How is Life Coaching Different from Counseling?

By Shereen L Karjadi, BCN, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Life Coach

As a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Life Coach, individuals often ask me what the difference is between life coaching and counseling. To answer that question, we must begin by understanding that facing adversity is a normal part of life. At one point or another, each of us will experience circumstances we did not expect would happen. We will all experience pain in some form or another. The difference will come down to whether a person will choose to allow the incident to empower or to disempower them. A life coach and a licensed mental health therapist both understand that many disorders often have a root cause. Life coaching and counseling are similar in the sense that they both agree, the root cause needs to be uncovered, reprocessed or reframed without which a person will be bound to living their lives in that same failed routine.

A life coach and a licensed counselor play a big role in observing and bringing awareness to issues at hand. This is important because of how trauma tends to distort our perceptions of certain situations which can many times lead to responding to stressors in an unhealthy manner. At some point, individuals often find themselves seeking to break what seems like an unending pattern of unhealthy behavior.

Although there are many similarities between coaching and counseling, the biggest difference is in the approach. Life coaching assists individuals with creating vision or goal setting by helping identify specific roadblocks that affect performance, developing potential, exploring solutions and direction on how to move forward and help one get closer to reaching their goals. Life coaching focuses mainly on the present and future. A licensed professional therapist can also help in those areas through counseling and coaching, and is trained more in assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health difficulties.

One may seek a life coach when life gets particularly stressful, such as finding oneself stuck without a way to move forward. Individuals often feel they are going through the motions, and no longer feel a sense of fulfillment. They may not know how to face the problems or issues, which often results in low self-esteem, low motivation, feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in areas of career or relationships.

Life Coaching focuses on introspection and active participation from the client when it comes to approaching the issues at hand. Life coaches help clients achieve personal empowerment, motivation, and strategies to define and reach their goals.

A licensed professional counselor is suggested for individuals with phobias, addictions, abuse, eating disorders and trauma. Licensed counselors are more knowledgeable in this area due to their extensive training and licensure requirements. Coaches on the other hand obtain certification through an accredited program. Due to this, it is important for an individual to ask their coach about the different training or education background that they have that may be pertinent to the overall success they experience.

A great example of Life Coaching works would be the story of a young woman whom we will call Heidi. Her main concern was that she felt unhappy all the time and was not sure why. Oftentimes her days began with her waking and instantly feeling depressed and unmotivated. Through life coaching, she was able to identify that one of the main reasons for her unhappiness was because she no longer felt fulfilled. We went through a process that required growth-work which included journaling, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques, and developing an action plan on how to successfully move forward towards newly set goals. She decided that if she made a career change and pursued a vocation she was passionate about, it would fulfill her purpose. Her action plan included a breakdown of steps that included: determining the field of interest, building a portfolio, seeking possible connections, sending out resumes, identifying growth opportunities within the field, along with breakthrough techniques that would help her stay focused on her path to success.

As in this case, the goal of a coach is not to give specific solutions to each problem, but rather to help clients achieve a changed or different mindset so they can successfully adapt to other similar stressors or situations they may encounter in the future. Clients who are seeking a life coach should be prepared to receive guidance and direction on how to successfully achieve their goals in ways that require growth-work.

One of the reasons I came to work at RenuYou, is because of their strong belief that individuals have a divine purpose. I fully believe this about every single living person, whether five or 95 years old. God has a plan and a purpose for you. On the back of our business cards we have the scripture, Jerimiah 29:11, “The plans I have are to give you a hope and a purpose…” It is my solemn prayer that you will find yours.

By Shereen L Karjadi, BCN, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Life Coach

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