This is an interesting one because fundamentally life coaching and counselling are very different. But there is crossover. And it also depends on the kind of life coach you’re working with. For example, choosing to work with a career life coach on career goals is possibly less likely to bring anything therapy-like to the table. However, if you’re working with a life coach on another aspect of your life – for example, issues in relationships or feeling like you struggle to make decisions, this is necessarily going to involve something deeper.
Life coaching is a forward-looking process
In contrast, therapy is almost entirely focused on the past, delving into issues from childhood etc and going back to that time to examine them. It’s inevitable that any deep transformation – like the type you’d hope to experience with a good coach – is going to bring some of that stuff up. It could be behind limiting beliefs that are stopping you from achieving your goals or be the reason that you struggle to set boundaries needed for healthy relationships. However, when these come up in life coaching they are considered in terms of how they are resonating with you right now – and what needs to change to move forward.
You take the lead in terms of the level of depth you need
Another key element of coaching is that it’s not about the coach. If you’re not feeling a conversation about your emotions in the workplace then you can ask to move away from that topic. Your coach might question your reasons for doing that or gently challenge you but you have the ultimate say in where you want to go. Coaching is a very individual process and what worked for another of the coach’s clients may not work for you, which is why it’s so essential that you’re able to explore what’s coming up in the way that you want to explore it and not being advised or directed towards something else. If you’re in therapy then you might expect open up a lot more, to perhaps have less control what comes up.
Coaching has a structure – and an end date
If your coaching sessions are just open ended then they have moved away from what most life coaches would recognise to be strict coaching practice and may have moved into therapy territory. One of the defining features of life coaching is that you have a limited number of sessions – 6-9. These sessions follow a flexible structure that is designed to ensure that by the end of them you have reached a specific goal. If you’re doing resilience coaching with me then you’ll have ideas and tools and transformation that means you can head out after the last session and start applying everything you’ve learned without needing me anymore (sad, I know, but better for you), other than perhaps a follow up session or two. This is one of the reasons that resilience coaching is so powerful.
Planning vs recovery
Working with a therapist often has recovery from trauma as its goal. It is all about the “why,” for example why a previous relationship may have been destructive. In life coaching, you may establish that a previous relationship has been destructive and look at how that has affected your life as it is now. However, there is no delving into why that relationship happened or how you can recover from the trauma of it (a trained counsellor is the best person to help with that). Instead, coaching takes this self knowledge and applies it to the present and the future so that you can make a plan. Bearing what we know in mind, what needs to change now and what steps do we take next to make that happen? That could look like:
- Clarifying what you want – the goal. A new home, a new job, a truly satisfying relationship, deeper friendships, a healthier body, a purpose, a different perspective, confidence, letting go of anger.
- Establishing steps towards it – what needs to change?
- Identifying how you’re getting in your own way – removing limiting beliefs, developing the confidence to take action.
- Connecting to your intuition – self-actualisation and knowing what you need, what you’re good at, what needs to come next.
- Working through a series of small steps to make that big goal happen – accountability, challenge, support and guidance.
Counselling and life coaching are both fantastic tools for moving forward in your life. You may find that you need a combination of the two or that one or the other is right for you. Either way, it’s a huge opportunity to step away from a life you no longer want to live and into a more intentional, wholehearted and empowered future.
I currently offer: 1:1 coaching over 6 – 9 weeks. A powerful process of goal setting and moving you towards change that you want to achieve in your life or work.