There are good and some questionable reasons to go to a psychotherapist. And the same holds true for life coaching. Sorting through these different solutions takes patience, awareness, and sound advice.
One may need a therapist for acute or chronic mental illness, emotional disruptions, serious trauma, ongoing stress, body-chemical imbalance, personality disorders, and any other ailment that seems to take over one’s life. Therapists are great for sorting out what ought to be done to help the client. They can also recommend what kind of long-term care may be needed.
Licensed psychotherapists, among other professionals, can diagnose ailments, may prescribe certain drugs, and set the agenda for actions that lead improvement of mental health. There is a range of other kinds of mental health professionals which are described here.
Life coaches are great for helping clients set and achieve goals. Coaches will ask lots of powerful questions to elicit answers that point to core issues, solutions, and decisions that the client wants/needs to make. The life coach trains to be objective and non-judgmental, making the client’s agenda the top priority.
Life coaches are not counselors. They usually have little or no official background in emotional disorders, they cannot prescribe medications, and are self-regulated so as to practice world-wide.
What do you need to be aware of when making the right choice for you? Start by asking:
1. Am I looking for someone to talk with, to tell my back-stories, or to sort out past feelings? Then coaching may not be for you. As a life coach I keep my clients in the immediate present, focused on what they are experiencing now and the feeling associated with the experience. They set the goals they wish to achieve. Stories from past history are rarely helpful and can distract the conversation. If a client has experienced serious abuse, trauma, or post traumatic stress, then a responsible life coach will refer the client to an appropriate mental health professional.
2. Can I afford a life coach? Life coaches do not take insurance so the hourly rates can seem steep at first. Yet if the client does his/her work, effective life coaches can resolve typical issues quickly, often after 6-10 sessions. Once clients have a plan of action, they can move through the obstacles standing in their way.
Therapy can often take many months, depending on the diagnosis. Though usually covered, insurance companies have been setting unhelpful limits to the number of therapy visits. Even still, it is possible that total copay fees can quickly add up to as much or more than a few sessions with a life coach. Making personal decisions based on costs alone may not be the best way of investing in either your mental health or your life’s journey. What’s the best fit for you?
3. What if my issues are partly based in emotions and partly in not knowing what direction my life/work should take. There is no reason why you can’t use both a therapist and a life coach to tackle your personal issues. Use them in tandem or consecutively. And most coaches offer a complimentary session so that you can experience how the coach works and whether or not it’s a good fit.
Asking powerful questions, life coaches can often begin addressing emotional issues. Those coaches with an extensive background and experience, such as in pastoral counseling or spiritual direction, can often address these issues to a degree. They will also refer clients to therapists for further help.
Both effective life coaches and therapists will want to assist you to discover and act on your core values and deepest desires. There is no one-size-fits-all solution though. The first step toward wholeness is always the most difficult.
I’d love to hear about your journey! Schedule a 45-minute meeting with me.
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Excellent explanation of Life/Career coaching, Michael. Thank you for a very insightful article.