Therapist Or Life Coach: Which Do I Need?

Life Coach, EFT, EMDR

A therapist deals with the treatment of mental and emotional disorders to help a person understand his psychological conflicts and emotional problems leading to personality growth and changes in behavior and attitudes.

Coaching deals with adjusting to life transitions, career changes, enhancing leadership and communication skills, and accountability for taking action.

Psychotherapy is performed by licensed mental health therapist.

Since Psychotherapy deals with a mental or emotional disorder it must be performed by a licensed Mental Health Provider, licensed by the state in which he/she practices. There are various licenses to do psychotherapy such as Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist, and Licensed Professional Counselor.

Psychotherapy consists of consulting with one of these Mental Health providers on an ongoing basis to remove whatever obstacles or problems a person is having. It often deals with habitual patterns of behavior such as withdrawal or submissiveness due to low self esteem, or aggression.

Coaching, also deals with improving a person’s life but it does not focus on deficits or diagnoses or mental/emotional illness, since a coach is not a mental health professional Instead it focuses on identifying the person’s strengths and helping to enhance them.

A Life Coach Focuses on Skills.

Generally coaching can help someone move ahead with goals by focusing on certain skills that the client is wanting to attain or improve. By using assessment tools to measure where the client is now, the coach and client develop a plan to reach the goal through small steps that the client will master.

I am a coach as well as a therapist and I often use assessment questionnaires that the client sends to people he interacts with at work and socially, to get objective feedback as to what skills need improvement. This assessment also indicates which leadership skills need developing.

Action steps are an important part of coaching


Once clear goals are established,each session sets forth action steps the client commits to perform. A session will consist of checking in the action steps from the past session to see if they were accomplished , or if they need to be refined, and the next logical step is set to be done the following week. A person is coached through these steps until he has accomplished his goals.

The coach acts as a mentor and will often send the client out to do research to gain information. For example if the client is trying to find his right career, the coach will have him interview 6 people who are involved in that career. He may also take “strengths assessments” as well as values clarification, and personality type indicators.

If the client can succeed in accomplishing the coaching goals then the process ends, or he may keep the coach for ongoing support.

Therapy may be needed.


There are situations when the coaching client is not able to succeed with coaching. Some examples would be that he is too depressed or anxious to carry out the action steps, or that he has an underlying fear of succeeding which is unconscious. A very common obstacle to success is the unconscious fear of achieving more than a parent. If these psychological issues are present the client will need to deal with and resolve them in therapy, or psychotherapy, as it is commonly called.

A good coach will be able to tell whether the client needs therapy and therefore to refer him out to a therapist.

Both therapy and coaching can be extremely helpful and can be used at different times in a person’s life.