Coaching vs Therapy, The Continuing Debate


Since becoming a coach, I often come across the question, “What is the difference between coaching and therapy?”  Because the coaching industry is largely unregulated and counts on the ethical practices of coaches to uphold its integrity, there is a great debate on the subject.  Granted, there are some people who hang out a shingle and call themselves “Coach” without having the proper foundational training.   I admit, there was a time I was one of those people.  In my case, as I suspect is the same for many untrained coaches, I didn’t know what I didn’t know at the time.  It wasn’t until I began my training that I realized there is a subtlety and a method to coaching that is most important to be effective.

Regardless of the training any coach receives, the question remains for coaches and potential clients alike, “what is the difference between coaching and therapy?”  I’ve read many articles and opinions on this topic.  But I still struggled to be able to clearly and concisely explain it.  So, I turned to my old friends, Merriam & Webster.  Here’s what they have to say:

FROM Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Definition of therapy : therapeutic treatment especially of bodily, mental, or behavioral disorder

 Synonyms for therapy antidote, corrective, curative, cure, rectifier, remedy

 Examples of therapy in a Sentence

He is undergoing cancer therapy.

Talking over my problem with you has been good therapy.

Definition of coach (Entry 2 of 2)  2 : to instruct, direct, or prompt as a coach When an injury ended his playing career, he decided to coach.

transitive verb

1 : to train intensively (as by instruction and demonstration) coach pupils The lawyer coached the witness.

2 : to act as coach of coach tennis coach a team

 Synonyms for coach

Synonyms: Noun  trainer

Synonyms: Verb  counsel, guide, lead, mentor, pilot, shepherd, show, tutor

 Examples of coach in a Sentence

Noun – a track star who has been working with a new coach

Verb – He coaches the tennis star.  She coached the U.S. gymnastics team at the Olympics.

According to the boys, therapy has to do with curing, correcting, finding a remedy for.  Coaching has to do with guiding, training, teaching.

Coaching or Therapy?

An ethical coach will always meet the client where she is at the time.  If the client is in need of a curative intervention, the coach should always suggest therapy first.  A collaboration between coach and therapist, should a client choose to work with both, could be very helpful.  Of course, all involved would have to be in agreement.

If the client is in need of guidance on the next best steps to take while working on moving from her current circumstances to a new way of being, a good coach will be able to provide that guidance.  In this case, there is no need for a cure.

If you’re wondering what happens during coaching, it’s basically a conversation, not unlike one you would have with a friend or family member.  “Well, if that’s the case, why pay a coach when I can just talk to my friends?” (Yes, I can read your mind.  Not really.)  The big difference is your friends, though well-meaning, tend to come with their own ideas of what you “need to” do or what you “should” do.  If you want a solid sounding board with no agenda, a coach is your best bet.  If you want to be able to bounce ideas off someone and find a different perspective to consider with no judgement, paying a coach is worth the money.

So you can test the waters with no obligation, I offer one free coaching session so you can try it out to see if it’s what you need.  If not, that’s great.  I might be able to point you in the right direction to get what you need.  Sometimes, just one session will provide the insight you were searching for and you’re on your way.

Are you ready?

If you’re ready to make a change because life just isn’t where you want it to be yet, give me a call or send me an email.  That’s a good place to start to get the facts you need. Either way, I’d love to connect because it’s always fun to meet new people.

Call:  804-904-2292

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