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What's the Difference Between Therapy and Coaching?

Let's take life to the next level.

 Creative Commons- Flickr
Source: Creative Commons- Flickr

When people hear the word “Coaching” or “Life Coaching,” it may sound trendy, indulgent or unnecessary. As a therapist, I have always seen the value in this form of care because it has been inevitably part of the work that I have done with clients through the years. Most recently, Recovery Coaching has become a growing service that can provide important support for individuals who are struggling with addictive issues. I have also worked and managed Recovery Coaches in past jobs. Some individuals who are resistant to going into therapy may be more apt to engage in coaching because it could appear less intimidating, less hierarchical, and there may be less stigma associated with it. My philosophy has always been, “whatever gets you in the door” to getting the support that you need in life is effective. Coaching could also be a stepping stone towards therapy, if it is needed, as individuals may become more comfortable talking and being vulnerable with another person.

What is the difference between therapy and coaching? Mental health counseling focuses on observing and diagnosing pathology, addressing past trauma, treating addiction, adjustment, mood, personality, behavior and learning disorders, identifying and resolving family systems issues. Coaching relies on a level of client wellness and mental health symptom remission that allows for behavioral and goal-oriented action that is not rooted in the treatment of disorders. Coaching can also be more directive and less neutral than some forms of therapy.

As an Addiction Therapist, I have worked with clients who have extremely complicated mental health and addiction symptoms. I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to use my personal and professional experience to support so many incredible clients.

I am now seeing a need for Wellness Services for those who are stable in their mental health and addictive issues but who are looking to move forward in various areas of their lives. So often in our society we seek medical care when we are feeling sick and not as much for preventative reasons or to better our wellness and performance. The same can be said about the mental health field. Therapy is associated with having a “problem” and is not always attended nor appropriate for those who are wanting to excel and push themselves in particular life domains. This is where coaching can be the right fit and where my new venture Next Level Coaching intends to help people.

Here is an example of how coaching could be appropriate: An individual has been in recovery from addiction and/or remission from a mental health issue and they are no longer in crisis or wanting to focus care on those issues. They may even continue to see their therapist for maintenance in those areas. However, they are feeling stuck professionally, they want to achieve better balance in various areas of their life and/or they would like support in being more organized in order to help them excel.

Recently, I have been following Rachel Hollis, author of Girl, Stop Apologizing and Girl, Wash your Face. I have appreciated her live morning Instagram “Start the Day” feeds and her message of empowerment and growth. I realized that through the years, I have naturally done many of the visualizations and goals setting that she described and have often taken that for granted. I also enjoying learning about new strategies for growth and change. I want to be able to support others in taking their lives to the Next Level and not just helping people when they are in crisis. So often we avoid getting support until we have an acute problem. However, the coaching field is encouraging us to be proactive in our wellness, to maximize our potential and to take pride in bettering ourselves before we are in crisis.

More from Sarah A. Benton MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
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More from Sarah A. Benton MS, LMHC, LPC, AADC
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