Dec 4 | 15 min read

Author: Ericka Eller

’Tis the season for resolutions and goals; a certain focus tends to fall on the goals and aspirations that we may have let slip by in the past 12 months. We write out lists of well-meaning promises to ourselves that we will fulfill this year. THIS NEW YEAR it will be different. This year something changes and we stick to the goals.

The promise of a new year ignites excitement and so much promise; we have belief in our potential to change! And that excitement is POWERFUL! Yet, there is a difference between simply writing a goal and creating a plan to achieve the goal you have been wanting to achieve.

Seeking the help of a coach or therapist to move towards your goals can be a great first step to determining your best path to creating new habits and making change.

Research has shown that those who gain support and walk towards a goal with another person have increased the success of achieving goals.

But how do you know whether you should seek the guidance of a therapist or a life coach? What is the difference between coaching and therapy?

How does a coach work with clients?

As a certified health and life coach, I work primarily with high achieving women that are either business owners or they are in a leadership role within their company. The work that I do as a certified life coach centers around stress management and helping them to beat burnout or recover from burnout. I see many clients that are dealing with symptoms of stress, perfectionistic tendencies, and overwhelming feelings- never feeling like they are making progress in their lives. Women that I coach have obstacles in front of them and they need additional support in order to achieve short-term goals.

I consider myself to be a gap practitioner. I help to fill in the gap for a client. So they are possibly seeing a therapist. They could also be working primarily with their doctor and dealing with some of the symptoms of stress (I support many clients with auto-immune issues).  People are coming to me because they aren’t clear on what their next step should be and what that would even involve. They need to find a path and they need help identifying small goals to lessen their overwhelm which are also achievable.  They are looking for some quick wins, they want to feel success. They need a road map to their destination.

Candidates for coaching usually have one very large, specific goal that they’re trying to achieve: stepping into a new career, working towards better health, finding ways to manage stress and time, etc. Together, we can accomplish those types of goals in the short term, with the possibility of extending more long-term. For example, I tend to have a lot of clients that are working with me in three and six month blocks. However, there are a few goals that are going to take a little bit more time. The length of time to work with a coach really depends on the client and what it is that they are working towards.

I help my coaching clients by creating small, actionable goals (that are client led) things that they can actually do within a specific timeframe. When I work with clients, we come up with one specific goal that they will work on for the two weeks in between the time that we see each other. This “homework” will be identifiable action steps that they’re taking to move forward in progress every two weeks.

What are the main differences between therapy and coaching?

Counselors or therapists start in the present (what has brought the client to our office to seek support?), but oftentimes help people really trace that back to the beginning moment: where did those beliefs come from? Where did those values come from? Where did those thought patterns come from? Together, we can uncover that much of it is from the client’s past or from their childhood. Therapy really begins with the present just as a means of connecting the dots and helping people create insight and awareness.

Therapists use treatment goals as well. These may be a little more open-ended so it might be something like decreased depression or increased healthy relationships, increased utilization of coping skills, which is basically just a fancy way of saying that a client is using coping skills or they are taking care of themselves more often.

Coaching is more short-term (and typically goal focused) while therapy is a little more open-ended. Depending on the client and what the desired outcome may be, the length of support may vary in duration.

Counseling helps clients get to a place of  insight with self-awareness led by healing from past trauma, past hurts, previous unhealthy relationships, really exploring patterns and behaviors and shame. And coaching is focused on supporting clients in the present and helping them move forward.

How are Coaching and Therapy similar?

Both therapy and coaching are incredibly important. There’s such a huge value and need for helping professionals. Both professions partner with our clients to help them grow, to help them move forward in their lives. And we do that in slightly different ways. We can each take different paths towards healing and success.

Both come alongside the clients and help them make positive changes in their lives and become productive. We are both helping them to gain new perspectives and helping our clients understand the overall impact that they can personally have in moving forward and in the decisions that they’re personally making.

Coaches and therapists can have a symbiotic relationship together because we are both working with the goals of our clients in mind and wanting to see them thrive, progress forward, grow, and become the best version of themselves. Coaching and therapy both have those end goals in mind.

What is right for you?

Establishing a support system that helps you to take charge of your emotional health will result in a revitalized life that you are excited to live! If you are ready to move forward towards a bold, purpose-driven life, either option can get you there. Coaching and therapy have their superpowers individually and in tandem. If you are considering choosing either coaching support or therapy, we would love to help you in finding the right fit. You can schedule a free consultation here.

Author: Ericka Eller