The Difference Between Coaching And Therapy by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

A coach is a trained professional who works one-on-one or in groups with individuals who are interested in making a change in their life. Coaches focus on assisting people in reaching their personal and professional goals through confidential interactions that include specific questioning techniques, the use of assessment tools, and the ability to listen and respond to their clients.

While therapists also work one-on-one or in groups with clients, and they also use questioning and discussion, the role of a therapist is very different than that of a coach. Therapists do assist in making changes for their clients, but these changes are focused on mental health and addressing specific emotional challenges.

The changes that coaches focus on with their clients are personal or professional goals. For example, a coach may work with an executive in becoming a more effective communicator or developing a more effective leadership team within an organization. Coaches also work with executives on bringing about change in organizations and developing workplace culture, protocols, or practices.

Life coaches work with individuals on personal issues, but they are not mental health issues. Life coaches help people to make transitions in their life including making career choices, managing a transition from work to retirement, assisting in developing more effective communication with family members, or planning for major life changes.

Supporting Goals and Changes

While therapy typically looks at the past and how it impacts the present, the focus of coaching is in understanding the present and making changes for the future. It is about assisting clients in clarifying and setting specific goals, which may be personal or professional, and then developing a strategy to achieve those goals.

During the coaching relationship, the coach provides feedback to the client during their confidential discussions. This feedback can challenge the client to look for patterns in his or her behavior and then capitalize on what is working while making changes to avoid things that are not effective in achieving their goals.

The coach is also trained in asking questions to assist the client in developing personal insight. Coaches operate from the belief that people know the answers to their challenges, but they may not have the ability to recognize their knowledge. Questions are instrumental in providing a space for the client to discover the best way to move forward.

Finally, the coach acts as a champion for the client. A coach supports the client’s progress and holds up a mirror to reflect the positive changes and the progress made in achieving both milestones and big goals.