What’s the Difference Between Life Coaching and Psychotherapy?

What’s the difference between Life Coaching and Psychotherapy?

by: Johnny Blogger consultant with

The primary difference between a life coach and a psychotherapist or mental health counselor is that psychotherapists and counselors commonly “treat” clinical issues, such as an existing mental health problem like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. A life coach however does not treat anything. Therefore, life coach services are not covered by insurance programs.


Another difference between traditional psychotherapy and Life coaching is that in psychotherapy, the client is generally going through severe pain and suffering. They are seeking relief and looking to the therapist to “fix” them or help them eliminate their problem. The client will seek therapy to deal with their acute distress so they can then leave, terminate the relationship, and resume their previous life. In short, they are being treated for something.


More about the differences between Life Coaching and Psychotherapy


In Life Coaching, the relationship may typically be short term or it could last months and years. Sometimes there are situations where a client wishes time-limited life coaching , such as being coached through a special project or personal transition. An example might be learning how to better communicate in preparation for a job interview or promotion.  This is different from psychotherapy where there could be a brief encounter with a therapist for a specific issue or concern, such as overwhelming grief over the loss of a loved one. Sometimes the client may be severely emotionally damaged and need to stay in psychotherapy for many years simply to maintain an emotional holding pattern. Again, the primary difference is that Life Coaching is not focused on treating a problem – where psychotherapy is.


Differences in boundaries between Life Coaching and traditional Psychotherapy/Counseling


The boundaries that exist in the psychotherapy relationship are quite rigid. This is mostly because the patient/client is usually suffering a clinically diagnosable condition, and sometimes they can be very fragile emotionally. Breeching these boundaries can often be devastating for the patient/client. Some boundaries can include no contact outside of the therapeutic setting, e.g., office, clinic, hospital, etc. except in very rare and extenuating circumstances. Self-disclosure on the part of the psychotherapist is generally minimal. Also, allowing a genuine two-way dialogue to evolve is not supported. Life Coaching has a much more flexible set of boundaries. The assumption is that the life coach is dealing with an emotionally healthy, relatively well-adjusted and effectively functioning individual. Therefore, appropriate self-disclosure by the coach, more authenticity, lightness, fun and friendliness in the relationship is often the rule.


About the author:


Johnny Blogger is a consultant in the mental health field and contributes his marketing services to organizations such as 2nd Story Consultants in Chicago at

5 Tips for Mental Balance From a Psychotherapist

Living doesn’t really need to be such a battle. As soon as we let go of just a few old thought habits, things are likely to become a whole lot easier. Here are just a few things you can do in order to maintain good mental balance: 1. Let Go of the Need to Be Right – Is working ourselves up into a state of needless excitement simply because of a need to prove we were right anything other than an exercise in frustration and futility? If only we had been able to take a small step backwards and look at the situation in a calmer, less egotistical manner, then perhaps we might have been able to see – and to react – a little differently. After all, what have we really accomplished by always being right? Does it really bring respect, or does it simply breed resentment? Simply by giving up the burning need to be always right, we free ourselves – and others – to get on with the really useful and productive things in life. We may play being the know-it-all, but who really likes a know-it-all? A little inner humility goes a long way in the mental balance department. 2. Let Go of Being Perfect – Understand that being excellent does not mean being perfect. Sometimes it’s easy to demand too much of ourselves. If we imagine that we need to be perfect because this means that we cannot be criticised, then we need to do some serious work on self-acceptance. Don’t waste your time attempting to make something absolutely perfect. It really is far more effective and useful to finish a task in a timely manner than it is to spend forever in a futile attempt to be perfect. There really is no point in dragging things on forever trying to get it perfect. Do your very best and then move on. Do this often enough and your best – and you – will just keep on getting better in a natural, progressive and balanced manner. 3. Let Go of Trying – And start doing. This is where those advertising people working for Nike were on the money: What a wonderful slogan! ‘Just Do It!’ With that attitude we pretty much guarantee positive results. And, of course, mental balance is all in the attitude. The problem with trying, as opposed to doing, is that whenever we try, we set ourselves up to fail. You didn’t try to open this page, you just did it. You didn’t try to get out of bed, you just did it. We give ourselves excuses when we merely try. Lying to ourselves about ourselves and making excuses for ourselves really isn’t the best way to achieve mental balance: We need to get honest. We either do it or we don’t. It really is that simple. The choice is simple: either we act or we don’t. Did I mention simple? When we allow ourselves to let go of trying, then we allow ourselves to begin doing. And doing allows us to move forward and grow. Set goals and start achieving them — go on, just do it! 4. Let Go of Mistakes – We can learn from our successes and learn from our mistakes too – and then we need to move on. Every single experience we ever have contains some kind of lesson – even the ones we don’t get right – if only we allow ourselves to see and learn. Mistakes are there, after all, to be learned from, which is why they’re called ‘successive approximations’ in the language of psychology. Each time we make a mistake it’s an opportunity to learn to get it right. Dwelling on our mistakes and beating ourselves up for them is a futile pursuit. Take the lesson and move forward. A well balanced self is a self that uses and is guided by life’s lessons. Such an attitude leads to a life full of excellence – and mental balance. 5. Let Go of the Past – The past is there for a myriad of reasons – to instruct and inform, for example – but it is not meant to be lived in. To do so robs us of all we ever really have: Now. When we catch ourselves continually spending time in the past, then maybe we need to think about working with a professional who can help us come to terms with and move on from the past. Each one of us has a past and each one of us has gone through experiences that were difficult and unfair. Because of this, each one of us has the need to forgive. Failure to do this makes us prisoners to the past. And if forgiveness seems just a bit too difficult at the moment, at least consider that anger and resentment does not hurt the person or people who have hurt us – they just keep us in chains to them. Letting go of the past usually involves finding a way to forgive – and don’t forget, this means forgiving ourselves, too. Do this and we truly will live in a state of real mental balance and inner peace.