapy is to life coaching, what a physician is to a personal trainer.  A physician takes someone who’s physically unwell and gets them back to good health.  A personal trainer takes someone who’s in generally good health and helps them maximize their fitness and reach new heights in terms of their physical capabilities.

Similarly, a therapist helps someone who’s mentally unwell get back to a state of wellness.  A life coach helps someone who’s generally in good mental health maximize their personal and professional potential, and live their most joyful and fulfilling life.

I’ve worked with both therapists and life coaches in my own life.  During the hardest time of my life – the nervous breakdown I experienced in 2018 – I worked with both. 

And here’s what I can tell you about my experience: 

Therapy helped me work through some trauma I had experienced in childhood that was still having a draining impact on my life.  It was like working with wounds that had never been cleaned out. 

My therapist not only helped me clean out those old wounds, but she also helped me heal them.  It was dark and messy and hard and emotionally taxing, but the process was enormously helpful in taking me from a pretty broken state back to a place of wholeness.

My life coach, on the other hand, helped me focus on the light.  Like my therapist, she helped me shift many of my limiting beliefs, but in a different way.  Rather than digging into the deep wounds of my past (which was necessary, but dark and hard), we did lighter exercises that were more fun and creative.  She also helped me start dreaming again and seeing the possibilities in my life at a time when it was hard for me to see past the dark place I was in.  

So to sum it up, in my experience, therapy helped me work through and shed the darkness, while life coaching helped me discover the light and follow that path! 

If you need help finding the light…following the light…and/or staying in the light, let’s chat!  I would love to help you walk the path toward your happiest life and highest potential!  

Book a free Meet & Greet call with me here:

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