Coaching or Therapy

Do you want coaching or psychotherapy?

The emphasis in therapy is on inner change,
while coaching focuses on movement toward achieving goals.

Coaching emphasis: Therapy emphasis:
Clarifying vision & values
Manifesting potential & achievement
Present & future
Solutions & growing bigger
Growing, improving & external focus
Co-creative partnership
Accountability is central & expected
Achieving dreams
Paid for privately
Professional boundaries
Assessment of history & behaviors
Gaining insight & understanding
Creating safety
Past & present
Problems & decreasing suffering
Healing & improving inner world
Therapist is expert
Accountability is not a major focus
Resolving wounds
Working through difficulty
Reimbursable by insurance
Strict boundaries enforced by law & ethics. No “dual” relationships


Coaching, which is results-oriented, involves assisting people in realizing their personal and professional goals by using proven problem-solving techniques and on-going accountability through a supportive partnership. Unlike the medical model, the relationship is non-hierarchical. Coaching is based on a learning model where the client taps inner strengths and external resources to achieve goals, and ultimately happiness and fulfillment. The strategies and forward moving and at times faster-paced approach, are born of learning and rooted in action and achievement.

In coaching, we explore the client’s vision of what they most want to achieve, whether this concerns professional advancement, changing habits, working towards optimal health, decreasing stress, improving relationships, and the like. Clients clarify their values, what’s most important to them, and then use their vision and values to drive getting what they want. Coaching focuses on achieving dreams, taking action, creating momentum, deepening self knowledge yet always in service of increasing forward movement and stretching further than before.

In working with a coach, a client may refer to the past or have tearful emotional moments, but they are brief points in the process of moving forward and taking action rather than the focus of the session. The client is capable of putting events in a healthy perspective, and not having his past define his present or future. Personal exploration happens in coaching too, but typically the emphasis is less on gaining extensive insight and more on action and taking the learning into one’s life soon.

The coach prefers to ask open-ended questions, guiding the client to come up with his or her own options.

"People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they themselves have discovered, than by those which have come into the mind of others."Blaise Pascal, 17th C wisdom

Then coach and client strategize together to produce an action plan. Coaching sessions are usually conducted by phone, and at times in person.

The client is guided to stretch, to try new behaviors, and with the coach’s encouragement, to reach beyond earlier goals and limitations. The coach endorses the client’s strengths and successes and holds a vision of who the client can be. The coach acts as advocate, collaborator, accountability partner, a trusted confidante, mentor and a success partner.

The essence of the coaching relationship revolves around: Where are you now? What do you want for your life? What are you willing to do to get there? The coach’s job is to help the client close that gap. Our focus is on possibilities and action, with attention on difficulties when they get in the way of progress.


Psychotherapists deal with emotional pain and suffering. They treat depression, anxiety disorders or addictions, as well as specific situations like marital conflict, divorce, grieving, self-destructive habits or behavioral problems. People typically come to therapy when they are struggling and conflicted. The work is about uncovering the sources of pain–-which maybe found in the past–-healing, increasing awareness and resolving conflict. Therapy is based on an empathic relationship where there is respect for feelings, understanding motivations and gaining insight. Typically, the work is more about resolution and less on action. As the client resolves old issues and hurts and relaxes defense mechanisms, they will likely feel a greater sense of inner comfort and self-esteem.

The field of psychotherapy is more than 100 years old. It comes out of a medical model where the doctor is the expert from whom the patient receives advice and help. Relational boundaries need to be strictly kept. Therapy is usually done in-person, although at times, it may be done over the telephone. Confidentiality is paramount.

There are many types of therapy, some of which focus on detailed analysis of past experience in order to gain insight and self-understanding. At the other end of the spectrum are solution-focused therapies, which are future-focused and goal-oriented that help clients change by looking for solutions rather than dwelling on problems. There are many approaches in the middle. One that’s particularly effective is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, not external things, like people, situations, and events, cause our feelings and behaviors. The benefit, then, is that we can change the way we think to feel or act better even if the situation does not change.

Shared outcomes

Sometimes there isn’t a black and white distinction between psychotherapy and coaching. Resolution and working through of self-defeating behavior can occur in coaching and external achievement can result from good psychotherapy.

Some clients who seek therapy may not be suffering, but they still feel dissatisfied. They have the need for someone to talk to in order to clarify, understand or move forward in their lives. At least some of the people in this dissatisfied group would be good candidates for coaching.