Common Questions

What’s the difference between a therapist and a coach?

The biggest difference is the focus of the work. From my experience, the work of the therapist is to fix pathology or disease. The work of a coach is to support a person in personal development.

Therapists are medical professionals licensed to treat mental health illness as a medical disease. If you have clinical depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc., go see a therapist. They have theories about those disorders and know which treatments work. They will diagnose you with a disorder and bill your insurance company for your treatment (assuming you have insurance that covers mental health).

Coaches, on the other hand, focus on helping people maximize productivity, meet their goals, and work with others, not on treating mental health disorders. They won’t give you a diagnosis and they won’t be able to bill your insurance company because the focus of their work is not medically necessary.

How do I choose a life coach?

There are many factors that a person should consider when deciding who to work with.

These factors include:

1. Does the coach focus on what I need help with?
2. Will I be able to afford the coach?
3. How convenient will it be to work with the coach?
4. Do I like the person and feel they have my best interest at heart?

This last question is possibly the most important one. You need to be able to trust the coach in order to listen when they need to tell you something that is difficult to hear.

Will my health insurance pay for coaching?

No. Health insurance pays for medically necessary treatment. Coaches are not licensed to treat mental health disorders and therefore cannot bill insurance.

How long does coaching take?

That depends on how much you are willing to confront your unhelpful patterns and implement changes. The more you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and try new things, even if you are skeptical of their value, the faster you will learn and change. It does take time though. Sometimes identifying unhelpful patterns isn’t easy, but working with a coach who has a track record of helping people makes the process faster.

How does coaching work?

If you could figure out how to make changes in your life to achieve your dreams, you’d be doing what needs to be done. Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to see your own patterns. This is where a good coach comes in. A coach can help you identify hidden behavior patterns and limiting beliefs that are likely holding you back. It’s these hidden elements that are hard to see except from the outside. A good coach will challenge you to make changes to what you are doing and how you are thinking. After all, if what you are doing is working, then why would you need a coach?

I recommend a TED Talk by Atul Gawande titled “Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach.” You can access it here. Everyone could benefit from an objective person who will give honest feedback. Even, if you think you have your life all figured out, like Atul did before he hired a coach, you could benefit.