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Therapist VS Life Coach

What is the difference between a life coach and a therapist? I get asked this question quite often. Here's the best way I know to explain it. These are typical or general ideas of what the differences are. NOT set in stone and not ALL of what a therapist may do and not ALL examples of what coaching is. Just a few to help you get a better understanding.

I recently had an introductory session with a young woman who was interested in hiring me as her coach. We began our conversation with me introducing myself and congratulating her on taking a big step in following through with her session. Believe it or not, not everyone values my time the way that I do theirs so I always make it a point to offer a sincere smile and gratitude when people show up, not only for me but for themselves. After speaking with this young woman for about 5 minutes she revealed that she had been through much trauma in her life. I won’t go into all of the details but there were some traumatic experiences that she had been through that would leave your average person broken. It became very apparent to me that she had not overcome her traumas and that her past would hold her back from the opportunities my coaching had to offer. As we were coming to a close she revealed she had contemplated hurting herself. If the other flags were yellow, this was definitely a red flag and my cue to find out if she had a plan (she did not) and then to encourage her not to not hurt herself, recommend a therapist, or even to call 911.

Believe it or not this is not uncommon that people come to me with things in their lives that would require therapy rather than a coach. While I would LOVE to be able to help everyone, there are just certain things that are out of my professional expertise.

You see, therapy is something that I take very seriously and if you are contemplating hurting yourself or have traumas, for example a physical or emotional abusive relationship, drug or alcohol abuse, a turbulent childhood that you keep referring to and are stuck there, you would benefit from therapy. Therapists help people heal emotional wounds or manage mental illness.

Before we hung up I let her know that once she had dealt with the various obstacles that she’d mentioned and was ready to live the life that she deserved and wanted then I would like to work with her. But first she needed to do some work so that her past didn’t affect her future. If her traumas had been something we call inner blocks, gremlins or your inner voice (for example: I’m not good enough because of what I’ve been taught all my life, I’m not worthy, I don’t deserve to be happy, no matter how hard I try I keep failing) I could use some techniques to help remove those blocks. It doesn’t happen overnight but with daily practice and commitment it is possible to let someone see themselves the way they want to be seen. From there we could work on goals, building confidence so that they are successful. But if we keep coming back to the past and they just can’t get over that hump, I’d recommend therapy.

Just last year I lost my mother. While it is perfectly normal for one to grieve, especially after losing someone so dear as a parent, I was struggling to process my feelings and my grief turned into a bout of depression. Again, all normal but it wasn’t getting better. After not being able to or wanting to get out of bed, loss of appetite, major mood swings that I was having a difficult time controlling, I knew it was time for me to book a therapy session so that I could work through these emotions and so I could start to function again.

So, to sum it up, a life coach takes you from where you are and helps build confidence, build on success, encourages you so that you can be the best version of you and get to where you want to and deserve to be. A life coach helps to develop and then implement plans, helps you shift your thought process, helps you understand your value. A therapist helps you deal with hopelessness, constant worry, your past, depression, anxiety, family troubles etc. A therapist will sometimes take a look at why something may have happened to you. As a life coach, I focus on solutions and don't dwell on the past. I focus on how to help you move forward. Also, we will have a goal we are ultimately going to reach.

I hope this gives an idea of what coaching is and is not. I also hope that, if you are ready, you book a session so you can start living the life you want to live.

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