Life Coach vs. Therapist: What is the Difference? (2023)

Although life coaching has been around for quite some time, many people are unaware or unclear about how it works and how it may be different from traditional therapy. While there is some overlap between the two, there are distinctive features that uniquely separate one from the other.

Past vs. Future Focus

One of the more well known features of therapy is that it focuses on the client’s history and background. By starting at the beginning and moving through a client’s past experiences, therapists are able to gain a better understanding of current unresolved issues. Because clients often seek out therapy when they are unable to process or overcome an internal issue, such as a past trauma, marital issue, addiction, etc., therapists must spend sufficient time getting to know their clients in a deeply intimate way so that they are well equipped to walk them through a process of healing, coping, and restoration.

Life coaches, on the other hand, begin working with clients where they are and focus on where they would like to be in the future. Of course, there is some value in looking at the past in order to understand current mindsets, habits, and beliefs, however the focus is largely on present status and future goals. When clients work with coaches, they are looking for a desired result or outcome. Oftentimes, they are in need of accountability, structure, and guidance in a specific area in order to make progress on their goals.

Methods and Approaches

When it comes to the practices of coaches and therapists, there are some key commonalities. For example, both professionals provide a safe space where clients can show up authentically as they are. Both encourage vulnerability and participation in order to reach a desired outcome. Additionally, coaches and therapists are both skilled in asking thoughtful and guided questions in order to help clients better understand their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

While both therapists and life coaches serve as authority figures in their field, life coaches tend to assume a more interactive role with their clients, compared to therapists.

(Video) Coaching vs Therapy: Do I Need Therapy, or a Coach

For example, a weight loss coach may offer tools such as journaling, record keeping, and app tracking, and may review progress at each session. They can help clients to evaluate their results as well as identify any thought or behavior patterns that may be interfering. They can then provide targeted feedback to help in the process and further guide their client in the right direction to help them reach targeted goals.

A therapist’s role consists of providing the space for clients to safely express themselves as well as discuss issues they are facing in order to help them navigate through internal struggles and conflict. They may offer specialized practices, such as EMDR, cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, or psychodynamic therapy, to name a few, however, psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) is one of the most common forms of therapy today.

Licensing and Certification

To put it plainly, a therapist is a licensed health care provider and a Life Coach…is not. In order to become a therapist, you must complete graduate work and obtain any specialty licensure requirements for your state and chosen field of therapy. In addition, you may be required to take and pass state exams.

A life coach, on the other hand, may work with clients with or without certification. While not required, it is certainly in the best interest of coaches and their clients to be certified by a qualified program in order to gain the knowledge and skills needed to be successful. Many certification programs provide coaches with extensive training and resources that can be implemented in their work with clients.

Because therapists are licensed by the state they work in, they are required to follow a different set of guidelines than life coaches. By law, therapists must comply with HIPAA policies and they are also governed by a regulatory body that ensures compliance with all state rules and regulations.

(Video) Life Coaching vs. Therapy

In stark contrast, there are no such rules or regulations for life coaches. While anybody can assume the role of a life coach, those who are serious about pursuing this as a career, will obtain certification. By investing in a qualified program, coaches demonstrate their own commitment to learning, growing, and helping others.

How Much Does it Cost?

By taking the steps to address their mental, physical, and emotional needs, clients are choosing to invest in their overall well-being. When it comes down to it, it is hard to put a price on the life-changing results that one achieves through working with a professional coach or therapist.

Because of the uniqueness of each profession, client costs can vary depending on the structure and format. While therapy tends to follow a more structured payment format, there are many factors that determine the costs of working with a coach.

For example, a client can expect therapy to cost approximately $100-200 per one hour session, while life coaching can be completely customized depending on length of program, sessions, and a coach’s personalized services and/or offerings. In addition to meeting with clients, many coaches also offer supplemental resources, such as courses, workbooks, videos, etc.

