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Coaching or Therapy - What's the Difference anyway?


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Confused about the difference between life coaching and therapy? Trying to figure out which is right for you? This was a big question that I had when I started learning about life coaching, so I've combined what I've learned about coaching, with a bit of research and now I'm sharing it here with you! I've found that coaching and therapy serve different purposes, but it can get confusing because there is a little overlap. This post is going to be more informational than personal, but I think it’s really important if you are considering my, or someone else’s coaching services, to understand what life coaching is, and what it isn’t.


I like to think of them in the same way I think of the difference between a sports coach and a physiotherapist. A sports coach is there to bring out the best in athletes. A coach creates a personalized plan, provides accountability, support and encouragement. An athlete can probably reach some of their goals without a coach, but a coach will fast track results, as well as be able to give an outside perspective on strengths and weaknesses. The goal of coaching is to take someone willing to do the work to the top of their game. Qualifications for becoming a sports coach depend on what level of coaching you are doing. There are no specific requirements, but at the very least coaches need experience and knowledge with the sport they are coaching, and depending on the level of coaching you may need a bachelor’s degree in a related field.


A physiotherapist on the other hand is there to assess, diagnose and treat physical injury. Physiotherapists also create a personalized plan and may also provide accountability, support, and encouragement, but the focus is very specific to treating and healing the injury. Once the injury is healed, the physio-client relationship ends. Qualifications to become a physiotherapist are extensive and require at least a master's degree in physiotherapy. Physiotherapists are considered healthcare professionals and in Canada, they must pass a national exam to be able to practice. It is a highly regulated industry and requires being registered with an association.


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A life coach is like a sports coach. A life coach will help you make a plan to reach your goals in life. A life coach is there to bring out the best in their clients and help them reach their full potential. Just like how a sports coach will usually specialize in an area of expertise, life coaches will usually do the same. My area is helping people who want to change their relationship with alcohol, but other areas a life coach might specialize in include relationships, weight loss, healthy living, or careers and career changes. A good life coach can help you with any of these goals, but it certainly helps to find someone who has experience in the area you are looking to improve. Also similar to a sports coach, there are no special requirements to become a life coach. It’s an unregulated industry, which means that anyone technically could just call themself a life coach. However, there are many high-quality life coaching programs out there. You are taking a chance on hiring a coach without doing at least a little check on whether or not they have taken some certifications. Coaching programs help life coaches understand best practices, develop the skills needed to be a good coach, and provide them with tools and tactics they can then use to help their clients. A coach-client relationship often involves a coach using their own experiences to relate to and help their client. Many coaches also have other education, often in related fields. For example, I have a bachelor’s degree in English and psychology, a bachelor’s degree in education, as well as a master’s in education. There are life coaches who are also therapists, doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, if you can name it, you can probably find someone who is now a life coach. Some do both, and others like me are working towards a total career change.


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A psychotherapist, like a physiotherapist, is a healthcare professional who can assess, diagnose and treat patients. Where a physiotherapist treats physical injury, a psychotherapist treats mental and emotional injury. There are so many different kinds of therapy, that it would be difficult to list them all here, but in general, a therapist will assess your needs, diagnose where appropriate and then create a treatment plan. The treatment plan will vary greatly depending on the style of therapy, but the goal is always to help the patient heal. In a therapy-patient relationship, the therapist is generally viewed as a specialist or authority and the therapist doesn’t relate to a patient by sharing personal experiences. Qualifications to be a psychotherapist are extensive and require at least a master's degree. In Canada, psychotherapy is a regulated industry in some provinces, and working towards regulation in others.



To sum up, a life coach typically works with people who are functioning in their lives and helps them to function better, similar to how a sports coach brings out the best in an athlete. A therapist typically works with people experiencing some kind of dysfunction and helps them reach a place where they can function, similar to how a physiotherapist treats injury. Therapy is the best option if you need to explore problems from your past or are experiencing mental health concerns. Coaching is the best option if you are already functioning in your daily life, and feel like you are ready to become the best possible version of yourself.


If you've made it this far, and are looking for a life coach who can help you take control of alcohol so you can reach your full potential, click below to book a free discovery session so we can see if working together is a good fit.


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