Finding the right support for yourself is important. Unfortunately, people can get discouraged spinning the wheels of time and money on their quest for help. There are many articles and videos on the internet that address the common question: What is the difference between coaching and therapy? Despite my own training and experience, I find the answers to this question leaving even me confused. Hopefully this will help guide you in the direction that is best suited for you at this moment in your life.

“But wait – she’s a coach. Of course she’s going to recommend coaching,” your thoughts snicker. It is true. I do have my preferences and we should always consider ours and others’ biases. I like to think that I do my best to remain objective and honest. I hope that regardless of what you agree with, or don’t, that at least some piece of this helps you to find your Self. That is always my truest intention.

Bottom Line

Traditionally, people seek coaches for support towards achieving a specific goal, such as finding a job, improving their physical health, or increasing their job performance. People typically seek therapists for support with their mental health and relationships. This dynamic is rapidly changing, though, as the coaching field is evolving while I type this.

The bottom line is that both coaching and therapy can be therapeutic. They are both designed to help people overcome challenges in their life in order to create the changes they wish to experience.

In some cases, one is a better option than the other. In other cases, having both a therapist and a coach can be a great combination. Either way, the key is really about finding the person who you best connect with, has the training and experience that’s important to you, and is aligned with your values.

Training and Experience

Therapists are trained to work with people who have mental health conditions that can be diagnosed and treated. They’re also trained to analyze and assess your situation. They are often seen as experts in their field and have graduated from an accredited institution. They can specialize in a host of areas, such as depression, trauma, relationships, or family.

Coaches can go through training and accreditation, but since they are not legally regulated, there are no requirements. There are accredited institutions, such as the International Coaching Federation, that require coaches to be trained and maintain their accreditation with ongoing learning and evidence of their adherence to coaching ethics. Coaches also tend to specialize in specific areas, which can range from trauma to relationships to coaching corporate executives, artists, or start-up businesses. 

Some coaches and therapists have real-world experience that may speak just as loud, if not more so, than their training. There are excellent coaches who aren’t trained and mediocre coaches who are. There are mediocre therapists with PhDs and incredible therapists still in training. It’s also true that two clients can have wildly different opinions about the same practitioner. One can find the same coach or therapist to be incredible, while another person can walk away feeling disappointed.

What’s most important is that you do your best to know what you’re looking for or needing. If you aren’t sure, then try someone out. If they aren’t a good fit, now you are one step closer to knowing what you’re looking for.

Fees and Insurance

The field of therapy is highly regulated by the state, the therapist industry, and insurance (if the therapist accepts insurance). If a therapist doesn’t accept your insurance, you can likely still see them. Coaches do not accept insurance.

There are many coaches who charge about the same, or less, than a therapist. There are also many who charge far more than therapists. The fact that therapists can accept insurance, can greatly help with cost. While coaches do not accept insurance, some of them charge a “sliding scale,” where they will consider your income in relation to your fee. 

I recommend that you do not use insurance for your mental health (if that is financially possible for you). At least with the way the U.S. system works, insurance companies will only pay for services that are considered “medically necessary.” This has created a system where therapists are encouraged to diagnose their clients with some type of “disorder” or disease in order to get paid by your insurance. This is creating a pandemic of hyper-diagnosing, which is problematic on so many levels. It also increases referrals to psychiatrists for prescribed drugs, which numb our body’s natural way of delivering information to us for being able to heal ourselves.

This is not to say that there aren’t times where this is beneficial, but it is best that people are aware of this dynamic so that they can make their decisions with full awareness.

The good news is that therapists can choose to not accept insurance, and there appears to be a growing number of those who either allow you to see them without insurance or who flat out refuse to work with insurance companies for this very reason. 

If you seek a therapist and can afford it, opt to not use your insurance so that the therapist can ideally remain unbiased and simply focus on supporting you over diagnosing you. If you must use your insurance, do your best to go into that relationship with this dynamic in mind.

While you can find plenty of articles from therapists and coaches making the case for their field, this specific issue pertaining to the insurance industry is not currently one that many are discussing. To make it easier, here are a couple articles for you to learn more about this issue:

Reasons to Not Use Insurance for Mental Health Treatment

Should All Us Therapists just Quit and Become Coaches?

It’s Personal

Your mental, emotional, and spiritual health is unique and personal. Finding a qualified coach or therapist is one really important determining factor for your journey to overall health and life satisfaction. Your connection and relationship with them is another important factor. The other, extremely important, ingredient is your willingness to do the work necessary to experience the changes that you seek. Ultimately, how you show up to this relationship will determine what you get out of it.

Just like dating – you won’t know until you get out there. Then, you find out what you like and need through experience. I encourage you to keep a positive mindset so that if you happen to have a disappointing or mediocre experience, remind yourself that you’re learning what works for you. And what works for one person, may not work for you.

My mother taught me that if you can find one good thing in every relationship, in every experience you have, then it was worth it. Even if 99.9% of it was what you don’t want, there’s one gigantic take away – you are one step closer to knowing what you do want. Which, is ultimately one step closer to knowing yourself better. After all, isn’t that the point of all this anyway?

Just like anything in life, there is no 100% guarantee that any of it will work. But, when it does, it can truly transform your life.

Read more about how you can increase your success with Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Coaching Sessions.



Text or Call (714) 388-6179