Typically, a client will see a therapist on a weekly basis for several months or until they no longer require services. Since therapists are mental health professionals governed by each state, insurance providers cover this service. Depending on a client’s health plan, they may have varied out of pocket expenses, however, for many people, this is minimal and largely absorbed by their provider.

(Video) Coaching vs Therapy - What's The Difference | Christine Hassler

One caveat to this is that therapists do have the option to decline working with insurance if they choose. Unfortunately, due to the amount of paperwork required and the delay in payouts, more and more therapists are opting out of working with insurance companies.

Coaches, on the other hand, are free to name their price for services and can offer packages to clients in a number of ways. While one coach may package their services in a 3 month bundle for $2,500, another coach may offer the same duration at $10,000. Each coach is unique in what they offer and specialize in, but it is difficult to name an average price for their services.

Additionally, coaching is an entirely out of pocket expense for clients (unless, as in the case of companies such as LinkedIn, an employer offers this as a service to their employees). The bottom line is the cost of coaching will depend on many factors: type of coaching, duration of coaching program, coach’s experience/preference, supplemental resources, and more.

Specialties and Areas of Expertise

As with most professions, therapists and life coaches come with their own set of specialized knowledge in a given area. Whether a client is seeking support for their health, marriage, or finances, there are specialists in both professions who can offer targeted guidance and support.

While a therapist may have special licensing in a specific area, a coach may have a background in their niche that qualifies them to offer a particular service. For example, a life coach who specializes in helping high achieving executive women prioritize their health and well-being, may be someone who spent twenty years working in management at a corporate job while successfully maintaining a high level of self care. Likewise, a weight loss coach may be one who achieved their goals by means of a very specific process and can now show others the way to reaching their goals.

(Video) Life Coaching vs Therapy Explained

It’s not to say that there aren’t therapists who don’t have personal experience in the areas they work in, however, it is very common for life coaches to coach on what they have personally experienced and mastered through a process of their own.

Access to Services

People have long benefited from the services of mental health professionals, however since the pandemic, the number of those in need has increased exponentially, while the number of providers has seemingly decreased. With a surge of requests pouring in, the mental health field has become overburdened and highly impacted to the point of having to turn people away or place them on unusually long wait lists before they can be seen. Many of those in need of therapy services have had to find their own ways of coping and managing due to the lack of available service providers.

The coaching industry, on the other hand, has become a popular and quickly growing field that is widely available to those looking for help. A simple online search will guide you in the right direction. Many coaches also maintain a social media presence, which helps potential clients get to know a little more about who they may be choosing to work with.

Common Goal

While therapy and life coaching are two distinctly unique professions, they share the same goal of helping others to be healthy, happy, and well. Depending on the exact needs of the client, one may be better suited than the other. In some cases, if a client is unable to find a therapist, there is likely a specialized coach who can help them with the issues they are facing.

The important thing to keep in mind is that depending on who they choose to work with, there may be limitations in the scope of the work that can be accomplished. In the end, both therapists and life coaches are invaluable resources for helping others to maintain healthy and productive lives.

(Video) Life Coach vs. Therapist | What's the difference?


Is life coaching better than Counselling? ›

Coaching is action orientated, vs counselling is coping orientated. Coaches want to help you recognise what you think vs counsellors also want to help you realise how you feel. Coaching helps you set and achieve goals vs counselling helps you recognise and solve your problems in life.

What is the difference between life coaching and psychology? ›

A life coach does not have a license to practice psychotherapy and provide counseling, although the life coach might have training in counseling. A psychologist, though, has the ability to diagnose psychological problems and provide adequate therapy when needed after securing the right license.

Can a life coach tell you what to do? ›

A coach won't tell you what to do, instead, they will use questioning techniques to help you uncover the answers yourself. They'll also provide an objective and empowering environment for you to explore any challenges you're facing.

