Therapy Versus Coaching

By Amy Kim, Psy.D.

When seeking help, many are curious about the difference between therapy and coaching. Some may feel more comfortable getting coaching instead of therapy, perceiving it as less stigmatizing, but it’s important to remember that with either, it’s simply an act of getting help from another person. It’s important to know the difference to make sure you’re getting the best value for your time, energy, and money. Here are some points of clarification if you’re wondering about the difference between therapy and coaching.

1)   Coaching focuses on present and future goals. Effective therapy addresses everything relevant towards meeting your goals, including the past, present and your future.

2)   Coaching focuses on circumscribed and specific goals. Therapy focuses on specific goals within the context of larger life goals, values, identity, and relationships.

3)   Coaching is aimed at targeting specific issues, but often these struggles are manifestations of underlying issues. Since coaches are not trained to identify and handle deeper psychological and emotional issues, coaching strategies may be limited in what they can help you with and provide a band-aid short-term “fix” rather than long-term and meaningful transformations.

4)   Coaching can be effective at providing a “toolbox” to handle issues and meet goals. While coaching is a toolbox, effective therapy can be the hardware store where the toolbox is one of many items that is used. Effective therapy can help a person in greater breadth and depth than coaching can. 

Whether you choose a therapist or a coach, there’s a wide range when it comes to quality and competence, so be sure to do your research and even meet with more than one until you find the right person who can help you.