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Do You Need a Therapist or a Coach?

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When Therapy & Coaching: What’s the Difference? was published, there were a lot of questions on how you know which helping professional may be right for you. Both therapy and coaching are helping relationships aimed at helping you create the life you want, but choosing the wrong relationship could have negative side effects that waste time, money, and emotional energy.

For example, if you choose a therapist when you really need a coach, you’ll end up going through a lot of unnecessary information that is far too in depth for you to start your coaching process. Most therapists could probably help you with coaching areas, but they mostly specialize in mental health issues unless they specifically provide coaching services.

On the other hand, if you choose a coach when you really need a therapist, you are taking the chance of entrusting your mental health with someone who may or may not have the experience, education, or expertise to really help. In fact, in this situation, it could do more harm than good by prolonging the exact help you need.

In order to make the right call, you need to know what areas both therapy and coaching address so you can make the most well-informed decision for yourself.

So let’s get started.

Therapy addresses mental health issues that are creating a moderate to severe impact to your overall wellbeing such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, anger management, substance use, and relationship issues (to name a few). Mental health issues may show up in your ability to maintain adequate functioning at school and/or work as well as your ability to maintain long-term healthy relationships. They can be short term or long term, can affect your physical well-being, and interfere with your ability to manage emotions appropriately. Sometimes mental health issues will resolve themselves on their own, but other times they can worsen if they don’t receive the professional help they need. If you are unsure if you are having a mental health issue, I recommend having an assessment done by a professional to ensure you are covering your bases.

Coaching addresses life areas such as productivity, performance, clarity on life direction, leadership skills, public speaking, business ownership, self-confidence, stress management, effective communication, positive thinking, and relationship coaching. Coaching issues can improve on their own if the individual is willing to put forth the effort to induce change. This may be through self-help books, seminars, workshops, or self-motivation practices, but it’s also not uncommon for coaching issues to be put on the back-burner as their improvement is not necessary to overall life function, only to life fulfillment. This is why the accountability piece that coaching provides is probably one of it’s most sought after benefits. It helps “hold your feet to the fire” to do the necessary work to take you where you want to go. If you think you’d be a good fit for coaching, research The 6 Kinds of Coaching You Need to Know and find a coach that specializes in the relevant area. Then, make contact! Most coaches will offer a free 15-minute consultation to make sure you’re a good fit before you get started.

So how do you know which is right for you?

There are no black and white answers readily available, however there are some signs that you may benefit from one helping relationship over the other.

1. If you are experiencing feelings of “doom and gloom”, having suicidal/homicidal thoughts, having difficulty sleeping and/or eating, you need to see a mental health professional.
2. If you continually find yourself in the same relationship patterns that are verbally/physically abusive and/or dangerous, you need to see a mental health professional.
3. If you are experiencing substance use issues, you need to see a mental health professional.
4. If you find yourself avoiding life events, certain emotions and/or memories of past events, experiencing panic attacks or overall excitability, you need to see a mental health professional.
5. If you are experiencing difficulty managing emotions and/or behaviors such as anger outbursts, uncontrollable crying, or feelings of overwhelm that lead to emotional outbursts, you need to see a mental health professional.
6. If you are experiencing any type of hallucination (auditory, visual, olfactory, tactile) and/or delusion, you need to see a mental health professional.

Keep in mind, some issues can improve quite quickly when they receive the help they need. The quicker these issues improve, the quicker you can focus on any other shifts you may need to make to create the life you truly want.

For more information about life coaching, see 6 Signs You’re Ready for a Life Coach.

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