Coaching vs Therapy

Coaching vs therapy

Coaching vs Therapy 

The most common question I get as a Coach is:

“Lydia, should I get therapy or coaching?”

As someone who has been through both, as someone who has experience as  a Positive Psychology Coach, and finally as someone who has conversed with and researched field experts, I present to you my findings below:

A. Similarities

  • Both methods are based on an ongoing, confidential, one-to-one relationship between the therapist or coach and their client.  
  • Both focus on personal development & creating awareness through meaningful, non judgemental dialogue. 
  • In both cases, clients want to change – something. (Hart, Blattner, Leipsic 2001)


B. Differences

1. Focus 

  • Therapy focus: Past, present & mental health

During therapy the individual will be invited to deep-dive into memories, emotions and behaviors of the past as well as the present. The client engages into meaningful dialogue with their therapist in order to invoke awareness. This awareness will then enable the individual to identify and accept (painful) experiences, in order to subsequently allow emotional healing.  Treating a mental illness is exclusively under the jurisdiction of therapists/mental health experts. However, suffering from a mental health condition is not the only reason for someone to opt for therapy. Therapy is still considered taboo and it shouldn’t be. Imagine, if you have a toothache you go to the dentist, when you have a psychological ache” you go to the therapist. It’s that simple.

  • Coaching focus: Present, future, wellbeing & goal setting

During a coaching session, the focus lies in the present and future. The client is considered a healthy, resourceful and creative individual. Someone who does not need healing. Someone who’s experiences -good and bad- have made them into who they are and armed them with several tools and insights. During a coaching session, the coach will ask the client powerful questions to invoke awareness – yes, just like therapy. However, in this case this awareness will be used to address current and future challenges. More specifically, to help each individual identify and remove obstacles, achieve their goals and increase their overall happiness and productivity.

2. Credentials

  • Therapists

For someone to become a therapist, they need to go through a specific line of training, supervised practice hours and maintain certain ethical and professional standards. Then and only then, they get their license to be able to practice.

  • Coaches

For someone to become a coach, they can just go ahead and call themselves a coach. Unfortunately, coaching is not regulated yet and there is no formal licensing requirement. However, plenty of coaches do pursue coaching training to become certified and meet professional and ethical standards. It’s up to you to find a coach who is qualified according to your needs and preferences. Two of the top coaching organizations are the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as well as the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (among others). In order for a coach to be ICF or EMCC accredited, they need to go through rigorous training programs, proven coaching hours and comply with global regulations and ethical standards. I have chosen the ICF path, having completed an accredited program on Positive Psychology Coaching.


C. Should I opt for therapy or coaching?

I can assure you that both can help you get to a better place. However, there are some distinctions. If you feel that you are in emotional distress or having an emotional health concern, it is advised that you opt for therapy. 

However, as mentioned above, therapy is not solely to treat mental illnesses. 

Situations you can explore with your therapist are:

  • You feel that there are unresolved issues of the past, hunting your present
  • You feel depressed and/or helpless
  • You want to address your relationship with your parents
  • You want to improve your relationship with your partner (couple’s counseling)

Situations you can explore with your coach are:

  • You want to take the next step in your life (e.g. career or relationship decisions) 
  • You feel the need to discover your values and who you really are (not what others want you to be) 
  • You would like to learn how to set boundaries
  • You have a goal you want to achieve (e.g. create a healthy habit, work-related goal)
  • Increase your self-confidence 

I hope after reading this post, you have some more clarity as to how coaching and therapy could help you. If you are into science you can check this research paper, to get even more answers: “Coaching versus therapy: A perspective”. 

If you are into exploring whether coaching is what you need right now, you can book a complimentary call with me to discuss your needs further.

Whichever path you choose, you will realize the great benefits of self-development and growth –  as long as you are willing to put in the work.

Book a 30-minute complimentary call