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Life Coaching or Therapy: Which Approach is Right For You?

I have both a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in counseling, and been a therapist and marriage counselor in Denver for over a decade. About five years ago I also went through a life coaching program and became a board certified life coach too. These days, I practice both therapy and coaching, and have spent a lot of time educating people about the difference between the two.

I know that many people often wonder what the difference is between therapy and life coaching. The fact is that there are significant differences between them, as well as similarities. [Read all about “The Difference Between Counseling and Coaching.”] But the bottom line is that both approaches can be very effective in helping people get unstuck, and move forward in their lives. However, both therapy and life coaching have serious limitations for helping people with certain kinds of issues and goals.

The Problem With Therapy

For example, while therapy can be an extremely powerful and life changing experience for some people, therapy can be a huge waste of time and money for others. In fact, “therapy refugees” come into our practice all the time feeling incredibly frustrated and put-off by their previous experiences in therapy. They don’t need someone to “hold the space,” help them connect the dots of self awareness, and “work through feelings.” They are ready for change, and looking for answers and action. Life coaching will give them that.

The Problem With Coaching

Similarly, we work with people all the time who have been traumatized by past experiences with uneducated, self proclaimed “life coaches.” (Not-so-fun-fact: Life coaching is not a recognized, regulated or licensed profession. There are zero educational requirements to be a life coach and absolutely anyone can roll out of bed one day, decide to be a life coach, set up a burner website, and start taking clients. Buyer beware.)

Beyond that, coaching strategies are not going to be helpful at all for people who need to heal and grow before they can start making big changes in their lives. In these cases, life coaching is just going to make you feel badly about yourself and increasingly hopeless. In the very worst cases, people with legitimate clinical issues such as depressionanxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, etc. risk wasting months and years of ever-worsening (and sometimes life-threatening) symptoms without the effective treatments that will set them free.

But unless you have a counseling degree, you may genuinely not know what you’re looking for or what approach is going to work best for you. In order to help you understand the differences between counseling and coaching, and which one is right for you, I’ve put together a free, online quiz. I hope that it helps you learn about yourself, and which option will be most effective in helping you move forward.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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