Coaching vs. Therapy
Burnout is a common symptom of the post-pandemic work landscape. If you’re a high-performing executive — or simply someone who is used to functioning well under a lot of stress — you might find yourself finally “hitting a wall” after years of successfully coping with anxiety, pressure or work-related demands.
If that’s the case, you might be wondering: do I need therapy, coaching or something else? While you’re on the right track when it comes to self-improvement measures that’ll make burnout more bearable, there’s a lot of misinformation online about which services are best for which problems.
For instance, when it comes to coaching vs. therapy, there is a little bit of overlap between the two job descriptions. Still, they’re not the same thing. Here are some of the differences between coaching and therapy, and which might be right for you depending on the circumstances.
Coaching vs. Therapy: Coaching
The primary difference between a coach and a therapist is that therapists are required to meet rather narrow educational and license requirements in order to perform the job at hand. While coaches aren’t held to the same educational standards, that also means coaches can cover broader ground than therapists usually do, and are allowed to draw on a larger pool of resources than therapists.
Broadly speaking, a coach works with you — their client — to help you think differently about the problems you’re experiencing in order to challenge negative thought patterns and meet your goals. Coaches can help you tackle any problem you’re experiencing, from romantic problems to career issues to financial troubles. They can also dig deep and focus on just one aspect of your life, such as your job, and help you earn promotions, receive greater recognition or work toward a pay raise.
Either way, a coach is primarily concerned with looking forward, rather than backward. Think about it this way: a therapist can help you heal from what’s already happened, but a coach is there to help you perform better and meet new heights in situations that haven’t happened yet. While both roles consider the past, coaches are more concerned with looking forward, and therapists are more interested in looking back.
Coaches typically work with different clients than therapists, too. While the role of a therapist is designed to help anyone, coaches usually work with entrepreneurs, executives or others who desire to reach new professional or personal aspirations.
Coaching vs. Therapy: Therapy
As we’ve previously mentioned, the goal of a therapist is to help you understand your past, your inner emotional state and other factors that contribute to your current behaviors. In doing so, therapists help you gain clarity about why you’re having difficulties in life, and how you can break those patterns for better results going forward.
Because it requires a license and education, therapy usually draws upon different schools of psychology and behavior modification techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to help you work through problems you’re experiencing.
Once again, therapists are more “universal” than coaches. If you’re not looking to improve your peak performance or surmount new challenges, but rather fix past issues and heal from old traumas, then a therapist is probably right for you. That’s also the case if you’re dealing with a severe mental illness, as coaches aren’t necessarily equipped to help with medical health issues such as a mental condition.
Coaching vs. Therapy: Two Great Tools for Different Projects
If you’re considering whether to start coaching or therapy sessions, you’ll want to first consider what kind of “project” you’re working on regarding yourself, your life and your goals. Is your goal to make peace with your past and resolve longstanding negative patterns that were formed by previous events? A therapist is probably right for you.
Conversely, if you’re feeling burnt out and want to feel reinvigorated about work, life and your future goals, coaching is a smart choice. While the decision is ultimately up to you, it pays to think about what you want out of any coaching or therapy experience before you begin — doing so can make the process of undergoing either program far more useful in the long run.
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