Questions About Life Coaching:
Does Insurance Cover Life Coaching?
Wondering if insurance covers life coaching services? It’s a common and understandable question. Since health insurance can be used to cover behavioral healthcare (which, like coaching, also involves talking to a professional about personal things), it’s natural that many people wonder if life coaching is covered by insurance too.
Health insurance pays for the “medically necessary treatment” of an illness, injury, or disorder. That’s it.
Health insurance doesn’t cover therapy for the purpose of personal growth, healthy relationships, and self-actualization, either. In fact, health insurance does not cover marriage counseling, premarital counseling, couples therapy, or even family therapy if it’s solely intended to improve connection and communication as well as strengthen and feel more secure in relationships.
And health insurance doesn’t cover sessions with a life coach under any circumstances, because 1) unless they are therapists, coaches are not qualified to diagnose or treat mental health conditions and 2) coaching is different from psychotherapy, and never intended to treat a psychiatric diagnosis.
But even though life coaching is not medically necessary, it’s still incredibly valuable to do this work. Health insurance doesn’t pay for most things worth investing in, like your education, your yoga class, or your vacation to spend quality time with your partner. All things that are valuable and worth doing anyway.
Great coaching is the same. It’s an investment in your life. Transformational coaching is priceless, and… getting your own coach can be less expensive than you might think. Learn how much life coaching costs here, if you’re interested.
Does Insurance Pay For Therapy?
Many people are surprised to learn that even “therapy” is not always considered medically necessary healthcare.
Health insurance only covers therapy that is focused on treating the mental health condition of the “identified patient.”
If you’ve ever had a therapist submit claims to your insurance company for Denver marriage counseling or therapy, including online therapy, they have diagnosed you with a psychiatric condition and then represented their work with you as being “medically necessary treatment” focused on reducing your symptoms.
Even if YOU thought you were in therapy to improve communication with your partner, figure out who was in charge of changing the litter box, build self-esteem figure out how to stop comparing yourself to other people, uncover your hidden obstacles, or get clarity and direction about your career path…. your medical record says otherwise.
Therapy (or “psychotherapy”) can be used for valuable personal growth work, like increasing your confidence, and learning how to be your best self, but it’s first and foremost a type of behavioral healthcare that is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders.
When you get involved in therapy, the basic assumption is that you are there for the treatment of a mental illness. If your therapist is assisting you in using health insurance to cover therapy, that is the claim that they’re making: they are treating you for a psychiatric condition.
If that is not what is actually happening in your sessions, or they have not disclosed to you the diagnosis that they’re claiming to your health insurance company, that is a serious issue. They are committing insurance fraud.
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“Life Coach Insurance”
Does insurance cover life coaching? If not, why not?
Coaching, in contrast to therapy, does not even pretend to be treatment. Coaching assumes that you are fundamentally healthy and simply want to make positive changes in your life. Coaching is about growth and goals. Coaching is never a “medically necessary treatment” for a psychiatric condition. That’s why “life coach insurance” is not a thing.
Like therapy for personal growth, any type of coaching — life coaching, online coaching, career coaching, dating coaching, or relationship coaching — is for the purpose of helping you grow and make positive changes.
It’s still incredibly valuable, and it’s not as expensive as you might think. Certainly not in terms of the impact on your life trajectory.
I put together a few other articles for you in order to help provide more clarity and understanding about the costs, and value, of coaching services:
- How Much Does a Dating Coach Cost?
- How Much Does a Career Coach Cost?
- How Much Does Premarital Counseling Cost?
- How Much Does Relationship Coaching Cost?
- How Much Does Therapy Cost?
- How Much Does a Life Coach Cost?
I included premarital counseling because it is essentially a type of relationship coaching, and we often get asked about whether insurance covers premarital counseling. Again, no.
Therapy vs. Life Coaching
“Fine,” you might be thinking, “I want to work on myself and I don’t care what we call it and I want insurance to pay for it so I’m going to do therapy instead of coaching, so that I can find someone in-network.”
That is absolutely a valid option and I am sure that you can find a therapist who takes your insurance. And, it is important to understand that the experience you will have with that therapist is going to be substantially different than the one you’d have with a coach. Depending on your needs and your goals, this might be completely fine. But it may also be frustrating and unproductive if your needs would genuinely be better served by coaching.
Not all therapy is valuable, no matter what you pay for it. (I learned that the long way, personally. Here’s my story about the cost vs value of therapy.)
Therapy can be a wonderful experience. But if your goals for this work are to make substantial changes in your day-to-day life (rather than gain interesting new insights about your past and patterns), life coaching may be a more direct path to change for you.
Why is that? Although therapy and meaningful life coaching will always start by seeking to help you achieve self-awareness and insight, therapy might stop there. Life coaching, in contrast, pushes you towards meaningful action.
Working with a good life coach will help you put those new insights and awareness to work, in the form of a “what now?” action plan that helps you achieve your desired outcomes through a process of gaining self-awareness and self-confidence, developing skills and strategies, reinventing yourself, and taking actionable steps forward.
Learn about the differences between life coaching vs therapy here.
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Does Insurance Cover Life Coaching? The Loophole!
So, back to our question: Does insurance cover coaching? As we have discussed, the short answer is no.
But! There is one loophole!
There is a middle path here that I like to call “coachy therapy.” Some therapists, particularly those who have a background in both therapy and coaching, can provide effective therapy using a coaching approach. This type of therapy can offer the best of both worlds, combining the educational background, regulatory oversight, and professionalism of an effective therapist, with the more action-oriented approach of a coach.
