What’s the difference between Coaching and Therapy?


One of the questions that I’m sure pops into the mind of my prospective clients is; ‘What’s the difference between Coaching and Therapy?’ And ‘How do I know which one is right for me?’

I hope the following article helps to make it a little clearer.




When I use the term ‘therapy’ I’m talking about counselling, psychotherapy and any form of talk therapy with a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker.

In general these are the professionals we turn to when we think of mental health issues. Therapy encompasses a broad range of clinical practice that includes helping people deal with everyday problems of living in addition to the diagnosis, intervention and treatment of mental and emotional disorders.

Therapy is usually a long term treatment strategy that delves into past issues, psychological wounds and/ or psychopathology including schizophrenia spectrum, depressive and personality disorders and post traumatic stress disorders. An initial diagnosis helps to inform evidence-based treatment options including medications and techniques such as EMDR.

Different therapists lean on different psychological theories and some come from more of a wellness model where others operate from a medical model. Generally though, therapy involves clinical assessments, diagnosis and a treatment plan that informs, structures and evaluates the therapy process.




Coaching is a newer field that overlaps in some respects but differs in others. For example the desired outcomes of building resilience, self-esteem and confidence could be considered the same for coaching and therapy, it’s just a slightly different process to get there.

“There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.”(Chinese Proverb) 

Coaching is a client-centred process that relies on a dynamic, mutually respectful relationship between coach and client. There is no medical diagnosis, assessment or treatment plan involved. The main thing to note here is that coaching requires a client to assume full responsibility for their lives and choices and the client is given ownership of how they wish to proceed.

Coaching seeks to help the client with self-directed, lasting changes that are aligned with their personal values and enhance their well-being. As a coach I approach my client with the understanding that they are the expert on themselves and I am not seeking to provide them with a specific treatment plan but rather provide them with an opportunity for nonjudgmental dialogue that leads to them taking back the steering wheel of their life.

Providing my client with support and accountability through this process is a big part of coaching and also a main point of difference. As a coach I am accessible within reason to my client between sessions for ongoing support where as a therapist usually has clearly delineated boundaries confined to in-person sessions and does not offer email or phone support.

Coaching uses a non-expert, inquiring approach to empower clients to evolve into who they most want to be by taking small actions in the direction they want to head. The goal is to increase the client’s awareness of their own strengths and help them find resources, accept personal responsibility and to develop a compassionate approach to reflective thinking and self-discovery.


How to know what’s right for me

In a nutshell:


Coaching is a great fit for someone who is able to function in their daily life but knows there is room for change/ improvement. The individual would be willing to be held accountable to taking small achievable actions towards their own self-determined goals. Coaching is slightly more present and future focussed.

Therapy is the best option for someone with higher levels of psychological or emotional distress which may be impacting daily life activities. Therapy will help the individual to explore and process psychological issues while reducing symptoms through a structured treatment plan. Therapy is extremely helpful in recovering from past issues.

Personal experience


Before I became a coach I’d had many sessions experiencing both therapy and coaching firsthand. Both were extremely helpful and each served a particular purpose.

I called on therapy when I needed to delve into some deep psychological wounds from my past. I was given a safe space in which to drag up the memories and talk through them allowing some relief in the processing and increased understanding of what had happened. Often my sessions involved a lot of tears and I needed a very low key schedule the rest of that day as I would often feel quite wiped out after a session.

I’ve been working with coaches for the previous six years and even though I still hit limiting beliefs with roots in the past, the coach has always been able to help me through and encourage me to find ways to keep moving forward. Having a basis of therapy I believe was helpful in contextualising some of the issues that have come up for me but at this time in my own self-development the momentum and positivity of coaching has been particularly helpful.


Why I became a coach


Although I considered studying other forms of therapy, coaching as a model of empowerment really appeals to my personal values and philosophies. It’s also been extremely helpful in my own life which is why I’m passionate to share it with others.

As a Coach I don’t diagnose, clinically assess or label my clients. I don’t prescribe any forms of treatment. I would certainly refer to a therapist if I believe the levels of distress warrant a more medical approach or if my client is stuck on an issue from the past that requires some deeper processing.

My primary focus is on helping clients discover their personal strengths as well as limitations and support them to find strategies for positive change. I teach my clients simple tools for tapping into the wisdom of the body and help them to work through thought patterns keeping them in negative cycles. The process is interactive, supportive and has a positive, future focus.

If this sounds like a fit and you’d like to chat about Coaching, reach me here.