Would therapy or coaching better support you right now?

When people ask me what coaching is, I often use therapy as a comparison. Most people now seem to know what therapy is and how it works. And coaching is similar in many ways. At its core, it’s (usually) an intimate 1-on-1 relationship where people get support in their lives and careers.

With that said, as I explained last time, coaching has some key differences. So how does one decide between therapy and coaching?

Coaching and therapy are not mutually exclusive

There are a lot of ways to answer this. My favorite might be that coaching and therapy are in no way mutually exclusive. You don’t actually have to choose. In fact, many might be best served by having both a therapist and a coach, perhaps switching off every week. I have some clients who do this and it seems to offer a nice balance between looking back and moving forward. Something special happens when these two modalities work together.

The case for therapy

Let’s assume you have to choose either therapy or coaching. When might therapy be best?

First and foremost, in all cases of acute emotional distress or where depression, anxiety, abuse, or mental illnesses are a central factor in your immediate circumstances, therapy will almost certainly be a better fit. Therapists are trained to work with these issues and most coaches are not.

But even in situations where there is no acute distress but still a nagging feeling of discontentment or meaninglessness, therapy is often a good place to start. In fact, as a general rule, if you’ve never gone to therapy before, try that first. Nearly all of us have significant unresolved childhood pain standing in the way of the lives we want. Therapists are trained specifically to help you process and move through this. Going back to the sports metaphor, it makes no sense to go to a tennis coach if you’ve got a broken leg. You need to heal first.

The case for coaching

There are many circumstances where therapy is more helpful than coaching. Likewise, there are many circumstances in which coaching might be more helpful.

If you have a clear vision for what you want your life to be, but can’t quite seem to develop a plan or put your plan into motion, a coach is probably your best bet. Or, if your life is generally working fine, but lacking a clear sense of direction, purpose, or aliveness, a coach might serve you best. Coaches are trained to help you get clear on what you most from your life, identify what’s standing in your way, and create the structure and accountability needed to move forward until you have what you want.

Or perhaps this describes you: You’ve been to years of therapy, read several self-help books, and done quite a lot of personal work. And yet something still feels missing from or empty in your life. You can’t move past a certain type of behavior or relationship. Or you have a nagging sense that you aren’t living life to the fullest. Or perhaps the prospect of talking about your mom and dad issues once again now feels boring or unproductive. In short, for whatever reason, therapy is no longer feeling as alive or helpful for you as it once did. You’ve reached a point of diminishing returns.

In my mind, this is a great time to consider coaching. While similar to therapy, coaching is an entirely different modality and might help you tap into different insights or possibilities for your life. And it may simply be that you’ve gotten to a point where you’ve done enough healing, at least for now. You want to see what comes after all the healing. You want to be your most alive, your most actualized, your most you.

Many people in this situation either don’t know that coaching even exists or haven’t considered it as a viable alternative to therapy. Does that sound like you? If so, drop me a line and let’s explore if coaching might support you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *