NHC Article: Eight Differences Between Psycho Therapy And Life Coaching

Eight Differences Between Psychotherapy And Life Coaching

Therapy or which is more 

appropriate for you?

Wanting to make changes in

your life and wondering what path you should take? This article by Christina Demeester will help clarify the difference

between the two strategies.


People have often asked me what the difference between Life Coaching and Psychotherapy is. Psychotherapy (sometimes just 'therapy' or 'counselling') refers to rehabilitation, treatment, healing, and so on. Coaching refers to teaching, guiding, helping, and/or supporting individuals to use their gifts more fully or to reach their potential faster, sooner, and/or in a better way.

There are a number of significant differences between these two helping professions. For the purpose of this short overview, I will limit my list to eight key distinctions.


1. Coaching Focuses on the Future, While Therapy Deals with the Past
As a general rule, the focus in coaching is definitely the future while in therapy the focus is most often the present and/or the past. In coaching the clients usually want help, guidance, and support on their journeys toward their goal, while in therapy the clients very often want to understand or become more conscious of what is going on now by reflecting on the past.

2. Their Main Intentions
The primary intention and desirable outcome of life coaching is definitely to help the client breach the gap between where s/he is now and where s/he wants to get and to improve the person's effectiveness in his/her personal and/or professional life while breaching that gap.

The main purpose of psycho therapy is a greater self-awareness, which might lead to deep and sometimes intense emotional experiences that demand skillful guidance from a well-trained and experienced therapist.

3. Coaching and Therapy often Geared to a Different Set of Clientele
Coaching is most often geared to highly functioning people, while therapy is more often geared to people with painful and/or unresolved issues. Indeed, usually people with a high level of energy and some untapped potential or people who feel they can and want to do more or better, hire a life coach, while people who seem to have lost their energy might hire a therapist in the hope to get some of their energy and effectiveness back. We could say that while therapy works at relieving pain and at restoring functioning in order to live a happier and more fulfilled life, coaching is more geared to attaining certain goals and desires in order to create that more desired life.

4. Coaching Is More "Doing" Oriented, While Therapy is More "Being" Oriented
Coaching is much more result oriented than therapy, which is more oriented to the state of being rather than doing. I like to call a life coach a great companion on our horizontal journey-going from point A (where one is now) to point B (where one wants to be)- while the psychotherapist is an excellent companion on our vertical journey-our journey inward toward a deeper level of understanding.

5. Referrals
It is not uncommon for a life coach to refer a client to a therapist, while it is quite uncommon for a therapist to refer a client to a life coach.

6. Relationship
The relationships between therapist and client and coach and client are very different from each other. In the therapeutic environment the therapist is the expert, while in coaching it is well understood that the client is the expert of his/her life. The coach is there mainly to help, guide, and support the client, and in some cases to be the shining light on his/her chosen path.

7. Location
Therapy sessions usually take place in the therapist's consulting room, whereas life coaching most often occurs over the telephone and very seldom happens face to face in the coach's office. As a result, coaching clients have a much bigger choice of professionals to choose from, if and when they decide to hire a coach, because distance is not an issue. Very often coach and client believe that having a phone session is much more efficient and effective than a session in person.

8. The Sessions Themselves
Therapy sessions are usually conducted during a 50- or 55-minute time slot, while life coaching sessions mostly happen within a 30- to maximum a 45-minute time slot. In therapy most of the work is done during the 50 to 55 minutes in the therapist's office, while with life coaching most of the work is done between sessions.


After reading this brief overview about some differences between these two helping professions, you might ask yourself: "Who do I hire if and when I am ready to live a happier, better balanced and more fulfilled life?" A short answer to this question is: "It depends!" And what does it depend on?

I believe that it does not depend as much on who you are, or what kind of personality you have, as it depends on your circumstances and your priorities at the time in your life that you are looking for some professional help.

Christina M. Demeester, B.A. Consciousness Studies, M.A. Transpersonal Psychology, Certified Life Coach, founder of New Empowering Ways and co-founder of The Canadian Centre for Professional Coaching in Toronto, is dedicated to teach and coach singles and couples on how to live a healthy, harmonious and fulfilling life. She conducts one on one individual coaching sessions as well as group sessions and retreats in her private summer home in the Muskokas or within your preferred environment.



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