“Coaching is not intended as a substitute for psychological counseling, therapy, or professional health care advice.”
This is a critical and often overlooked point. Not only is coaching a different discipline than psychology / therapy / counseling (I’ll just call it “therapy” for the rest of the post), they have very different licensing requirements. By different, I mean that while psychologists, therapists, and counselors are all required to be licensed, coaches are not. While there are trade groups, coaching as an industry is almost completely unregulated. As if all that isn’t strange enough for fields that look so similar, there’s lots of disagreement about how different the fields are, and when each is useful and recommended.
I have had numerous coaches and therapists over the years. I found both experiences to be valuable and worthwhile, and believe in both of them. For me, coaching is primarily results focused. I work through barriers and issues as they relate to the things I want in life, whether it’s tripling my business or a deeper connection with my family. There isn’t a lot of processing in it, and it’s focused on action and solutions. My work with therapists has usually been focused on healing the demons inside of me, and working on things like feelings of never being good enough or anxiety.
There is a lot of overlap, of course. I worked with a therapist for a year during a relationship that was failing, and while much of the work was focused on my emotional well-being, we were clearly working toward a result: a relationship that worked (spoiler alert: no amount of coaching or therapy could save that one). When working with my coaches, I always have the experience of being heard and understood, and the work has reaped growth in my confidence, self-love, and ability to deal with frustration and anger.
I don’t believe that one approach is better than the other, but I do find them to be different. I find coaching to be more focused on elevating and evolving performance, and therapy to be more focused on my emotional well-being.
Your mileage may vary.
Don’t just take my word for it, here are two differing perspectives on the comparison between coaching and therapy / counseling.
The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy is Greatly Overstated ~ Psychology Today
Counseling vs. Life Coaching ~ Counseling Today