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You’ve decided to invest your time and money into improving yourself and your life situation. Do you need a life coach or a therapist?

Well, as with most things, it depends. It depends on a lot of factors. We all need a little help sometimes. And it’s important to choose the right kind of help for your specific issues and what you’re hoping to get out of it.

So here’s what you need to know before reaching out.

What is Life Coaching?

I get this question a lot from people who are curious about life coaching or working with me, and they’ve never worked with a life coach. They usually know about therapy from personal experience, from friends or family going to therapy, or from seeing it in movies or TV shows (remember Frazier or even the Sopranos).

Life Coaching can be therapeutic, but the two professions are very different. I like to describe life coaching as a partnership with the life coach asking insightful questions that clients wouldn’t ask themselves, so that aligned and helpful answers can come to light. I believe you know yourself best, you just need a little help in the form of coaching questions and other support to experience that clarity or a-ha moment where things begin to make sense and can begin to change.

Life coaches also help you evaluate your current situation so you can get crystal clear on your true desires and goals. They encourage your progress, and provide you with accountability, support, structure and tools so you can produce your desired results more quickly and efficiently.

How is Life Coaching Different from Therapy?

The Core Difference

Most therapy involves a diagnosis of some mental or psychological disorder – a problem that needs to be treated because it’s disrupting one or more areas of your life. Life coaching typically takes someone who is already functioning well, but may still be suffering, and helps them to develop and grow to the next level.

When my Mom died expectedly I found a therapist to help me with that tremendous loss. I continued to function at work well, but my personal life was disrupted by my grief and sorrow; I didn’t think I would ever get past it. I needed support to work through the depressing thoughts and to function in this new world without my Mom. Therapy was the best choice for me at that time.

Past, Present, Future

Another difference is that therapy typically goes into depth about various issues, usually dealing with the past so that you can function better. And life coaching focuses primarily on the present and future and is more action-oriented and results-driven.

Types and Specialties

There are various types of therapy, like talk therapy, psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. There are also specialties within life coaching based on the coach’s skillset, training and experience.

In my life coaching business, I work with hard-working professionals dealing with a lot of stress and pressure (like me when I worked in my corporate HR job). I combine life coaching tools, like what I call thought-healing (or what others call mindset or mindfulness), and I combine it with my specialty, energy work, that is very effective at getting to the oftentimes hidden, or subconscious, root cause of what’s preventing you from achieving your goals. We meet weekly or biweekly for consistency and momentum, and before long goals like reducing stress, feeling better, improving relationships, or having more fun in life are achieved.

Sessions

Lastly, sessions with a life coach will feel a lot different than ones with a therapist. Life coaching provides structure and accountability while therapy is more open-ended.

In my coaching sessions, I combine inner (energy) work and outer work – but there’s an underlying structure tied to the client’s prioritized goals. This structure helps us celebrate successes and progress, and discuss challenges or unhelpful blocks slowing down progress. And in each session there’s always homework for the client to accomplish between sessions.

So, Which One Is Best For You?

Do you need a life coach or a therapist? Actually, you don’t have to choose, if you need both. I have life coaching clients who are also actively in therapy, that’s perfectly fine. I’ve also had clients who I referred to other professionals, including therapists, for more specialized support.

The most important message here is to get help. I’m a big proponent of getting help rather than suffering alone. Especially in the challenging times we’re living in, life can be hard.

Some of us grew up being taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness and have a hard time with it, but you must push past that limiting belief for your health and wellbeing. It’s that important!

Over the years, I have had a hard time seeking out help, but I’ve come to learn and now know that most people love to help other people. It’s unhealthy to suffer for long periods of time, thinking whatever you’re grappling with will get better on its own; it usually won’t. There are resources out there for you, you just have to find the best one for your specific needs.

If you’re not spending time investing in your mental and emotional health, with a life coach or a therapist, you will not only continue to feel terrible but you’re blocking your ability to be the best version of yourself, in your personal life, your relationships and in your career.

Do you have any questions about life coaching not answered above? Drop them in a comment below.