Do I Need A Coach Or A Therapist?

So you’re struggling with something and you’ve decided you could use some support.

Do you need a coach, or a therapist and what’s the difference?

Coaches and therapists both potentially have a lot to offer and working out which is right for you depends on a number of factors.

In this article we will look at:

    • What is therapy?
    • What is coaching?
    • Reasons you might see a therapist
    • Reasons you might see a coach
    • The importance of training and qualifications
    • Myths about therapy vs coaching

What Is Therapy?

When I say therapy, I am referring specifically to psychotherapy.

The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) defines psychotherapy as,

“Psychotherapy is the comprehensive and intentional engagement between therapist and client for the healing, growth or transformation of emotional, physical, relationship, existential and behavioural issues, or of chronic suffering, through well-founded relational processes. The aim of psychotherapy is to support increased awareness and choice, and facilitate the development, maturation, efficacy and well-being of a client.

Psychotherapy involves what is known and what may not be known in personal functioning, usually referred to as “conscious and unconscious factors”. Through a holistic perspective it encompasses the mental, emotional, behavioural, relational, existential and spiritual health of a human being.”

Psychotherapy encompasses both your desire for growth as well as supporting you through suffering. In depth psychotherapy, as with coaching, we assume you are whole, and that you are the expert on you.

Reasons You Might See A Therapist

Psychotherapists can support you with a wide variety of issues – from healing the past, to growing into the person you feel you’re meant to be.

Some of the reasons you may choose to see a psychotherapist are:

  • Because you’d like to learn to shine your light.
  • You’d love to have a stronger, more connected relationship with your partner.
  • To address your anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns.
  • Because you experienced trauma as a child and you have a sense it is impacting your life as an adult.
  • You struggle with your body image.
  • To challenge old, limited beliefs that are holding you back.
  • To learn more about yourself.
  • To develop self-compassion.
  • To improve your self-worth and assertiveness skills.

For more information on the benefits and reasons for seeing a psychotherapist, please see How Psychotherapy Can Help You See Through The BS.

What Is Coaching?

According to coaching website Realbuzz, a coach, or life coach, is someone who supports you in creating action-oriented goals, in order to achieve a particular outcome. Coaches can be generalists, or specialise in areas such as business, personal growth, creativity or finances.

Life coach Jeni Mumford describes coaching as, “A purposeful conversation that inspires you to create the life you want.”

Coaching is about assessing your current situation and creating strategies and guidance to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be. It works for concrete challenges such as: taking your business to the next level, improving your public speaking, redirecting your career, creating a personal growth plan or changing your relationship with money.

A coach is not a counsellor or therapist. Coaches are not trained or qualified to work with mental health, trauma, complex relationships or the unconscious. They are about inspiring and motivating, but not healing the underlying issues that may be preventing motivation and inspiration.

For a more comprehensive definition of coaching, from an actual coach, check out A Guide To Coaching And Being Coached.

Reasons You Might See A Coach

Some of the reasons you may choose to see a coach are:

  • You are ready to grow your business, but you’re not sure how.
  • You’d like to find more balance in your life.
  • You feel you have something unique to offer the world but need guidance on how to step into your larger self.
  • You would like to change your relationship to money.
  • You have a specific goal you’d like to achieve, but need accountability and support to reach it.

The Importance Of Training, Qualifications And Professional Bodies

Whomever you choose to see, it is a good idea to check their qualifications, experience and whether they’re a member of a professional coaching or psychotherapy body.

Psychotherapists take various educational paths to become qualified, however in Australia most psychotherapists will have at least an undergraduate degree in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology or social work, in addition to many years post graduate training in a particular mode of psychotherapy, plus ongoing training.

Good, effective, well-regarded psychotherapists participate in regular clinical supervision and have spent hundreds of hours seeing their own therapist.

Training to become a coach may entail completing a diploma in coaching, in addition to attending various, relevant trainings in a specific area of interest.

In Australia, the most recognised professional bodies for psychotherapy and counselling are:

  • Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA)
  • Australian Counselling Association (ACA)
  • Australian Psychological Society (APS)

A well-recognised professional body for coaching is:

  • International Coach Federation (ICF)

Myths About Therapy vs Coaching

Whilst researching the definition of coaching for this article, I was amazed at the amount of coaching websites that include in their definition of coaching, misinformation about therapy. Many coaching websites state something along the lines of ‘therapy focuses on problems and the past, whereas coaching is about growth and moving forward’.

Variations of this definition came up again and again. They are inaccurate. Yes, therapy is largely about healing past traumas that are getting in the way of leading a full life in the present. Therapy is also very much about growth, renewal and moving forward in deep and profound ways.

I believe there is a place for both coaching and therapy, depending on your needs. I know of a number of wonderful coaches out there, creating inspiration and support for their clients to step into their larger potential and thrive in life.  I also know that these coaches would refer their clients to a psychotherapist when needed, rather than attempt to provide unprofessional therapy themselves.

It is true there are some overlaps between the two fields, however, there are also some extremely important differences.

There is room for both psychotherapists and coaches, however let’s stop defiling one in an attempt to lift the other.

For more information on the myths about coaching vs therapy, check out Emma Cameron’s 7 Myths About Coaching vs Therapy.

Make An Appointment To See Toni Jackson For Psychotherapy

If you would like to work through your anxiety, depression, self-worth, body image, sense of self or trauma, please contact Toni Jackson for enquiries and appointments via the contact form below.

For a free 15 minute phone consultation, to discuss your situation and see how Toni can support you, please phone 0439 995 302 (Australia only).

Toni Jackson is a Psychotherapist specialising in trauma, anxiety and body image. She is a Gestalt Therapist, body-centred psychotherapist, creative therapist and HAES practitioner. Toni works in Fremantle and Mundaring, Perth, Western Australia, and also provides online counselling.

Life Coaching for Dummies – Jeni Mumford (2007)
International Coach Federation
Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia

Photo by Mitchell Gaiser on Unsplash

3 Comments on “Do I Need A Coach Or A Therapist?

  1. Pingback: Therapy Versus Coaching: Should You See a Therapist or a Coach?


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