Line in the sand.

Coaching versus Therapy?

In our modern world there are as many ways to transform your life as there are ice cream flavors at a Baskin and Robbins. Probably more than 31 ways, and how does one actually chose what is best for them?  The decision can be very overwhelming , especially if this is something new you are discovering for yourself. I would like to highlight the differences between Coaching and Therapy in case you have ever wondered.

As the Founder and Director of Seattle Life Coach Training in Seattle, WA I have the opportunity all the time to talk with people who have discovered that they are not happy in their “job” and want to make a difference in the world. They want to become a coach, but many of these seekers do not know the difference between coaching and therapy! Many people believe that a coach gives advice, tells people what to do and consults them in their lives. This could not be farther from the truth.

Coaches Focus on the Present

At Seattle Life Coach Training our coaches are highly trained to use skills and tools along with powerful questioning that allows their clients to go within themselves to find their own answers. Coaches believe that clients have all their answers within, and it is our job to draw out the clients inner wisdom. A coach meets their client in the present moment and supports them in getting them to where they want go. A coach works with functional people who want to become more functional, and in doing so will see rapid attainment of client goals, dreams and aspirations.  What coaches never do is tell their clients what to do!

At Seattle Life Coach Training we teach our coaches to ask the right questions!

For example, ask “Why can’t I lose weight?” OK, you may get a thousand reasons, “Why” usually keeps us disempowered and in the past. Sometimes we only get excuses. Now ask this question, “What has to change in order for you to lose weight?” Feel the difference?

Four Basic Questions Coaches Ask the Clients

1. What are you moving towards?
2. What is motivating you to change?
3. What are some of the possibilities in getting there?
4. What if you get a different result?

To avoid advising or counseling change your focus to:

Outcomes vs. problems
How vs. why
Feedback vs. failure
Possibilities vs. Necessities
Curiosity/Fascination vs. Assumption

Therapy helps answer the “Why do I” questions!

Therapy generally deals with people with emotional/behavioral problems and disruptive situations—and seeks to bring the client to normal function by focusing on dysfunction. The primary focus is on healing their clients neurosis, which is defined as any place within that is still unhealed. Therapy is for you to understand and come to terms with your past, and for support to contain and move out of a crisis situation.

In Truth: Therapists do spend more time than Coaches exploring personal histories in order to understand and heal from problems and issues, but they are solution future focused in the same sense that they are working with their clients to help them move forward in their daily lives and in creating a future that is optimized. Coaches do spend more time focused on the current day and future goals for that same aim of optimizing the client’s future, but they may also create space for the client to call upon past experience to inform challenges, strengths and strategies as they work together.

Let’s look at the pool metaphor, Coaches stay out of the deep end, while Therapists are comfortable swimming there.
We don’t want to take away from the profound and deep healing that can happen as a result of engaging a client in the coaching process. The metaphor is a place to start the conversation and is meant to help coaches to understand that you wouldn’t take a client someplace that you as a practitioner were not trained or equipped to get them back safely, because the reality is all types of clients with different levels of functioning will be drawn to life coaching. This is when as a coach we stay present and solution future focused.

How to know if a client would benefit from Therapy opposed to Coaching?

If a client repeats the same story or seems stuck in the past, and your attempts to move the client forward have not proven successful, you might suggest therapy. If the client shares patterns suggesting depression, addiction, panic or anxiety events, or repeated suicidal ideation, it would be prudent to refer the client to a therapist. Coaches stay out of the deep end!

Lastly, I leave you with a diagram of the differences between Coaching and Therapy to help you better understand. 

Richard Seaman is an award winning teacher, gifted speaker and the founder and director of Seattle Life Coach Training. He has been a Master Life Coach and motivational speaker for more than two decades. Richard is an inspirational figure who has worked with people from all walks of life including fortune 500 companies like Intel, Microsoft, Boeing to your everyday next door neighbor. With his wise and intuitive knowing, and uplifting and straightforward approach, he has coached and guided thousands of people to a more powerful, passionate life. Richard is the author of the books, It’s All in the Sharing and Spiritual Reliability, which helped secure a spot for Richard as one of America’s Next Top Spiritual Authors.

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  • Imagery Skills for Life Coaches Script book by Linda Bennett,  a PhD in Clinical Hypnotherapy.

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