At least once in our lifetime, we all face challenges that require the help of a professional. By explaining what we feel and experience, the emotional and mental pain diminishes, and you will be guided accordingly through expert advice. The question now lies on whether we need to go to a therapist or a life coach.
Life coaches are commonly mistaken as quack therapists or unlicensed practitioners. Although life coaches and therapists often assist clients with the same struggles, their work differs from each other. It is vital to distinguish the difference between the two to get the appropriate professional help.
What They Do
Therapists are healthcare professionals who diagnose and help resolve negative thoughts, behavior, feelings, and issues within relationships. On the other hand, life coaches help clients determine their goals, identify where problems usually arise, and create action plans to realize their goals.“Life coaching helps you identify and change those areas of your life which you find unfulfilling or unsatisfactory,” said psychotherapist Norman Munro.
Therapists focus on the previous traumatic experiences and issues of patients to help understand the past and create a better future. Life coaches, in contrast, take the clients’ current state as a starting point to take control of their lives and go forward. Therapists seek to know why specific behavioral patterns occur while life coaches focus on how to set and achieve a goal.
What They Need To Have
There are set standards for therapists and life coaches to distinguish how different the requirements are for the two. These include formal education, license as a prerequisite, code of ethics, scope of practice, location and format, and fees and coverage.
A therapist needs at least 6 years of formal education, which consists of a 4-year college degree and at least 2 years in graduate school. They are licensed and regulated by the state in which they practice with proper training and continuing education. As Patricia Ravitz, MFT, puts it, “Once you complete all the education and training involved to be a therapist, you become a different person. You’re transformed.” A life coach does not need a college degree but is encouraged to obtain certification through an accredited life coaching program.
A licensed therapist becomes eligible to take the licensing examination after earning a masters or doctorate and undergoing at least 2 years of supervised clinical internship. A life coach does not need a license nor any level of training. Anyone who intends to be a life coach can do so as the industry is currently unregulated.
A therapist must adhere to a code of ethics, unlike a life coach. However, life coaches who are members of the International Coach Federation (ICF) do have these ethical standards to follow. Regulatory boards like the Board of Behavioral Sciences exist to help therapists maintain their license to practice, investigate complaints, and lay down disciplinary measures if necessary.
Some of the most common challenges clients face that are encountered by therapists include:
- Mental health conditions
- Substance abuse
- Relationship issues
- Grief or loss
Meanwhile, life coaches work not only with individuals with mental health issues but also anyone who needs life coaching techniques to reach their full potential.
Therapy usually takes place in an office setting, with sessions typically going on for about 45 to 50 minutes a week. It is crucial to note therapists can only operate in the state where they are licensed. A growing number of therapists have also been offering sessions by phone or online, but these depend on state regulations.
Life coaching sessions most often take place over the phone but can be done online or in an office setting. Coaching services are available on any channel such as mobile phone, video chat, email, or even text message due to the lack of regulations and standards in the industry.
In terms of fees and coverage, life coaching usually varies in pricing, which means it could cost less than a therapy session or considerably more. The worth of therapeutic services depends on the cost of living, the number of therapists in a particular state, and its population density.
Therapists tend to charge according to sessions while some life coaches set their price as packages, ranging from 6 weeks to more than 6 months. Health insurance often covers therapy. Therapists can use reimbursement codes for the treatment of specific mental health problems. In contrast, this does not apply to life coaches as they do not assign diagnoses.
In the end, both therapists and life coaches help clients in making positive changes in their lives. As what Marcia Naomi Berger, MSW, LCSW, said, “Practitioners in both disciplines may be good listeners, supportive, and encourage clients to set goals.” They may differ in their focus, approach, educational background, and scope of practice. But these should not be a big deal. What matters most is that people get help to grow, deal with their problems, and become more emotionally stable.