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Coaching Vs. Therapy

Coaches and therapists share a common goal: to help their clients improve well-being and achieve their personal and professional goals. While their approaches often cater to different needs, it’s not uncommon for an individual to work with both a coach and a therapist for various aspects of their lives. The choice between coaching and therapy depends on the individual’s specific requirements.

Live Coaching Vs. Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Coaches and therapists share a common goal – to enhance well-being and outcomes for those they serve. Some therapists are also coaches. Some coaches are also therapists. Deciding which is the best fit for the client depends on their current state of functioning and their needs and goals. Keep in mind, the same client may work with a therapist and a coach to address different needs and goals – if the client’s clinical issue is well-managed. The therapist may work with the client to address the clinical issue, such as depression, while the coach works with the client around goals that matter to ongoing progress, such as finding clarity around career direction, or building job or academic skills.

Here’s an overview of the primary differences:

Functioning on the Wellness Continuum

Think of wellness on a continuum with the mid-point as 0 representing normal functioning. Negative numbers are to the left of 0 and represent dysfunction. Positive numbers are to the right of 0 and represent thriving. Therapy addresses dysfunction with the goal of bringing clients back to normal functioning (0). Coaching takes functional clients from 0 into positive numbers to thriving. Therapy tends to be a better fit for those experiencing moderate to severe levels of distress or dysfunction because therapists have the clinical training, qualifications, and government sanctions to diagnose and treat issues that would otherwise interfere with the client’s progress. Coaches who have completed an accredited professional coach training and certification program (credentialed coaches) may also serve as an early intervention support for those who are experiencing low levels of distress or dysfunction.

Credentialed coaches are qualified to help functional clients take a proactive role in their lives, to begin setting and working toward goals to learn to thrive by doing, because we all hit setbacks in life. If we accept just okay (normal functioning) we remain consistently at-risk of falling into dysfunction and dependence. If we remain proactive, working toward thriving (positive numbers) and hit setbacks we’re still better than okay. We’re also better equipped to bounce back and continue the forward momentum.

Addressing Client Needs

Whether a person should pursue therapy or coaching comes down to their individual needs:


  • The patient is struggling with dysfunction related to psychological issues, concerns, or symptoms that interfere with daily tasks.
  • The patient needs help coping, alleviating pain, or managing distress related to trauma, disorders, or illness.
  • The patient wants to work through the problems and get back to normalcy.
  • The patient is looking for a mental health professional to help them overcome and live well again.


  • The client is functional and does fine with daily tasks. They are considered psychologically normal and cope well enough.
  • The client wants to be better, grow, or set and achieve higher goals.
  • The client wants to improve performance, relationships, or life satisfaction.
  • The client is looking for a success partner to help facilitate the next level of growth, advancement, or change.

Coaches and Therapists Promote Thriving Together

Therapists often refer clients to coaches as a next level of support. Therapists help clients get back to normalcy and begin moving onto thriving. Coaches can pick up the work from there to support clients as they continue to set and achieve meaningful goals and build skills for ongoing success.

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