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How Do I Know Whether I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist?

My practice has seen an onslaught of beautiful seekers looking for something, many not knowing exactly what. They aren’t happy, and while they may engage in conjecture about the reasons, they haven’t been able to get out of their own way and move towards what they want, Sometimes what they want is to have less anxiety, to be less moody, or to be happier.  These topics are in the coach-y/therapy-y realm, but which one?



This crossroads presents a choice to the seeker:

“Who can help me?”

Here are a few things to keep in mind:


1.   Do you need to see someone?

  • No one actually needs a coach. Coaching is not about treatment. Coaching is about co-creating a relationship that involves helping you to access your own, inner resources that will support the change you want. Coaches help you move within the “perfect as you are and always room to grow.” 

  • Therapists are uniquely qualified to treat mood disorders, personality disorders, and help those who struggle to function in the world. Therapy involves healing. People need therapists. Some therapists with additional training will cross over to the role of coach, too. To be a coach involves training, while being a therapist requires education with an advanced degree. 

  • Because of this distinction, health insurance does not cover coaching in the United States. It might cover therapy, depending on your plan and whether or not the therapist accepts your insurance. So if cost is a factor, you might look for a therapist with whom you can use your health insurance.

2.   Do you have symptoms, resulting from trauma, from which you are                 looking for relief? 

  • If you have experienced a traumatic event and are having symptoms like flashbacks, too much or too little sleep, loss of executive functioning, memory issues, or other symptoms, your best bet is to start with your primary care physician, followed by a therapist. The therapist might enlist the help of a coach to help with strategies related to daily functioning, but the treatment of the emotional component related to the trauma is best evaluated by a trauma-informed therapist. 

  • Caveat: Coaches can be trauma-informed but make sure the coach is able to share specifically what qualifies them to identify themselves this way. In fact, the competencies of a credentialed coach fit the model for trauma-informed work nicely, but it is not a given that all coaches are actually trauma-informed. If this is important for the work you need to do, please ask them specifically about this. Frankly, this is true if you hire a therapist, as well.

3.   Do you have a goal you want to achieve and just can’t get out of your             own way to achieve it? 

  • This is a great time to enlist a coach. Coaches are excellent at seeing your own, unique genius and helping you to access your inner world in order to clear the path towards creating a life you want. They are deep listeners, accountability partners, and have your agenda as their primary focus. What you want is what they want for you. It is an incredibly powerful relationship. 
  • Things you might want to seek help with in this category include executive functioning, business goals, career issues, or parenting help. 

4.   When in doubt, ask. I receive inquiry calls all the time to discuss what             someone is looking for and whether or not I can help them. I am really           clear about the way I work, what I pay attention to, and what                           circumstances might have me refer to a colleague. Oh, and there’s                   that…I have colleagues. I refer out. I want you to get what you want in           this one, beautiful whack at life you have. If you sense that the                         professional on the other end of the phone is working from a place of           scarcity, that’s a warning sign. There are enough clients out there for all         of us. You don’t owe that person anything, other than a yay or nay.


Which brings me to the final point….


5.  If this is something you are considering, go to your own, inner resources.       Sit quietly. Imagine yourself working with this person. Consult the guide,       Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Therapist or Life Coach. And then leap.        This is not your forever family. You are hiring someone to provide a                service and can choose with whom to do that. To surrender that                      freedom is to also surrender stepping into whatever it is you are longing        for. 


You are the best person to choose your helping professional. 


Life Coaching and Therapy are two distinct helping professions with different codes of ethics and different competencies. Is there overlap? You betcha’. Are there times to choose one over the other? Yup. Do your homework. Ultimately, you are hiring a human being. The connection you find there is often as important, if not more important, than the framework they use. Take a leap. Call the person to whom you are drawn. And then bring this question to them. See what they say! 

Christina Granahan

Christina Granahan

Enneagram-informed coach + therapist

I teach you how to use your Enneagram type to realize the relationships and success that you’ve been chasing at work, home, or school. Let's connect and see how I can help you.

You have one life. Let’s get you living it.

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