Therapy v Therapeutic Coaching V Life Coaching

When it comes to the helping world, there are a lot of roles that can be filled. It becomes so confusing when we look at titles like “counselor”, “life coach”, “therapy”, “transformational coach”, etc. How do you wade through it all and determine which service you are looking for?

Why would someone seek out therapy or coaching?

People seek out coaching and/or therapy for many reasons. Mainly, life stressors, and discovering ways to cope. More specifically,

  • Someone may realize their functioning is impaired and are looking for treatment and diagnosis.
  • Someone may realize they are experiencing high levels of depression or anxiety, and it doesn’t seem to be easing with time or situation.
  • Someone may realize they are feeling overwhelmed or high stress, and they want to navigate that challenge.
  • Someone may be facing a life stage transition and it is not going smoothly, so they need someone to help with the transition.
  • Someone may be struggling to reach goals and build the life they envision for themselves, and want a way to get to that place.

There are many, many more reasons someone may seek out a helping professional, but these are some of the issues we see many times over.

So, what’s the difference between these services?


Therapy is primarily there to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and mental health issues. Counseling is often done the same way (depending on the title and credentials of the person leading the sessions). Therapy/Counseling are done by a Licensed Professional who has the training to explore, diagnose, and treat mental illness and clinical mental health issues.

If someone is dealing with trauma (especially Big T), therapy is the service they need. Many coaches are not equipped to properly help those dealing with processing trauma.

Therapy is the service that will help clients process the past, things done to them, things they’ve done, and how they can heal in the here and now. Though, therapy can be performed from many different lenses, ultimately, this is the service that will deal with treating trauma and mental health issues.

There are laws and boundaries in place for therapists, and as such, they and counselors are regulated bodies (like medical professionals). This gives them the knowledge, tools, and backing to be able to treat & diagnose. Typically, therapists and counselors would be limited on what they share with clients, as healing and treatments are focus. Therapists are able to take insurance and comply with HIPPA.

Though, therapists and counselors are trained, it’s important to find one who works well with you. Someone you are comfortable with and who is knowledgeable. Or, who has a supervision team that can be trusted and is working well with you.

Life Coaching

Life coaching, on the other hand, has a lot more to do with helping clients move forward. This field is very goal oriented, and is a partnership with your client.

In a coaching program, ideally, you will have a client who is looking to solve a specific problem (they are overwhelmed, stressed, burned out, feeling low confidence or self esteem, or struggling with a life transition or relational struggles, and more).

Unlike therapy, though, there isn’t a regulatory system for coaching. Many coaches are certified in some way, and get experience and expertise in specific areas of coaching, making them the person you want to go to.

Coaches are not meant to treat trauma or diagnose/treat mental illness or clinical concerns. For those situations, a coach should be referring back to a therapist (this is the most ethical practice).

Also, there are different areas of coaching: business coaching, life coaching, transformational coaching, etc. Depending on what you’re seeking out, you would want to look for a coach that works in that area.

Therapeutic & Restorative Coaching

Somewhere in between these is where therapeutic and restorative coaching falls. This coaching draws on principals of clinical training and experience, pulling from therapy theories and tactics; but, it is focused on the here and now relationship with the goal of helping clients when they are burned out or overwhelmed or need someone to walk through a season with them.

This type of coaching relies a lot on strengths based and solution focused therapy theories to help clients grow and move forward.

The clients a therapeutic or restorative coach might work with are those who are experiencing:
burn out, stress, overwhelm
life transitions
coping with new diagnosis of medical concerns
low self confidence or low self esteem, and more.
The focus here is breaking patters, learning and practicing social, coping, and relational skills.

The end result?
Clients gain clarity, calm themselves, get unstuck, build confidence, and grow forward.

Like with coaching, this is not regulated by a licensing body, so you should look for a coach who is also licensed or one who has a graduate degree in a counseling or therapy field. This will be the educational background needed to bridge the two fields of work.

A note: when looking for a coach, find one with certificates, training, and experience. This will help you find the best fit.

How Do I Choose?

Then the question becomes, how do I choose?

Do I need therapy, or basic life coaching? Do I need both or something in the middle? How do I select my coach or therapist?

First, you need to determine what it is you are seeking.

Do you notice your daily functioning is impaired? This functional interference can be at work or home or school or social situations or any combination thereof. In this case, you are likely dealing with something that a therapist would want to assess and possibly diagnose/treat. Typically, this type of issue comes from a place deeper than what a coach would work with.

Are you simply experiencing issues with new life stages, or diagnoses of illness, or stress/overwhelm? Perhaps you have some specific goals regarding where you are verses where you’d like to be. Or, maybe you are seeking to improve your emotional intelligence or your self confidence. These are the areas a coach would work with.

If you are looking for someone who can help you move from the stress and overwhelm of life into what you envision for the future, and you want to go deeper than basic life coaching, look for a therapeutic coach. Someone with the education and background to do the work to bridge the two fields.

Reasons Therapeutic Coaching may be the right choice:

Before we get into these reasons, I have to emphasize: if you are looking to process past trauma, be assessed for specific mental illness, or you are looking for treatment of specific major clinical disorders, therapy is the option.

Therapeutic coaching is great for the next step down. Some reasons you might consider looking for a coach who can work from a therapeutic perspective:

  • Mental Health service needs are at an all time high. The fact is, more and more people are seeking out services, as we understand the importance of mental wellness.
    If a client isn’t in need of in depth, clinical services, a therapeutic coaching relationship can do wonders for the clients.
  • The skills gained in a coaching relationship move a client forward, helping them get unstuck, and gain calm in their lives during times of burn out, stress, overwhelm, and more. Building confidence, assertiveness, and mindset shifts are major markers of many coaching experiences.
  • A coach who is also well trained in therapy and counseling comes from a trauma informed perspective. Hopefully, that opens up a coaching relationship that doesn’t feed back into the trauma cycle.
  • Coaching that is therapeutic and restorative in nature, carried out by a coach who is trained in a post-graduate mental health related field, is better able to spot patterns, work from a strengths based perspective, and help clients create change in their lives.
  • Coaching is client centered, individualized, present & future focused, and goal & strengths oriented. Where therapy looks at the past and how we came to be where we are, coaching moves us forward, giving us the tools to make change and grow into what we desire to be.

Where do you go from here?

This depends on what you are looking for. Once you’ve made that decision, you can look in your local area for therapists or coaches, or even search online for the practitioner who is the right fit.

At Soul Cadence Creative, my coaching is therapeutic and restorative, bridging the gap of life coaching and therapy. I have the degrees, passed the license exam, have the certifications.

Once you’ve determined which services you want and which practitioner you’d like to work with, contact them. Begin the process. Look for the person with education, training, and experience for your needs that you’re comfortable with. And, then, look for their intake process.

Don’t go through it alone, though. You don’t need to feel the weight of this on your own. Services are out there all along the continuum of care.
No one should have to carry this burden by themselves.
There is support. There are services.
You. Are. Not. Alone.
Help and hope are out there.

And, you can start here, if you need.

Contact Candice if you’re a woman interested in therapeutic coaching. Or, if you want a consult about whether or not these services are right for you.
Read more of our blog for other tools and encouragement in these seasons.

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