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Life coaching has become a very popular service that people are using these days.

But what’s the difference between life coaching and therapy?

There are a few main differences between coaching and therapy. One main one is accreditation. Therapists are licensed and provide mental health treatment for people with diagnosed mental illnesses. Coaches provide goal-oriented services that are not healthcare-related. 

It’s important to understand the difference between life coaching and therapy so you know what services you need.

Some people, if they can afford it, choose to see both a therapist and a life coach, but the goals are different. If you’re thinking about getting a life coach or entering therapy, do your homework. Find out what makes the most sense for you.

What’s the Difference Between Life Coaching and Therapy?

Coaching vs. therapy – what’s the difference? There are a few big ones. First, there’s accreditation. Coaches are certified, therapists are licensed. Therapists manage mental illnesses and diagnoses, coaches do not. Coaches work with clients for short periods of time. Therapists can work with clients for long stretches. Often therapists are focused on the past and present, while coaches are future-oriented.

Let’s get into more differences between life coaching and therapy. We’ll start with life coaches.



Coaches meet their clients in the present moment and focus on the future. They clarify goals, identify obstacles, and create action plans. Coaches are not medical or healthcare professionals. They don’t have the credentials or accreditation to provide mental healthcare. Coaches focus on how to reach a goal. Their process is oriented towards action and results.



Therapists, on the other hand, tend to work with clients for longer periods of time than life coaches do. The relationship is different between therapist and client than it is between coach and client. The therapeutic relationship is one of the most important parts of therapy. It can take a long time to build trust and a sense of safety. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right therapist.

Therapy tends to focus on the past while moving towards a brighter future. Therapy is introspective and often less goal-oriented than coaching. Therapists work through emotions, behaviors, and thought patterns with their clients. They usually focus on why things are the way they are.

Session Structure

There’s also a difference in the structure of sessions. Therapy sessions vary depending on the needs of the client and the type of therapy that the therapist practices. Coaching sections are goal-oriented and focused on moving forward. Both therapists and coaches ask their clients questions. Therapists tend to ask more open-ended questions that may lead to new discoveries. Coaches ask questions that will lead to a goal-oriented, future-oriented answer.

Another difference is that therapists and coaches offer very different services. Many therapists accept insurance for their sessions. Coaches don’t provide mental health services and can’t bill for insurance. Some therapists are private pay only, but all coaches are out-of-pocket pay.

What Are the Similarities Between Coaching and Therapy?

Both life coaching and therapy can be provided as 1:1 services. However, therapy may also include families, partners, and groups. Some coaches provide group services. These are different than group therapy because they aren’t process-oriented. Group coaching sessions are still goal-oriented sessions.

Therapy and life coaching also require a working relationship between the client and the provider of the service. However, coach/client relationships are usually much shorter lived than therapist/client relationships, and therefore are not as deep or as nurtured as a therapeutic relationship. Even so, many coaching clients share personal things with their life coaches. 

Clients seek both coaches and therapists to work on themselves. People who hire life coaches want to achieve certain goals or work on their mindset. Those who attend therapy want to work on themselves, heal past traumas, and work with a licensed professional on managing their mental health challenges.

Both therapy and life coaching can include goal-setting in their practices. Coaching is all about creating goals, while therapy isn’t always. But there are some forms of therapy, such as solution-focused therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) that have clear objectives and goals.

Mental Illness

When Should You See a Therapist?

If you have a diagnosed mental illness, are dealing with extreme stress and overwhelm, lack clarity in your life, or are healing from past trauma, therapy could be right for you. It’s difficult to manage depression or anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on your own. You need a licensed professional to help you process your challenges and work through the reasons you went to therapy in the first place. You should seek therapy if you want someone licensed by the state you live in to listen, ask questions, and walk with you on a journey of recovery and healing.

When Should You See a Life Coach?

If you want to work on your mindset or meet your goals, hiring a coach could be the right move. Life coaches and business coaches are two types of professionals that can help you with that. Maybe you have financial goals you want to achieve. Perhaps you want to work on your money mindset. Maybe you’re starting a business and need a business coach to guide you through the process. Hiring a life coach is a good idea if you have specific goals you want to attain.

Differences In Accreditation and Services

Accreditation is a major difference between coaching and therapy. While coaches undergo some training and receive a certification, therapists go through years of training and supervision to become licensed in a particular state.

One of the differences between life coaches and therapists is that therapists can only see clients who live in the state in which they are licensed. Coaches can meet with anyone, anywhere.

As has been mentioned before, therapists provide mental health services. Coaches do not. As a result of their training, therapists can diagnose and treat many mental illnesses. Coaches are not able to provide mental health care or diagnose someone. Therapy lasts as long as it needs to, while coaching is usually short-term.

Coaching vs Therapy

How To Decide Between Coaching and Therapy

The question of coaching vs. therapy can be difficult for people to know the right answer. Some choose both if they have the means. But not everyone can afford a therapist and a coach.

One way to know whether to choose coaching or therapy is to identify your goals. If you want to work on one specific thing, like changing your mindset around money or achieving milestones in your business, coaching is probably the right answer. Short-term work with a coach is something that’s helpful for many people.

If you’re looking for longer-term care for mental health reasons, therapy is the right answer. You can still work on goals with your therapist, but that’s not the only reason to seek therapy. And if you do have goals you wish to work on in therapy, they’re probably different than goals you would identify with a life coach.

Therapy Options

Next Steps

If you want to discuss seeking therapy to manage your mental health needs, we are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation today.


  • I absolutely love Well Clinic! From the beginning, my husband and I felt like we were in a comfortable and safe space.

    Our couple’s therapy bridged gaps in our relationship and helped us understand each other that much more.

    Ivette B

  • Well Clinic is an oasis, especially for busy professionals like me.

    It’s a relaxing and safe space, nothing like the stuffy or drab offices you’d expect when going to a therapist.

    Brianna S

  • Well Clinic’s inviting and professional design makes me feel comfortable and at ease, which probably benefits the work I am doing.

    In fact, it doesn’t really feel like a therapy clinic at all, which I find awesome.

    Jim M


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