What is coaching vs. therapy? It’s a question that comes up for both newer coaches and clients who are wondering whether coaching or therapy is right for them. For coaches, it’s important to be aware of our scope of practice, be aware of what coaching is and is not, and know how to set healthy boundaries with our clients, too! Keep reading to learn about these distinctions so you can confidently support your coaching clients and grow your coaching business!
Disclaimer: This content is not meant to be a substitute for professional legal or medical advice. Please consult your own legal counsel, advisory board, or other professional organization to determine legal and ethical boundaries within your industry.
Life Coach vs. Therapist: What’s the Difference?
There’s a common misconception out there that life coaching and therapy are basically the same thing, or that life coaching is a watered-down version of therapy, which couldn’t be further from the truth!
The thing about the coaching industry is that it’s currently unregulated… which means that anyone can decide to call themselves a coach and start practicing today.
While coaches benefit greatly from going through certification programs like the YES SUPPLY METHOD, they’re not legally required to do so in order to start coaching, but it helps them learn powerful techniques to work with clients and create subconscious transformation.
Therapy, on the other hand, has different regulating bodies in each state, province, or country… and usually requires a graduate degree and licensure.
While both coaching and therapy involve working intimately with 1:1 clients or in groups to address personal growth issues, the approaches tend to be different as well.
In therapy, clients seek your wisdom in healing.
In coaching, clients are guided to tap into their own wisdom to achieve their goals.
One way to think about it is that while therapy tends to be focused on healing or treating mental health issues from the past, coaching tends to be focused on creating your ideal life in the future.
(This is an oversimplification, as some therapists do tend to work with more goal-oriented modalities and coaches also help clients work through issues from the past… but it does help clarify the distinction.)
Beyond these distinctions, therapists are also often qualified to provide clients with diagnoses, and their services are often eligible to be covered in whole or in part by insurance providers. Coaches, on the other hand, cannot diagnose their clients, nor are they typically eligible to become credentialed by insurance companies.
Another distinction is that therapists CAN also practice as coaches… but coaches cannot practice as therapists.
However, therapists also have to follow certain ethical boundaries in order to keep their therapy and coaching work separate. For example, they may see a client as a therapist first and then as a coach once they have completed their time in therapy.
If you’re a therapist and you’re unsure what the ethical boundaries are around offering coaching, your best bet is to check with your licensing board.
What Does a Life Coach Do?
As a Mindset Coach, my job is to help my clients break through their limitations and create a future beyond what they ever believed was possible.
The guiding question that has driven the YES SUPPLY METHOD is this:
What would I ask for if I knew the answer would be YES?
This is the question that I have my clients answer for themselves to help them create a vision of their YES life.
Then, we can do the work to shift their limiting beliefs and help them step into the identity of the version of themselves who lives in that reality.
We avoid using words like “treat,” “heal,” or “cure” to describe what we do… that language is best left to therapists and physicians.
But what we do best as YES SUPPLY coaches is help our clients tap into infinite potential.
We help them see that they are capable of so much more than the limiting beliefs that they’ve been programmed with for their entire lives.
And we give them practical tools that they can use every day to uplevel their mindset, raise their vibration, and attract opportunities into their lives that are beyond their wildest dreams.
What Does a Therapist Do?
Therapists are licensed medical professionals who can evaluate, diagnose, and treat people with emotional and mental health issues.
There are many different kinds of mental health professionals who work as therapists — from psychologists to counsellors to psychiatrists and more.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can both diagnose patients and prescribe medication, whereas other types of therapists may not.
Even within therapy, there are many different schools of thought and modalities that therapists use with their clients, such as psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical-behavioral therapy, and more. Some therapists also focus on working with families, couples, children, and groups.
Unlike coaching programs, which are typically focused on delivering a specific transformation over a specific period of time, therapy can be ongoing and touches on any and all emotional issues that a patient may be struggling with.
Some therapists work in short courses of 6 to 8 sessions, but many see clients on an ongoing basis for weekly or bi-weekly sessions until the client decides to move on.
Ethics of Coaching vs. Therapy
So how can a client decide whether coaching or therapy is right for them?
And if you’re a coach, how can you evaluate whether a client is a fit for your program or should seek mental health treatment?
It really is something that each coach and each client has to evaluate on a case-by-case basis. Mental health issues and disorders such as chronic depression or anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal ideation are not really what coaching is designed to address.
If a client is struggling just to get out of bed every morning, a coaching program designed to help them multiply their income, lose weight, or attract their soulmate is probably not the first order of business.
It’s important that clients enter coaching during a time in their lives when they are able to commit to success and focus on getting results.
If that’s not the case, then the coach may quickly find themselves in over their head, and the client will likely be disappointed in what they are able to achieve during the program.
It’s important for coaches to understand where they are and aren’t qualified to support their clients. For example, if a client is struggling with suicidal ideation, it would be ethical for the coach to then recommend that the client seek mental health treatment rather than continue coaching.
How to Set Boundaries With Coaching Clients
So how can coaches set healthy boundaries with clients?
It can be helpful to set certain boundaries upfront in your coaching agreement.
Your coaching agreement should dictate that coaching is not advice, therapy, or counseling, and that coaching is not a replacement for therapy or medical treatment.
You can also state that if the client is under any form of psychiatric care or specialized medical supervision, that they should let you know. Then you can decide whether it is appropriate to continue working together.
It’s also important to define for yourself how and when you want to be available to support your clients.
As the coaching industry grows, there’s a trend of offering “unlimited support,” as in, being available to your clients 24/7/365 by email/Voxer/text/IG/every platform.
If you’re offering “unlimited support” to stand out or because you think you have to in order to make your clients happy, then it’s probably not going to work for you or your energy.
In the YES SUPPLY METHOD, we dive deep into how to create a coaching business that works for your lifestyle and energy.
I can tell you right now that I never would’ve built a multi-million dollar mindset coaching business if I was working in a way that didn’t work for me.
Spend some time designing what your ideal day and lifestyle look like, including when and how you want to be available to your clients.
Another thing I emphasize, especially for newer coaches who consider themselves to be empaths, lightworkers, or energetically sensitive, is to make sure that you’re not draining yourself in order to try to help or heal your clients.
It can be helpful to regularly perform a cord-cutting meditation to make sure that your clients are not relying on your energy, but rather learning to work with their own to create their results.
Now that you better understand some of the nuances between coaching vs. therapy, I hope that if you’re a coach, you can choose to work with clients that you know are a fit for your services.
And if you’re ready to upgrade your toolkit as a coach by learning powerful techniques to work with the subconscious mind like Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnosis, TIME Techniques, EFT Tapping, and more, the YES SUPPLY METHOD is a one-stop shop for everything you need to grow your coaching business.
We teach you how to transform and coach your client to success, how to create a signature program, how to earn while helping others deeply, and how to use social media marketing to help you amplify your message, grow your audience, and reach more people. You can watch my 5-Step Coaching System Masterclass to get started!