Do I need a life coach or a therapist?

As a leadership, career, and life coach, I often hear the question—I know I need help changing my life, but do I need a life coach or a therapist?

While many life coaches will tell you that therapists only focus on past events or take a slower approach, this is simply untrue for all therapists.

On the other hand, some therapists claim that because coaching is an unlicensed profession, life coaches have less skill. Indeed, this is true for many coaches, but not all.

Whether you’d be better off with a life coach or a therapist really depends on your individual needs. With that in mind, in this article, I’ll share several questions to help you answer the question— Do I need a life coach or a therapist?

1. What are your goals?

Whether you need a life coach or a therapist depends on what you’re hoping to get out of the relationship. So, the first question to ask yourself when asking whether you need a life coach or a therapist is this: What are you hoping to change?

If you are experiencing workplace conflict or are contemplating a career transition, you might want to seek the support of a coach or a therapist with this specific expertise.

While it can be easier to find coaches who specialize in career transitions and leadership development, some therapists can be very helpful with work-related challenges. I encourage you to interview potential therapists and life coaches about their specialty before deciding who to hire.

2.  Are your problems in the past or the future?

In general, therapists help their clients resolve past problems, while life coaches help clients reach their future goals.

If you feel as though you need to heal from past events, you’d probably be best served by a therapist. On the other hand, if you feel stuck on the path towards reaching your vision, you may be better off with a coach.

That said, many talented therapists do help their clients work towards creating a life they love. And, many life coaches help clients heal from past events which impact their current success.

And because trauma lives in the body, you might also consider working with a trauma-informed hands-on healing practitioner such as a craniosacral therapist, acupuncturist, or massage therapist.

3.  Do you have a mental health diagnosis?

Coaches are not trained to help clients heal from chronic depression or other mental illness, so when clients come to me with a mental health diagnosis, I make sure that we also have a skilled therapist on our team. I’ve had many clients who see both me (as their life coach) and a therapist.

4.  What can you afford?

One of the challenges with hiring a life coach is that we cannot take insurance, whereas, many therapists do. The costs of coaching vary between $100 and $2000 per hour.

If you cannot afford coaching, I highly recommend seeking the support of a skilled therapist who can take your insurance. If your challenges are work-related, you may also ask your employer or organization to pay for coaching.

5.  What support is available in your area?

In many states, therapists must work with clients in person if they take insurance, and depending on where you live, you may not have access to therapists who take a future-focused approach like coaching.

In this case, you may want to consider hiring an online life coach. Luckily, since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, many more therapists are able to take insurance online. I recommend looking into what is possible in your region.

Finally, answering the question— Do I need a life coach or a therapist?

If you still feel confused about whether you need a life coach or a therapist, that’s completely understandable. The answer depends on your personal needs.

I recommend sitting down with the questions above. Be as honest with yourself as possible. Once you know your needs, set up an initial consultation with a few therapists or life coaches who resonate. As you speak with each person, you’ll likely get clearer about what you need.

It can be a journey to find the support you need, but investing this time in yourself is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.

I’m wishing you all the best on your journey to finding the support you need! If you’re longing to start receiving support before finding the right therapist or coach, I invite you to receive my Love Letters to Changemakers.

They’re free, weekly morsels of guidance and insight that I draw from my coaching sessions with clients. I’d love to share them with you!

To learn more and subscribe—Love Letters to Changemakers.

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