Coaching vs Therapy

What is the difference between coaching and individual therapy? Simply put, the main difference between coaching and individual therapy is the client, not the coaching practice or the therapy process.

Coaching is very different from therapy. The major difference is the client and not the coaching or therapeutic process. In coaching, the client is not perceived as having any particular problem and the coach does not assume any pathology. In coaching, problems and/or pathological issues are only dealt with if they impede the coaching process (whereupon a suggestion may be made that the client may benefit from therapy). The coach educates, offers insights and observations, brainstorms possible options and viable alternatives, and at times may propose certain strategies for the client to consider. A coach uses their training and experience to assist their client in such a way that the client is able to move on with their life with new coping skills, proactive behaviors, and the knowledge needed to make better choices for themselves in the future. As such, coaching can be an invaluable tool for the client.

Historically, therapy involves the assumption the client is coming into therapy due to some real or perceived “problem.” The problem requires “treatment.” The treatment produces a “cure.” Just as it sounds, this assumption is based on the medical model. Simply put, the medical model is the following: When sick or injured you go to the doctor to get treatment. The treatment results in a cure for your sickness or injury. Due to this medical model thinking, it has long been held that if a person enters therapy then something is “wrong” with them – they have a “problem” that needs “treatment” so they can be “cured.” Sadly, the assumption that you must have something wrong

with you if you are in therapy is a stigma that prevents many people from receiving the assistance they need to make life a little easier, more positive, more rewarding, or more enjoyable. Even more sad is the fact the majority of insurance companies and managed care facilities view “emotional problems” (their label) from this medical model perspective.

Pathology is “That part of medicine which explains the nature of diseases, their causes and their symptoms.” With an understanding of the “pathology,” the therapist allegedly can determine the cause of the “problem.” The therapist then gives the client new ways of thinking, coping, or behaving that hopefully will work better for them in the future. If it does work better in the future, then the therapist has provided the client with the “cure” for their “problem.”

Under this overly simplified medical model example, the therapist is the “helping agent” and the client is the one with the “problem,” the one who needs to be “cured.”

Coaching is very different from therapy. There is no problem to solve, no pathology to diagnose, no treatment to prescribe, and no cure to discover.

Although coaching may be therapeutic, it is not therapy.