Is a life coach like a therapist? ›

What to expect: Life-coaching resembles talk therapy, because the focus of sessions tends to be about you and what's happening in your personal life, Schoeder says. But unlike talk therapy, the point of life-coaching is to create an action plan that helps you change your behavior in some area of your life.

Can a life coach also be a therapist? ›

1 | State Laws and Rules

professional counselors who offer coaching services should understand that, legally, they are still practicing counselors. Be aware that licensing boards do not necessarily differentiate between counseling and coaching activities.

What is the difference between coach and therapist? ›

Therapists manage mental illnesses and diagnoses, coaches do not. Coaches work with clients for short periods of time. Therapists can work with clients for long stretches. Often therapists are focused on the past and present, while coaches are future-oriented.

Can a life coach treat anxiety? ›

Since coaching focuses on individuals taking ownership to help improve future behaviors, it can be an effective way for many people with anxiety to help overcome some of their symptoms.

Can life coaches help with trauma? ›

The coach's key role is often is assisting the client in maintaining the motivation and commitment needed to achieve their goals. Life coaches are not therapists, and they do not work on past based issues or trauma. Life coaches focus on the present and the client's goals for the future.

What can life coaches not do? ›

Under the law, coaches cannot do any of the following: Bill their services to health insurance companies. Offer the breadth of care and services provided by therapists. Diagnose or treat mental health conditions.

What a life coach Cannot do? ›

Difference Between a Life Coach and a Therapist

While working with a life coach may help you to deal with certain unresolved issues, life coaches cannot treat mood disorders, anxiety disorders, addiction, or any other mental health condition. Therapists have a degree and are licensed mental health professionals.

What life coaches do not do? ›

Coaches do not provide advice or guidance to clients. Rather, they help their clients come to their own solutions through a series of tools and techniques. The coaching relationship is more about working together to help the client make the right decisions for them.

Can a life coach give mental health advice? ›

A life coach is in no way trained, authorized, or insured to attend to mental health symptoms or issues directly. 'Mindset coaching' should not be addressing depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder or other psychotherapeutic issues directly.

How do you know if a life coach is good? ›

Life coaches need to be approachable, personable, friendly and helpful. They should be enthusiastic, empathic and have a sense of humour and patience. Possessing these qualities are important in helping coaches to gain new customers, but also new business contacts.

Is coaching considered therapy? ›

Although both professions can help you get to a better place than where you began, therapists are trained to treat mental illness or other significant emotional and relational concerns, while coaches seek to help you elevate performance in a specific area.

Why do coaches charge more than therapists? ›

The majority of coaches work with a very different business model to most therapists and that's why they charge way more. As well as having a clearly defined niche, coaches are very clear about the value they are giving to their clients and do not trade hours for money.

What is a fair price for a life coach? ›

Most life coaches charge somewhere between $75 and $200 per hour. However, you can find coaches who fall outside of that range.

How many sessions with a life coach? ›

For time-critical goals like these, you should aim to meet with your coach once a week as a minimum and preferably twice a week for the first week or two. So, you're looking at around eight to 12 life coaching sessions in total.

How much should you pay a life coach? ›

Cost of Life Coaching

The typical range for personal life coaching is from $75 to $200 per hour, with an average cost of $120 per hour. Many coaches offer packages, such as $300 per month for four 30 minute sessions.

What type of person needs a life coach? ›

8. You're facing a major transition. If you're about to change jobs, move to a new city or get out of a relationship, you need a life coach. You don't want to burn out your family and friends with discussions about your upcoming life changes, and you want to make your transition as easy as you can.

Why do life coaches fail? ›

The single biggest reason most Life Coaches fail is because they lack commitment – or at least enough commitment to drive them through the tough times.. It's really hard to be a great coach without commitment. It's really hard to generate clients without commitment.

Do life coaches take notes? ›

Every coach should take notes after each coaching session to keep track of the conversation and document what you're learning about the client.

Can anyone call themselves a life coach? ›

Life coaching is a fast-growing field but isn't regulated by any state or federal agency. There is no licensing requirement. Anyone who wants to be a life coach can pursue the profession. Certification lets others know you have specific training and are serious about the career.

