• Duygu Ustun Under

Do I need a coach or a therapist?

Updated: Nov 20, 2018


You have decided that you need some support, maybe some help to put things together in your life. But you do not know from whom. It might be confusing to decide whether you need a coach or a therapist.


Although, coaching and therapy share some common techniques and methodologies, they differ in several different ways.


Coaching focuses more on your present-self and your future-self that you want to be. Therapy focuses more on your past and present.


ICF (International Coach Federation) defines coaching as a partnership between the Coach and the Client in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the client to maximize personal and professional potential whereas therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy, is defined by Tony Robins as a long-term process in which a client works with a healthcare professional to diagnose and resolve problematic beliefs, behaviors, relationship issues, feelings and sometimes physical responses. The idea behind therapy is to focus on past traumas and issues to change self-destructive habits, repair and improve relationships and work through painful feelings. In this sense, therapy focuses on the past and on introspection and analysis.

Coaching focuses on setting goals, self awareness, discovering strengths and obstacles to create action plans to achieve desired results.

Coaching works between today and tomorrow.


Bill Cole explains;

How Therapists and Coaches Differ

Keeping in mind that contrasting lists such as these can be overly sweeping, and not entirely explanatory of the subtleties that exist, here are some of the differences between coaching and therapy.


COACHING is an educational, discovery-based process of human potential.

THERAPY is based on the medical model that says people have psychiatric maladies that need to be repaired.

COACHING focuses on self-exploration, self-knowledge, professional development, performance enhancement and better self-management.

THERAPY seeks to heal emotional wounds.

COACHING takes clients to the highest levels of performance and life satisfaction.

THERAPY seeks to bring clients from a dysfunctional place to a healthy functioning level.

COACHING rarely asks about your childhood or family life.

THERAPY continuously explores early-childhood, family and relationship issues.

COACHING uses the terms blockages and obstructions to denote what needs to be removed.

THERAPY uses the term "pathology" to describe the "patient's" issues.

COACHING focuses more on the present and future.

THERAPY focuses more on the past and present.

COACHING advances the client's potential.

THERAPY "cures" the patient.

COACHING is used by people who already are succeeding, but who want to succeed even more and at a faster rate.

THERAPY is used by people whose lives are not working.

COACHING focuses more on thoughts and behavior and how the client acts and thinks about things.

THERAPY focuses more on emotions and how the client feels about things.

COACHING comes out of the human potential movement and the performance world.

THERAPY has its roots in the medical model.

COACHING focuses on solving problems in the now.

THERAPY explores the historical roots of problems.

COACHING works with the client's conscious mind.

THERAPY focuses on bringing the patient's unconscious mind into awareness.

COACHING focuses on creating the future.

THERAPY seeks to heal the past.

COACHING seeks to bring more power, control and joy to the client.

THERAPY seeks to remove the client's pain.

COACHING assumes a co-equal partnership between coach and client.

THERAPY assumes the therapist to be more of the expert, and in control.

COACHING has strategies and objectives.

THERAPY has a treatment plan.

COACHING asks "What is next?"

THERAPY asks "Why"?

COACHING helps clients design their lives.

THERAPY resolves issues.

COACHING takes an active, energetic approach.

THERAPY takes a more passive, reflective, background approach.

COACHING focuses on what is possible.

THERAPY focuses on what is the problem.

COACHING is goal-oriented, solution-focused and results and action-oriented.

THERAPY mainly seeks to increase patient insight, yet some therapists are solution-focused.

COACHING may also utilize feedback from bosses, peers and subordinates.

THERAPY usually involves only the patient and therapist.

COACHING takes the client from where they are and helps them move forward.

THERAPY examines unfinished emotional business from all stages of life.

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