This isn’t therapy.

I saw a post by Dr. Leah Katz the other day that said the following:

“THERAPY is the place where we get suggestions and process/work through the hard stuff.

EVERYWHERE ELSE is where we put the work we did in therapy into action. Where we practice and ‘try on’ the different skills we’ve learned, and realize we are our own change.”

That struck me as such a helpful way to understand the difference between therapy and coaching. Because I’m guessing you’ve been wondering!

Here’s the way I see it.

Therapists help individuals in crisis, who are struggling for any number of reasons, which require processing to understand the “why” of their situation, and may include specific interventions based on a diagnosis. The client is looking to the therapist to lead the way toward healing.

Coaches also help individuals who may be struggling, but not due to a crisis. Instead of the “why” of what’s happening, we ask about the “what, how, and when” of it all. What that means is this: while we absolutely can and do hold space for a client’s emotions, experiences, trauma, and pain, we are there to help our client tap into their whole, resourceful self to get to the place they seek. The client and the coach are equals, working together to address something the client is looking to change.

Photo by Alex Azabache on

Picture a person in the water. If they are drowning, someone must rescue them. After the rescue, they may have to be treated for an injury, or an issue they’ve experienced as a result of the crisis. Nothing can happen before these things do.

If the person is swimming, but not as fast or smoothly as they would like, they just have to learn from someone how to use their body in a different way. They have what they need, and are making their way through the water, but WOW what a different experience swimming would be if they learned how to do it more effectively.

This is therapy versus coaching.

And here’s the great news … therapists and coaches can work together, with the same client, on different things and at different times, because both professions believe in the inherent ability of individuals to work through their experiences and become more authentic and alive.

Personally, I’m excited about coaching because it allows me to work from such an empowering place. I can still be the “me” that is empathic and supportive, focused on listening and reflecting, asking questions to help someone figure something out… but it comes from the belief that nothing in that client needs to be fixed. What a powerful experience to share with someone – and what a gift to be the person who helps an individual see that in themself.

That’s why I center my work around power, place, and purpose. We are all entitled to finding each of these for ourselves … and I feel deeply that I can help people find their way there.

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