Of course, ethically, you still need to have a diagnosis and be in treatment for “coachy-therapy” to be covered. But it’s also true that, even though “coaching” is not a type of behavioral healthcare, there are certain psychiatric conditions that respond very well to an action-oriented coachy-therapy approach — often better than they do to insight-oriented talk therapy.
For example, clients with an ADHD diagnosis are unlikely to make the concrete changes needed to function at a higher level using traditional talk therapy alone. They need to develop self-awareness, learn new skills and routines and have an accountability partner to help them plan and practice the new executive functioning skills they’re developing. Directive action-oriented therapy that incorporates a coaching method is much more productive.
A therapist with a coaching background can help the patient with the ADHD diagnosis focus on setting attainable goals, understand their inner obstacles, and learn (and practice) concrete organizational skills, personal productivity, impulse control, and more. Because this work is still focused on the treatment of a mental health diagnosis, it is still considered therapy, even though in practice the actual experience would be very similar to coaching.
The same is true for other pervasive developmental or neurological differences, including some variations of Autism Spectrum Disorder, which tends to respond very well to therapy that utilizes coaching techniques. Similarly, some types of family therapy to treat or manage psychological problems with children will often be very focused on the development and application of parenting skills, and really very similar to what a parenting coach does.
Though there are significant differences in the intentions and purpose of cognitive-behavioral therapy (treatment) and cognitive-behavioral coaching (personal development and growth) there are many similarities between action-oriented, skills-based forms of psychotherapy, and evidence-based approaches to coaching.
Lastly, there are some types of marriage counseling and couples therapy that are quite “coachy” and it is genuinely helpful, and warranted, to have insurance pay for these if one or both partners are impacted by a mental health diagnosis. But in the absence of a real diagnosis, there are very troubling implications and unintended consequences of trying to use health insurance to cover couples therapy. Here’s why.
But generally speaking, all these types of treatment with a “coachy” therapist can and should be covered by your health insurance, so long as they’re focused on the treatment of the identified patient’s mental health diagnosis.
Does insurance cover life coaching? No. But…
What will bring you the most value?
Ask yourself: What are my intentions for this?
- Am I experiencing mental health symptoms that require treatment in order for me to function?
- Or am I here to “optimize myself” in order to get better results in my life, career, or relationship?
Therapy: Treatment for Mental Health
- If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with a mental health condition, you really need to be in evidence-based therapy with a therapist licensed in your state, who can provide you with effective treatment to reduce your symptoms so that you can feel better.
- If your psychiatric condition is negatively impacting your relationship or family, family therapy may be a necessary treatment in addition to your individual therapy.
- The focus of this work will be on the treatment of the psychiatric condition, on restoring functioning as a couple and family, or on repairing the damage done to your relationships due to this historical condition.
- It is absolutely appropriate to utilize health insurance for any type of treatment-focused psychotherapy.
- If you are seeking medically necessary therapy and want to ensure that your treatment will be fully covered by an in-network provider: The best thing to do is to contact your health insurance provider and get a list of mental health professionals in your area who are in-network, and who specialize in the treatment of your condition.
- If you are not able to find a therapist who is able to see you (many insurance-paneled therapists are full), the next best option is to work with a provider who is not in-network with your insurance company, but who can help you submit claims to your insurance company.
- You will still pay that provider out of pocket, but if your claims are accepted you will be reimbursed for at least a percentage of the cost of your treatment by your insurance company.
- (That’s how our system works at Growing Self. We’re not in-network, but if you’re seeing one of our providers for therapy for the treatment of a condition, we can help you use your benefits by submitting claims for you.)
- Lastly, if you are seeing an out-of-network provider who doesn’t have the capability to submit electronic claims for you, see if you can get them to create a “superbill” for you. This is a form that has the information filled out, and contains your diagnosis codes, treatment codes, dates, charges, etc. You can then submit that form to your insurance company on your own.
Coaching: Growth, Accountability, and Self-Improvement:
- In contrast, if you know you’re fundamentally well and simply want to grow, gain self-awareness, get a fresh start, improve some aspect of your life, career, or your relationship, and/or achieve personal or professional goals, coaching may be more appropriate and effective for you than traditional talk therapy. Learn more about the benefits of a life coach vs therapist here.
- Things like career coaching, life coaching, premarital counseling, or relationship coaching, while not covered by insurance, are like other types of important investments you make in your life, like getting an education, enlisting a personal trainer, or meeting with a financial advisor. After all, you would never expect health insurance to cover a college degree!
- Similarly, love, life, and career coaching are about growth, keeping commitments to yourself, and goal-directed self-improvement — not treating an illness. Coaching assumes that you are fundamentally healthy, strong, and competent to engage in an active, challenging process of self-discovery and action-oriented growth.
- Coaching is not healthcare. Your coach does not need to be licensed in your state. (Remember, there is no “licensing” requirement for coaches at all!) If your coach determines that an underlying mental health condition is interfering with your ability to be successful in coaching, they should refer you for treatment.
- While coaching will certainly help you gain self-awareness and understand your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, the goal of coaching is not gaining insight or processing the past. Coaching will emphasize the action-oriented parts of change, and focus on real-world results.
- In coaching you will set goals, make an actionable step-by-step plan to attain those goals, build your skill set so that you know how to do what needs to be done in order to attain your goals, and get both support and accountability for following through.
I hope that this article helped you get clarity around whether or not you can use insurance to cover coaching, as well as some of your options for getting effective support. If you’d like, you’re welcome to take this “Do I need therapy or coaching” quiz I put together. While in no way is it a substitute for a professional evaluation, it might give you further clarity about which approach is ultimately going to be the most genuinely helpful for you.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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