Do I need a life coach or a therapist?

If you’re confused on whether to hire a life coach or a therapist, here is a little insight on what might be the right direction to go…

 


 

I am often times faced with the common question of, “What’s the difference between a therapist and a life coach, and which one would be best for my situation?” In some cases that question is easily answered, but more often than not that isn’t the case. There are many reasons as to why that is, most prominently of which being that it is very difficult for an individual to diagnose themselves and/or situations affecting their lives on a psychological level. For instance, someone with an inability to form deep bonds with others might be clueless to the fact that it stems, in part, from constantly being relocated as a child and therefore never truly developing long-standing emotional bonds with friends. It is always easier to recognize the manifestations of a problem rather than the problem itself.

A good starting point in assessing whether to proceed with therapy or life coaching is to look at the nature of the issue/s that drives this question to begin with. Does it exist on an action level rather than a feeling level? Are you, for instance, unable to complete tasks because you get lost in the process? Something like this would point more toward a life coaching solution, as opposed to, for instance, an inability to complete tasks resulting from a constant “why even bother” type of mindset which, could point to something much deeper possibly stemming from upbringing or environment.

Here is a great starting question to ask yourself: “Am I struggling with attaining certain goals or objectives in my life or am I struggling with issues that are connected to specific feelings I’m having?” Take this analogy: A parent is having difficulty managing and getting along with a combative child. Assuming that the household is, for the most part, a healthy, loving and emotionally supportive environment, it would likely leave the parent wondering why this is happening and how he or she can go about improving the situation. Speaking purely from an analogous perspective, the parent would represent someone in need of coaching, whereas the child would likely represent someone in need of therapy. Again, this is not a diagnosis but an analogy. Truth be told however, both parent and child would likely benefit greater by both, coaching as well as therapy.

Therapists tend to focus on processing feeling and issues. Depending on their area of specialty, they may focus on things like relationships, childhood/upbringing/environment, trauma, loss, etc. Their objective is to understand why something is happening and what it stems from. Life coaches on the other hand tend to focus on the here and now. Maybe you’re a B-level executive that has difficulty in making the right decisions within your quest toward becoming an A-level executive. Maybe you’re an alcoholic or addict who has a propensity for relapse at certain points within your sobriety, and are in need of practical direction in overcoming this. Maybe you’re in a marriage that is, by all accounts loving and genuine, but for some reason you both keep driving each other crazy. These are all scenarios that would definitely benefit from an experienced, licensed life coach. This isn’t to say that working with a therapist wouldn’t also be beneficial, it likely would.

Me personally, given my background of therapy, counseling and life coaching, I have found great success in applying a healthy balance of all components in working with clients. I’m always very clear to say that coaching is not therapy, but a good life coach will have have certain therapy-based nuances in the manner which they use to coach clients based on their specific needs. One thing is for sure, each case is unique and should only be assessed by trained, licensed and experienced healthcare professionals. I always recommend writing a list of questions and posing them to all prospective coaches and/or therapists when deciding it’s time to get help. Upon posing questions, keep in mind that you’re not necessarily looking for responses that feel “good,” you’re looking for responses that feel “right.”

You get one shot at life, you might as well have the very best people in your corner!

For more information on life coaching, recovery coaching and transitional guidance please feel free to contact Alexandra Birenbaum, MA, CAP, Life Coach & CSAT Candidate at (561) 351-3447 or by email at alex@paradigmlifecoachingsolutions.com


Find Alexandra Birenbaum, MA, CAP, CSAT & Certified Life Coach on Google+


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