Life Coach vs Therapist: Which Best Serves Your Personal and Professional Goals?

When people feel like life’s stress is overwhelming them, the default reaction is typically to enlist the help of a therapist. However, a growing number of community members are discovering their personal growth needs are better served by working with a life coach.

The belief psychologists are the only option available has prompted tremendous growth in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 178,000 licensed psychologists in the U.S. The number of certified therapists is also expected to grow by 8 percent year-over-year. And traditional therapy provides emotional support and treatment for more than 9 percent of Americans.

Life coaching has garnered increased popularity as it steadily trickles into the mainstream. Growing at a rate of 5 percent year-over-year, more than 17,500 U.S life coaching firms were operational in 2020. Globally, the number of practitioners increased to more than 71,000. Although still considered something of a niche industry, life coaches offer struggling people a very different way to make significant life changes. By understanding the key life coach vs therapist similarities and differences, everyday people can make informed decisions about choosing a process.

What is a Life Coach?

Life coaches work closely with people to help facilitate positive change in their lives. These wellness professionals focus on feelings of greater fulfillment. A life coach may support a client’s goals by identifying the key obstacles that sometimes hold them back in a relationship, career, and daily life.

To overcome perceived impediments, a life coach may refocus someone’s attention on their skills and develop new strengths. These often provide the integral tools required to attain long-lasting, positive change. In essence, a life coach’s primary objective is to help people set goals, work toward them, and bring a vision of the best you into reality.

What Does a Therapist Do?

A therapist is usually a licensed medical professional who treats mental and emotional conditions. These may range from mild stress and anxiety to severe mental health disorders. Therapists diagnose and evaluate patients and apply a wide range of psychotherapeutic techniques to help manage these conditions. Family therapists often provide a safe environment for people to unburden personal histories that weigh on them.

The primary focus of the therapist-patient relationship involves dealing with past events and managing the emotional, intellectual, and mental health impact that still resonates. 

In many ways, the field looks to the past and finds ways to steady today’s waters. This process generally helps people manage stress, anxiety, depression, and wide-reaching conditions to get through life one day at a time.

Life Coach vs Therapist: What are the Key Differences?

Although both types of professionals work to support positive change, therapists and life coaches approach the process from different perspectives. One of the underlying premises of psychological therapy is that a psychotherapist might delve into the past to understand the present behaviors and focus on creating new behaviors with the new discoveries.  is that the patient is sick in some fashion. The goals are usually to mitigate self-destructive habits and behaviors through talk sessions and medications.

A life coach, on the other hand, primarily focuses on the here and now. The process involves understanding personal or professional frustrations and creating an actionable plan to overcome those concerns. 

While similarities do exist, the following ranks among the significant differences:

Different Program Focuses

Psychotherapists use different modalities. They do identify issues and work on uncovering the reasons behind them but similarly to life coaches set goals and work on the present moment for behavioral changes. 

By contrast, a life coach’s professional relationship is forward-thinking. Information is gathered through talk sessions and personality tests, in some cases. The information is weighed against a person’s anxieties, perceived limiting beliefs, as well as strengths. A life coach process takes all of these moving factors to build a plan of action. By honing skills and overcoming adversity, the program, often a certain number of sessions,  facilitates personal and career growth.

Different Frameworks Employed

meetings, and the discussions typically evolve organically. Because mental health professionals do not necessarily come to the table with a defined goal, talk therapy ebbs and flows. Rarely does the framework initially involve a defined plan of action to overcome past traumas, although, through the process, solutions and tools are presented.

By contrast, life coach interactions employ talk sessions as a tool. The framework of these interactions is designed to produce valuable information that can be leveraged. For instance, a talk session may involve a detailed discussion regarding career advancement desires or personal wellness growth. Along with goals, the sessions seek to identify a person’s strengths and challenges for purposeful change.

Perhaps the most significant framework difference involves time. Therapists provide an ongoing service that offers struggling people a forum to vent their frustrations and get the treatment they need. People who sign up for therapy typically spend many months, sometimes years uncovering and discovering themselves.

Life coaching is not designed as an open-ended framework that circles back over old wounds and trauma. The process is meant to have a beginning, middle, and end in whole-person growth and self-actualization. In other words, people come to life coaching with an enriched vision of themselves and work toward making it a reality.

Life Coach vs Therapist: Which is Right for you?

Scheduling talk sessions with a therapist used to be the only option for people searching for a new direction in life. The process of working with a therapist to achieve personal and professional fulfillment was not necessarily a seamless fit. But the increased awareness and access to a life coach may be perfect for solutions-oriented community members. The following highlight why a life coach or therapist may best serve your needs.

Reasons to Work with a Life Coach

  • Identify personal and career goals and make them happen.
  • Hone in on actionable skills such as communication for personal and professional growth.
  • Build financial freedom and security.
  • Create a life-work balance that enhances your quality of life.

Reasons to Work with a Therapist

  • Deal with and recover from past trauma.
  • Get support and treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
  • Work with someone to manage times of heightened stress, such as various life transitions.

It’s not unusual for someone to see both a therapist and life coach simultaneously. But it’s essential to understand the framework and goals are generally mutually exclusive. If you find yourself in a transition phase, searching for direction, or want to make significant life-work changes, a life coach and/or therapist could prove invaluable. At Life Changers, we connect people with experts in fields such as business, career development, education, spirituality, family wellbeing, health, wellness, and life coaching, among others.

Eclipse Digital
Author: Eclipse Digital


When I was in high school and getting acquainted with my perfectionist tendencies in full force, I had a choice to make – stay in my advanced studies class or

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