How Is a Life Coach Different From a Therapist

So You Finally Decided to Take Control

It’s not every day that people seek help when it comes to reaching their life goals, so it’s great that you decided to take charge of your life and address any existing issues you may have. Now, before you start looking for life coach services online, you need to know if you need a life coach or something else. The abundance of life coach services online might make them the easier choice, but sometimes, it might not be what you need.

Which brings us to the topic, which professional do you need to work with?

Depending on your specific case, you will either need a life coach or a therapist. But how do you know which one? Let’s discuss the difference between the two to find out.


Let’s start with the most important difference, the objective distinction in their professional roles. A therapist facilitates counseling or psychotherapy. These are long-term processes where a licensed healthcare professional will diagnose and clinically treat mental health issues, depression, and anxiety through therapy sessions focused on past traumas. They also help address issues that may arise due to these traumatic experiences such as self-destructive habits.

Life coaches are not healthcare professionals but they are skilled in helping clients identify their challenges and their problematic behaviours that can affect their ability to create and maintain stable relationships. Life coaches can help clients devise strategies and action plans to reach both their short- and long-term goals.

Programme Focus

Life coaching’s focus is on the modification of behaviours from problematic to stable and ultimately to positive. It may take into consideration the key concepts that affect a person’s beliefs and examine how it came to be like that. The ultimate focus is how to use the present to ensure that the future will be better.

On the other hand, therapists have to burrow through the past to further understand how it affects the present. Therapists work hard to figure out what is causing a specific problem or behavioural pattern and how it can be fixed. They don’t really focus on the future and would rather guide their clients in their day to day lives, making sure they are as thorough as possible in addressing existing problems.

Programme Goals

Therapy focuses on understanding their client’s subconscious and unconscious mind. The goal of therapy is to reach optimum mental health. That’s why therapy is most helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and other similar conditions. The goal of every therapist is to help a person be more functional and to address and prevent harmful behaviours. They won’t rush into the future without working out the kinks of the present first.

A client who works with a coach can expect a different outcome from coaching sessions. Usually, life coaches will help a person get unstuck and secure a more positive outcome in several aspects of their lives. It’s not uncommon for a life coach to measure their success by ticking boxes using specific performance indicators or behavioural changes.

woman talking with a Daftein coach

Session Framework

Both therapists and life coaches use talk sessions in achieving the outcomes they want. But that’s pretty much where the similarities in their methods end.

Therapy is usually more unstructured which could sometimes be surprising since it’s facilitated by a  licensed therapist and health worker. But because therapy focuses on getting to the root of the problem, it doesn’t reinforce or impose anything on the client. The therapist very carefully assists the client as they both explore the inner workings of their consciousness.

In a sense, it’s the client that guides every session while the therapist interjects only when necessary and learn from what the client is willing and comfortable with sharing. Therapies are also usually long-term commitments with some people going through it for years, long after they have addressed their initial challenges. In fact, some clients will continue to go to therapy throughout their lives to ensure that they don’t relapse.

On the contrary, life coaching is more structured because its goals are very clear. It aims to define a specific action plan which the client can pursue to achieve the growth they desire. In life coaching sessions, the coach takes the lead and provides the client with a clear method of addressing their concerns whether it has something to do with their relationships, career, business or more.

Coaches empower their clients and equip them with the necessary skills to eventually navigate the challenging parts of their lives on their own. A life coach can not diagnose mental illnesses or disorders and so their sessions don’t really have to take years or forever. Once the goal has been reached, the client can venture out into the world unsupervised and free to explore their options.


One of the important things to consider when looking for a life coach is that the person has to be inspirational for the client. Although credentials is every bit as important, the goal of working with a life coach is to get help determining goals and taking the necessary steps to achieve them. This is much easier to accomplish if the client finds the coach inspiring, influential, and with a philosophy that aligns with their own.

Life coaches aren’t currently being regulated by any governing body, but that doesn’t mean you should just work with anybody. Make sure they have the necessary training and education to become a life coach. It’s important for clients to find the following qualities in a life coach:

  • Ignites a fire of change inside you and gets you excited about the future and everything that it has to offer
  • Has extensive experience on the same exact issue that you need guidance with
  • Make you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable without fearing judgement

Different coaches use different approaches so you may have to talk to some before you find one whose methods resonate best with you. Like any other thing in life, never settle for the first life coach you get in touch with. Ask yourself if you can truly see yourself having a fruitful partnership with the person.

Now when it comes to finding a therapist, the process is more systematic and organized. That’s because your specific case will require the clinical expertise of a professional. Yes, comfort is still important, but sometimes your case may require the help of a specific individual even though they’re not exactly someone you’re too comfortable with.

Maybe you have OCD, anxiety or depression. Or maybe you have some unresolved childhood trauma that will make you resistant to change and cause you to reject certain therapists. But if that professional has the most experience in your specific condition, they are most likely the best person to work with. Familiarity comes with exposure and a few sessions should allow you to relax and open up to your therapist.

If you’re dealing with physical manifestations of your condition like lack of sleep or chronic pain, it also helps to look for therapists who can prescribe you with medications, which will make your life more comfortable in general.

Daftein coach taking down notes

Get the Help You Need Today

Knowing the specific roles that therapists and life coaches play is crucial when making an informed decision on which service you need more. Consider talking to the specialists at Daftein where you can get a free initial session which can better give you an idea on what you truly require. Lastly, make sure to thank yourself for taking the first few steps to healing and succeeding in life.

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