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Woman sits with journal contemplating therapy and coaching

The Difference Between Therapy and Coaching


If you're like many people, you may think that coaching is a type of psychological therapy. However, coaching is not the same as therapy. In fact, it is actually a unique service intended to help people overcome their personal challenges so that they feel fulfilled and successful. Here's what you need to know about coaching and therapy and how they differ.

What is Therapy?

Also known as psychotherapy or counseling, therapy involves a healthcare professional working with a client on a long-term basis.  Therapists diagnose and then resolve a client's behaviors, feelings, and problematic beliefs.

The basic concept behind therapy is examining particular past life issues and traumatic experiences of clients so that their self-destructive actions can be changed, and their relationships can improve by working through painful emotions and feelings. Hence, it is more introspective and analytical, dealing more with a person's past in an effort to give them more stability and a sense of better mental well-being.

What is Coaching and When is it Used?

Even though coaching is similar to counseling, it doesn't deal with the pathological or negative features of everyday life. Instead, it focuses more on a client's specific abilities and strengths they can learn to utilize in innovative ways.  As a result, they can feel better about themselves and grow in many different ways.

There are various types of coaches who work with a wide range of organizations and businesses. Besides being used in private sessions, coaches are common in business organizations and schools. There are also health coaches who provide services at worksite wellness programs.

Coaching Focuses on the Future

Unlike therapy, coaching deals more with the "here and now." After helping clients recognize their obstacles, coaches then work to help devise a plan of action. Rather than being healthcare or medical professionals that render mental healthcare service, coaches focus more on showing their clients ways to achieve their goals. In other words, they are more action-oriented and goal-minded.

Differences in the Structure of the Sessions

Another basic difference between coaching and therapy is how the sessions are structured. While therapy sessions depend on a client's needs, along with the particular therapy that a therapist uses, coaching sessions are more concerned with moving forward and setting goals. Also, coaching sessions involve asking specific questions designed to help clients discover more about themselves, while therapy sessions entail asking questions that are more open-ended.

Goal Differences

Another key way that therapy differs from coaching is in their goals. The goal of a therapist is to help their clients understand and explore both their subconscious and unconscious minds. Its goal is to better understand how their behavioral patterns affect mental health. Therapy and counseling are extremely useful for treating anxiety and depression.

But the goal of a coach is to help clients become "unstuck", being more concerned with actions and getting positive results. A coach measures the success of a client by checking certain behavioral results. 

Duration of Services

The period of time for services is also a major difference. For example, therapy is usually much longer-term as it's common for people to continue with it for several years. Some people even keep going to therapy throughout their entire lives. Coaching is designed for clients to learn how to eventually coach themselves instead of relying on a coach in future situations.

Other Considerations and Thoughts

  • Unlike therapists who diagnose pathologies and illnesses, life coaches don't diagnose their clients.

  • Despite their differences, there are some similarities between coaching and therapy. For instance, both of these services are designed to help clients change their lives by making positive changes and becoming more productive.

  • Many people benefit from both services.

The Bottom Line

  • Coaching is an ideal option for personal growth.

  • Coaching can be done online or in person. 

  • Coaching sessions can be one-on-one or in a group setting. 


If you need support with your goals, Aspyn Coaching is here to lend a hand. We provide on-demand video coaching sessions specifically designed for mental wellness.
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