Your career is a very important part of your life. When you find your career fulfilling, rewarding and in line with your personality and skill-set, you will tend to have less stress and lead a healthier, happier life. Both therapists and life coaches can help you navigate career decisions and find the right solution, though the way they go about it will be different. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different approaches and styles of a therapist vs life coach, and questions you might have as you decide which is best for you.

Therapist vs Life Coach: Education

Therapists, counselors and psychologists are all required to fulfill specific educational requirements and licenses before they can legally practice. A master’s or doctoral degree ensures that the therapist can help clients address obstacles in their lives using strategies that are supported by the greater professional community. Ongoing certification ensures that the therapist is in good standing, and helps to protect clients from malpractice. While this background gives therapists the tools to address mental and emotional disorders, it also gives them strategies to empower clients in their daily lives and overcome long-term obstacles.

Life coaches are not required to complete any specific education, degree, or obtain any certifications, though many do. Their educational background may vary, including courses or degrees in psychology, therapy, social work, teaching, or business. Life coaches may be a part of professional organizations or take courses through independent organizations like the International Association of Coaching and the International Coach Federation. Some rely on informal education or personal life experience to share their methods for overcoming life obstacles or achieving success.

Therapist vs Life Coach: What They Do

A therapist is trained to address many different issues and challenges in your life, including family dynamics, self-esteem, communication, depression, anxiety, and more. Some, such as licensed marriage and family therapists, specialize in family dynamics, while others specialize in working with individuals. A therapist can address obstacles that may be holding you back in your career, such as nervousness about public speaking, or challenges that are upsetting your life in general, like a feeling of fulfillment about your life.

Therapists are trained to help you overcome your own obstacles, and develop strategies that work best for each person’s strengths, personalities, and lifestyles. They may utilize methods like cognitive behavioral therapy, role-playing, mindfulness, emotional recognition, positive behavioral adjustments, self-evaluations, and more.

Whether through life coaching courses, formal education, or life experience, a life coach helps you address more specific challenges, usually in your career. Life coaches generally focus on techniques to motivate their clients, set measurable goals, and keep them accountable.

A life coach can give you strategies to build productivity and confidence or identify the education, skills, or personal connections you need to move forward. They may help you re-organize your environment or time, develop a new career plan, enroll in courses, or help you network more effectively in your industry.

Common Misconceptions About Therapy

There are some common misconceptions when it comes to therapy and life coaching. Some believe that therapy is only useful when you are “sick,” and therefore isn’t useful for career decisions. This is not the case. While therapists can and do address mental, emotional or behavioral disorders, therapy can be helpful to anyone. A therapist can help you reframe a problem, build self-esteem, understand and cope with emotions, improve communication, and more.

Another common misconception deals with therapy as a method to only analyze your past, such as experiences in your childhood, or unconscious fears or desires. While this technique, called psychoanalysis, can be helpful in some instances, it is not used for most individuals. You’re unlikely to use this technique when addressing goals or obstacles in your career.

The final common misconception has to do with your therapy plan. Many believe therapy is unending, with no way to set goals. This is generally untrue. You and your therapist will discuss issues you wish to address and make a strategy and a timeline to do it. At set intervals, you will both assess your position and determine what has helped and what has improved, and what hasn’t. After you meet your goals, you may continue seeing your therapist to follow up or stay on track, but less often.

Therapist vs Life Coach: Which is Right for Me?

Choosing between a therapist and a life coach to address challenges in your career will depend on your specific situation and your problem-solving style. The following are some common questions, problems or feelings you may have.

I feel stuck. I used to enjoy my job, but lately I feel bored, disinterested and unmotivated. Nothing that I do matters.

These feelings express a general disinterest or dissatisfaction with life. Focusing only on your career to solve these issues may be ignoring the bigger problem, and ultimately putting too much pressure on your career as a source of fulfillment. If this describes your feeling towards your career, or towards your life in general, a therapist may be the best option.

I want to get a promotion, but I don’t know how to make my boss notice me, and I’m not sure how to ask.

Situations about a specific problem, such as how to get a promotion, skills you may need, or people that can help you move up in your industry, are most likely best for a life coach. A life coach can help you make a plan, with a list of specific things you can do to stand out, impress your boss, and ask for a promotion.

I really don’t like social situations, public speaking, or networking. I think it’s holding me back in my career.

Some nervousness about public speaking, presenting a project, or meeting new people is normal, and may go away with practice. However, if you find it difficult to work with a team or present your ideas at all, you may be experiencing anxiety. This is especially true if you have physical symptoms, such as sweaty hands, pounding heart, headaches, or insomnia. A therapist can give you coping strategies to manage anxiety.

I want to start a business or switch careers, but it’s a big risk. I’m not sure I can do it.

In this situation, you may benefit from seeing a therapist and a life coach, either together or in succession. It’s important to first know that you are making the right decision. If you feel a general sense of dissatisfaction or unease about your life, a career shift or new business might not help, and a therapist can help you identify this. A therapist can also help you manage the stress that will come with this change and build your confidence. A life coach can help you map your next steps, keep you motivated, use your time wisely, can give you helpful resources to make the transition easier.

Now that you know more about the differences and similarities between a life coach vs therapist, you can make an informed decision. With the right professional to help, you can get the tools you need to advance your career and find more fulfillment in your life.