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Therapist vs Life Coach: Which Is Right for Me?


Everyone comes up against challenges in their lives, some personal, some professional, and all poised to create problems. Some people look for ways they can solve these problems on their own. Other people look for a third party to help them.

If nothing else, talking with a third party about your challenges changes the way your brain processes the emotions and makes them less painful.

Two big options for a third party are therapists and life coaches. In the therapist vs life coach choice, which is right for you? Keep reading for pros and cons that will help you decide.

Benefits of a Therapist

One of the major benefits of a therapist is their training. Most therapists hold a doctorate or master's degree in psychology or a closely related field, such as social work. They take extensive classes, do supervised training, and many of them specialize in a particular area.

In addition, therapists are subject to legal regulation. They must maintain a state-issued license and are subject to professional codes of ethics. This means you can typically count on a baseline level of professional behavior.

Therapist Pitfalls

Most therapists will ask what you want from therapy and, to some extent, they'll focus on that. Yet, therapists may also focus away from that goal in favor of something they see as a more pressing issue. While this can support your long-term wellness, it may not always benefit your short-term or medium-term goals.

Benefits of a Life Coach

A life coach operates a bit like a cheerleader for you in that they're on your side and will encourage your current goals. They don't look for underlying factors beyond what's holding you back from your right now. They'll help you develop strategies to reach your goals or help you set goals.

A life coach also serves as a kind of accountability buddy who will ask about your progress.

Life Coach Pitfalls

The main pitfall with a life coach is that they are not subject to regulation at present. They don't need state licenses or even have a professional code of ethics. Most don't hold degrees in psychology or related fields.

In short, a life coach isn't qualified to diagnose if you have a serious underlying problem that requires therapy.

Therapist Vs Life Coach

Deciding between, "Do I need a life coach," and, "Do I need a therapist," takes a little self-assessment. You must ask yourself about your current challenges.

If your current challenge is seemingly endless sadness or depression that saps your ambition, for example, a therapist can likely do you more good. A therapist's main focus is your emotional and mental well-being.

If your current challenge is that you want to improve your work performance or secure a promotion, a life coach can likely put you on the right road in fairly short order. Coaches focus on more goal setting and goal achievement.

Looking for more tips on goal setting? Check out the articles in the Goals section on this site.

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