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  • Writer's pictureCerissa Rhodes

How is coaching different from therapy?

Updated: Jan 8

When receiving coaching there is an identified problem, i.e. feeling guilty leaving my anxious child at daycare, all day while I go to work, and the coach assists in solving this problem by providing education, support, and encouragement. The coach and client work as a team to identify goals and create a plan to address the goals.

Explains the difference between coaching and therapy.
Parent Coaching vs Therapy

Therapy is specifically focused on a mental health diagnosis and follows a medical model to address the diagnosis. The relationship is therapeutic with the therapist being the expert professional and is focused on helping the client manage their mental health diagnosis.

Coaches are experienced and often trained or certified by coaching institutes, but there are no set guidelines regarding certification or education. Therapists have a rigorous educational background, must be licensed by the state's governing board, and continue to receive education on an ongoing basis.

Both coaches and therapists are often described as being supportive, amazing listeners, and seeking to make life better for the client. It is the how and why that separates coaching and therapy. Coaching is looking at a specific problem or goal that the client wants to be met and assisting the client in doing so. Therapy includes assessments to identify the accurate diagnosis that is causing problems in the client's life and creates a treatment plan that involves therapy to address the diagnosis.

A good example would be that of a mama struggling with an anxious child. This mama would go to a coach with the goal of "I want to stop feeling so guilty when I drop my kid off at often turns to anger by the time I get to work late." This same mama could go to a therapist because "My anxiety is an issue, I do anything to prevent my child from melting down, it impacts my work, my sleep is disrupted, and I do not make any plans that might trigger my child's anxiety." In the 2nd example, the mom is experiencing anxiety herself and is seeking mental health intervention versus the mama in the first example has a problem to address.

Often coaches and therapists can and do work alongside one another. In the examples above a coach would support the mom in reflecting on the guilt, creating routines for drop off, changing the thoughts that later lead to the anger, and preventing the mom from becoming so frustrated at drop off. The client would pay for these services out of pocket. On the other hand, a therapist would work with the mama to identify thought distortions in all areas of life and connect these thoughts to the mama's feelings and reactions. The therapist may work with a psychiatrist to provide medication management to address the anxiety. The therapist often works with insurance companies and the bill is covered by the client's insurance.

I am both a coach and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. That means I provide coaching services to clients that have an identified problem that is not related to their mental health diagnosis, but I have the training, education, and experience of a therapist as well as being obligated to follow my licensure code of ethics. As a coach, I can offer my services in all 50 states virtually both one on one and in virtual groups.

If you are still confused by the difference or are not sure if you need a coach, therapist, or both, please reach out today!

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