Life Coaching Vs. Therapy


Life Coaching Vs Therapy

There is a lot of confusion around the difference between life coaching and counseling. We get calls every week from people who want counseling but ask for life coaching and vice versa. Both life coaching and counseling can be super helpful at different times and for issues. This article will clarify the differences so that you can decide what’s best for you. I will be the first to say that I have benefitted from both coaching and counseling at different points in my life, and I know that you could too so thanks for reading this. You are well on your way already.

What is counseling?

Counseling, also commonly referred to as psychotherapy can be a longer process in which a client develops a trust-based relationship with the mental health professional. A good therapist will create a sense of safety and trust that allows both past and present issues to be explored without judgement. Clinicians have undergone extensive training, licensure, supervision, and accreditation through the state. All clinicians have spent a minimum of 2-5 years in a graduate program.

What is coaching?

Coaching is generally a short term (3 month), contract-based relationship in which the coach will help the client identify obstacles or problematic patterns in order to create a plan of action to move forward and accomplish goals. This process is shorter and generally does not take into account your story, any trauma you may have experienced, or other past experiences. Life coaching takes your starting point as “neutral ground” and moves forward from there. Coaches are not regulated by the state and are not required to have any training or accreditation, so make sure to verify that before choosing a coach.

Similarities and differences between Life Coaching and Therapy

Life Coaching does not take into account your story and what has led you to be where you are today. Therapy seeks to understand and incorporate your story into the process of healing, goal setting, and growth. A good way to think about the difference between coaching and therapy is that coaching can help you from today until you reach your goal while therapy will seek to understand your entire story and leverage your strengths to move through pain towards fullness of life.

Should I choose a therapist or a life coach?

The decision to choose between a life coach or a therapist is a personal one. Tony Robbins uses the metaphor of climbing a mountain. If you feel like you could get healthier and understand yourself better before climbing than a therapist is right for you. If you feel like you already have a healthy baseline and understanding of yourself and your past, than a life coach will function much like a sherpa or guide to help you climb the specific mountain you want to climb. You wouldn’t want to climb a mountain if you were not in shape to do so. In that case, hiring a sherpa wouldn’t help much if you knew you were not able to get to the top.

The 5 key differences are:

Goal setting

Counseling: Many clients who come to Novo Life for therapy are in some sort of crisis. Clients are seeking help for anxiety, depression, or wanting to resolve a recurring issue in their relationship. These things get in the way of living your life to the full so goals revolve around understanding and moving through and past these challenges.

Coaching: Most people who reach out to us for coaching either have a specific goal in mind or they want to get organized and figure out how to move forward in their life and work. Initial goals are clarified and a specific plan is put in place to move towards those goals.

How progress is made

Counseling: Generally therapy is a longer process and because there is a period of trust building and discovery, a breakthrough in therapy usually occurs around the 8-10th session. Unpacking and understanding your unique story is a BIG part of how we will move through it and towards health and this takes time. Therapy is directed by the client and may change as we continue work together. The beauty of this relationship is that it is dynamic. If you come in with something that happened during the past week, we can put the longer term goals aside and deal with what you are going through now.

Coaching: The length and process of life coaching is fixed. Usually I work with coaching clients for 3 months and the process is structured and intensive with deliverables each week.

Skills used to support

Counseling: As a licensed mental professional, I am trained to handle and address challenging situations like suicidal ideation, sexual assault, and abuse. I understand how to help people move through the painful parts of their story towards healthing and health. The modalities include and are not limited to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Interview, and tools and techniques from a number of other evidence based approaches.

Coaching: My primary role as a coach is to motivate and be the accountability that you need to get the things done that will move you toward your goal. These skills include planning, encouragement, and entrepreneurial development.

Integration of your story

Counseling: A big part of the healing and benefit to therapy is the integration of your story. Understanding the highs and the lows and how you moved through those times yields strength and insight as you move forward.

Coaching: Emotions and past experiences are not the focus of our coaching sessions. We will focus on the specific blockers that are getting in the way and work towards removing those. While emotions are a part of everything we do, we will not focus or unpack them in the coaching sessions.

Flexibility of process

Counseling: There are laws and rules that protect you as a client. We abide by strict guidelines for confidentiality and privacy. Therapy is generally done in one of our physical office locations, although we do offer telehealth sessions for those who travel for work or are unable to come into an office. Sometimes insurance covers the cost of the sessions although we do not bill any insurance directly.

Coaching: You can be anywhere in the world for coaching. The boundaries are more flexible and although everything we discuss is confidential, the content of what we will work on is generally not as personal and private. Insurance does not cover coaching costs.


Both counseling and coaching can help you at different points in your life. We have a team of really awesome therapists and coaches at Novo Life Counseling. We started the company to ensure that we can provide the best possible care and encouragement to each of our clients. If you have more questions about what it would look like to come in for either counseling or coaching we offer a free 15 minute phone consultation to evaluate what would be the right fit for you.


Thanks for reading!

Drew Konzelman, M.A., LMHCA

Co-Founder, Novo Life Counseling