What is the difference between a counselor and a life coach? ›

Therapists diagnose and provide professional expertise and guidelines, and coaches help clients identify the challenges, then work in partnership with clients to obtain their goals.”

What is the opposite of a life coach? ›

We found 1 solutions for Opposite Of A Life Coach? . The most likely answer for the clue is HEARSE.

Can you call yourself a life coach without certification? ›

Yes. You can be a life coach without a certification. There are currently no existing regulations that you are required to meet before you can call yourself a life coach.

Can a life coach diagnose mental illness? ›

While therapists are trained mental health professionals who are in the regulated field of healthcare and require licensure, life coaches do not have mental health training and are not equipped to diagnose or treat mental health conditions (unless a life coach was previously trained as a therapist, which is also common ...

How long does a life coach session last? ›

Coaching Sessions of Moderate Length (30-60 minutes)

A large fraction of coaches prefer sessions within this time range.

What does a life coach do day to day? ›

A life coach helps individuals to become the best versions of themselves. They empower clients to make, meet and exceed professional and personal goals. Not just about giving advice, life coaching involves building relationships with clients and supporting them to make positive changes.

What's the difference between a counselor and a life coach? ›

Coaching only focuses on the present and the future. Counselling exclusively focuses on the past. Counselors offer advice and on what to do, whereas, coaches do not.

What is the success rate of life coaching? ›

What percentage of life coaches are successful? Only 10% of life coaches are successful because it is estimated that over 90% of coaches who are just starting off fail because they do not have a niche.

Can you combine counselling and life coaching? ›

Coaching and business scholars view psychotherapy and coaching as distinct practices with unique techniques that serve separate purposes in clients' lives. They suggest that combining the two disciplines could be confusing, unethical, and potentially damaging to clients (Berglas, 2002).

What is the difference between coaching and counselling? ›

Counselling helps you cope better day-to-day; coaching helps you take positive action. If you're feeling overwhelmed and are struggling to cope with everyday tasks, a counsellor can help you find a way to cope. If, day-to-day, you're getting by OK but know you want to achieve more, a coach may be more suitable.

What can a life coach not do? ›

Coaching does not focus on the past; rather, life coaching focuses on the present and creating the future that a client hopes to achieve. Life coaches are not consultants. A good life coach will not tell clients what to do or prescribe specific courses of action based on their own desires.

How many clients should a life coach have? ›

According to the ICF, active coach practitioners are serving 11.7 clients at a time. For life coaches with 10+ years of experience, the average number of active clients is 15. But for life coaches with less than a year in practice, their average is 6 clients.

How often do life coaches meet with clients? ›

Coaching typically consists of a series of one-on-one sessions between you and your life coach and usually last 45 to 60 minutes each. Some clients meet with their life coach once a week, although some clients meet every two weeks or even just once a month - depending on their needs.

Can you do coaching and therapy at the same time? ›

Therapy and life coaching give the client the needed support during times of trouble and many accredited therapist today have taken on both roles to help their clients improve the overall quality of their mental health and their lives.

Is coaching a talking therapy? ›

Life Coaching & Self-Development Counselling

While life coaching is not therapy, it overlaps with therapy in some important ways. Both aim to help you find ways to live your life in a way that works for you.


1. Life Coach vs. Therapist | Brave Thinking Institute - Life Coach Certification
(Brave Thinking Institute)
2. What's The Difference Between Therapy And Life Coaching?
(Live On Purpose TV)
3. Life Coaching 101 (2): Coaching vs Therapy vs Consulting
(Transformation Academy)
4. The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy
(Sara Oliveri)
5. Should You Become a Therapist or Life Coach? (Honest Advice + What I Wish I Knew Earlier)
(Courtney Callahan)
6. Therapy vs Life Coaching | What's the difference? | Which is better?
(Emma Nicole)
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