Ask the Pros by Angela Grace

Therapy vs. Life Coaching:

Being an author is hard work! We encounter bouts of writer’s block, frustration, anxiety/panic (think deadlines) and worry.  Stress is typical and self-esteem issues arise (no one will want to read what I write).  Depending on where you live, what you’ve experienced and who you were born to, depression may hamper your creativeness or completely stall your writing projects.  Anxiety can interrupt the best-laid writing plans.  Personality type plays a role as well.  For extroverts, selling books is often really fun as are the writer’s conferences but focus can be an issue.  For introverts, being in the public eye and interacting with others can feel like a nightmare.

So, you may be in a place where you want to hire a professional to talk over your situation. One initial question is: who is the best professional to hire? A Psychologist or a Life Coach, and what is the difference?

The training and licensing requirements for each profession are significantly different.  Psychologists must earn either a Master’s Degree or a Doctorate to practice psychology, which is typically at least six or seven years of higher education.  Psychologist’s must be qualified and licensed to practice in their home state. Usually there is a licensing requirement for continuing education, expectation of high ethical standards and most Psychologist maintain malpractice insurance.

In contrast, a Life Coach earns a certificate after taking classes and meeting standards of excellence laid out by a certifying organization. Usually this can be obtained in a few months. Becoming a Nationally Board Certified Life Coach requires successful completion of an exam and continuing education.  I am not aware of any State licensing requirements for a Life Coach.

A good way to describe the differences between psychological therapy and life coaching is using an analogy of driving a car. Imagine yourself sitting in the driver’s seat of a car.  In therapy, as the driver, you are looking into the rear view mirror, into your past.  During therapy you would discuss your history, the decisions you’ve made and your prior experiences.  By reviewing past incidences that have occurred and decisions you’ve made, you may resolve feelings that are troubling you. The assumption is that once you have resolved those feelings, you will be mentally well. Overall, by using therapeutic interventions such as meeting with a therapist and sometimes, medicine, the goal is for you to heal.   Fortunately, most health insurance will pay, at least partially, for mental health therapy.

With Coaching you are still in the driver’s seat.  Instead of looking into the rear view mirror, you are looking forward down the street, both directly in front of you and further down the road.  Life coaching presumes that you are mentally well, that you have life goals and that you have become “stuck” while trying to accomplish those goals.  A person who is mentally well usually has all of the tools they need to get them to successfully reach their goals.  A trained Life Coach will work with the you to chart your future path whether that is finding a better job, starting a new business, losing the weight in a healthy way, writing a book, starting a professional blog or creating an exercise program that fits and works.  The sky really is the limit for coaching goals.  Working with a Life Coach is typically fun and encouraging because goals are being reached in small increments. You create your own path while working with the coach, take action, making your plan a reality.  Typically coaching does not last long.  The client and the coach create a contract together, determining length of coaching, when the meetings occur, the length of the meeting and payment.  Typically, coaching occurs either in office or using FaceTime or Skype.  Usually, insurance does not pay for coaching (but they should!).  Coaches may coach anywhere in the world using current technology.

I am both a Psychologist for the past 25 years and a Board Certified Coach for seven years.  Both counseling and coaching provide life-changing experiences.  Personally, I find both professions exciting because clients gain new awareness about themselves.  When we have a new awareness, we then have a new perspective.  It is the new perspective that opens our eyes to what could be.

If you are in a place where you need or want to hire either a therapist or a coach, hopefully, this blog will give you better direction on who will best meet your needs.

Angela Grace  MA, LLP, BCC, WCS










  1. Youre the person that gets them out of their past and guides thwm into the future. This can be really good for people as the relationship builds with time. I liked reading this…


    • Thank you for the comment. You are right, it takes a while to build trusting relationship, but once that relationship is made, people grow, learn and thrive!


Comments are closed.