The Differences Between Coaching and Therapy

I just got an email from someone thinking about working with me as a coach, wanting to know more about the differences between coaching and therapy. Whenever I’m asked about this, I try to keep my answer short and focused on recovery. Here’s what I say: “Therapy focuses on how past trauma impacts your present actions, and helps you work through unhealed soul wounds. Coaching focuses more on helping you move into action, getting clear about your goals and removing obstacles to reaching them.”

Although I’m a coach, I’ve also served for 15 years as a pastor and have a fair bit of experience in counseling people. And now after working with hundreds of addicts, I have some instincts about how past issues are affecting current behavior (the realm of therapy) which I bring to the table as a recovery coach.

Here are some articles you might find helpful that address this topic in greater detail:

Coaching vs. Therapy – Bridging the Gap, by Laurie A. Sheppard – Although this article seems to be written for coaches, it gives great information about the distinctions and value of coaching and therapy. What I like about it is that she seems to recognize how these two areas overlap, even while affirming the basic distinctions. I think this article sums up my perspective fairly well.

Coaching and Counseling: What is the Connection? by Sharon Brain and Juliet Austin – Great basic article giving an overview of coaching, how it works, and the differences between coaching and therapy.

The Continuing Debate: Therapy or Coaching? by Patrick Williams – very detailed article (17 pages in a pdf format!) written for therapists and coaches, clarifying the differences between coaching and therapy. It’s written by a former therapist who now leads a coaching training school that specializes in helping therapists make the transition to coaching. It contains some information about the history of coaching, distinctions between coaching and therapy, and also instructions for coaches about what to do when clients need therapy.

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