What’s the Difference Between Life Coaching and Therapy?

Life comes with ups and downs – the reasons why our lives are so rich, diverse and full of the unexpected! – but there are times when it feels that the pace of change is too fast. Or conversely, that change isn’t happening fast enough. Seeking help is not uncommon but which is best to go for, therapy or life coaching?

Today, there are more options for people seeking help with making changes or understanding the ‘how and why’ of life.

There are counsellors, for example, trained therapists who work with people to move beyond blocks and sticking points.

And then there are life coaches, people who help others with skills and thinking to get past blocks in life.

life coaching group session.

Because both sound similar, it can be difficult to know whether you need a therapist or a life coach. It often comes down to personal choice as well as whether a therapist or life coach can think they can help you.

For example, for some mental health conditions, treatment will need to be a combination of medical and talking therapy, something that a life coach may not feel they can help you with just yet.

There are other times, such as when someone is feeling anxious or depressed, that working with a life coach is a great move. For example, if a client knows the root of their anxiety and wants help to get passed it.

But how do you make the choice between a therapist and life coach? Is one better than the other?


Thankfully, we are starting to recognise and talk more about mental and emotional health. But there is still a lot of stigma in seeking help and doing so publicly.

Life coaching is insulated from stigma and is seen as a positive step, not necessarily linked to ‘poor’ mental health. Many people see their therapist or counsellor without telling people, scared perhaps of the judgement they face.

Having said this, there are times when the deep, personal and sometimes difficult journey to improving your mental health is best taken with the help of a qualified counsellor.

Regulations and qualifications

Therapists and life coaches can charge a similar hourly fee, upwards of £30 in many cases. But this doesn’t mean that the qualifications are the same…

  • Life coaching – unregulated

On first reading, learning that anyone can call themselves a life coach is disconcerting. This means, surely, that quality and standards of practice can’t be vouched for?

However, there are many more highly qualified life coaches with memberships of professional coaching bodies than there are people ‘masquerading’ as a life coach.

Life coaches are driven people with high standards of self-regulation. Ask about their qualifications and life and/or professional experience.

  • Therapists – regulated

Most therapists are regulated and must meet so many hours of practice each year, along with professional supervision, very much like the self-imposed conditions for life coaches.

Again, check for qualifications and membership of professional bodies but don’t assume that this alone signifies a high standard of practice.

Goals and outcomes

Typically, people see a therapist or a counsellor when they have a mental health issue. They want to feel better about themselves and function better too.

Counselling is a journey of self-awareness, painful and slow at times, but euphoric at others.

Life coaching tends to focus on the now and the future, whereas counselling can delve into the past and the closed boxes of the mind.

There are times when this is the right thing that needs to be done but for some people, it is the future that is more of an issue.

Thus, asking yourself what are your goals and outcomes? What is it that you want? By answering this question, you may find the choice easier.

Scope of practice

It may be that you don’t have to decide between one and the other – maybe you need both! Maybe you do need to look back in order to achieve the goals you have set for your future.

Counsellors and other therapists will often work with specific issues, such as substance abuse, grief and loss, trauma or other difficulties.

Life coaches work with people who are ‘healthy’ but not reaching their full potential. They will rarely touch on specific mental health issues, understanding that their scope of practice is not within these realms.

Why not learn more about life coaching with an online course? Or why not see if counselling is the option for you?

Collaborative post. NCC Home Learning is an online provider of high-quality distance learning courses covering a range of topics, including life coaching and related skills.
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