The Difference Between Coaches And Therapists

As we journey through life and work on personal growth and self-improvement, it’s a great idea to seek the guidance and support of professionals. Life coaching and therapy have both gained widespread recognition for their roles in helping individuals realize their full potential. But what’s the difference between coaches and therapists?

In this article, we’ll explore the key differences between these two professions and shed some light on the nuances that set them apart.

Purpose and Focus

Coaches: Life coaches primarily focus on helping clients identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. They work with individuals to create action plans, set objectives, and hold them accountable for their progress. Coaches emphasize empowerment, self-discovery, and motivation, often using various tools and techniques to facilitate growth.

Therapists: Therapists, on the other hand, address mental health concerns, emotional distress, and behavioral issues. They delve deep into the past to uncover the root causes of psychological challenges and work on healing and coping strategies. Therapists provide a safe space for clients to explore their emotions and past experiences.

Training and Certification

Coaches: Life coaches typically don’t require formal degrees. However, certification from a reputable institution like the Life Purpose Institute can greatly enhance your credibility and expertise. The ICF-accredited program offers comprehensive training to equip you with the necessary skills to become a successful life coach.

Therapists: Therapists, counselors, or psychotherapists generally hold advanced degrees in psychology, social work, or counseling. They must undergo extensive clinical training and obtain licensure to practice legally. The path to becoming a therapist is academically rigorous and time-consuming.

Time Frame

Coaches: Life coaching is typically a short-term, goal-oriented process. Coaches work with clients over weeks or months to help them achieve specific objectives. The focus is on taking action and making progress towards desired outcomes.

Therapists: Therapy can be a long-term process, spanning months or even years, depending on the client’s needs. Therapists delve into deep-rooted issues, and progress may be slower as they work through complex emotions and traumas.


Coaches: While coaches maintain client confidentiality, the boundaries may differ from those in therapy. Coaches are more results-oriented and may discuss client progress, goals, and strategies with others, such as mentors or colleagues, as part of their professional development.

Therapists: Therapists adhere to strict confidentiality standards, with limited exceptions, when the client’s or others’ safety is at risk. Therapist-client confidentiality is a fundamental ethical principle in therapy.

Scope of Practice

Coaches: Life coaches help clients in various areas of life, including career, relationships, personal development, and achieving specific goals. Coaches often work with individuals who are generally functioning well but seek guidance to enhance their lives.

Therapists: Therapists primarily focus on mental health issues and emotional well-being. They work with individuals dealing with conditions like depression, anxiety, trauma, and more complex psychological challenges.

Whether you’re considering becoming a certified life coach or seeking the support of a professional, it’s essential to understand the distinctions between coaching and therapy. If you’re interested in empowering individuals to reach their full potential, the Life Purpose Institute in San Diego, CA, can provide you with the training and certification you need to embark on a rewarding career as a life coach. By choosing the path of coaching, you can be the guiding light that helps others illuminate their lives with purpose and success.

Fern founder of Life Purpose Institute
Fern Gorin, P.C.C.

Fern is the Founder and Director of the Life Purpose Institute, Inc. Before working as a coach; she was a mental health counselor, social worker, and career counselor. She developed her unique coaching method in 1984 and has assisted thousands of people in her coaching practice in making positive life and career changes. Fern developed a strong and compelling vision to help people discover their purpose, move forward in all areas of their life, and create a life they love.

After serving for many years as a Life Coach and licensed therapist in her private practice, she began training coaches internationally to perform this important work. Fern wrote and developed comprehensive manuals and materials for the Life Coach Certification and Spiritual Coach Training Programs.

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