I was part of a discussion recently with life coaches and psychotherapists on how we felt about psychotherapy versus life coaching. I do both psychotherapy and life coaching so it was interesting being part of a heated debate coming from both sides. Well, the differences between psychotherapy and life coaching is a subject that I have always known brings up controversy, but I had no idea how much, until yesterday.
The other life coaches insisted that all they need to be able to help others is the experience life has given them. They said that they have never made any changes by the psychotherapy they received and in so many words felt therapy was “bogus” and “backwards”. I and the other therapist chimed in at this point explaining that without the foundation of psychotherapy or life coach training, you could actually harm someone. What we meant by that is that if someone comes to see a life coach and has a history of trauma or is suffering from a real diagnosable mental illness and does not get the proper help, this can be detrimental to that person’s well being. I have seen over and over again clients who have seen a life coach when what they truly needed was the proper professional to help them deal with their traumatic pasts. Perhaps they needed a “Somatic Experiencing” professional, someone who can help a person discharge their blocked energy from a past trauma so they can move on from that trauma. Another technique that is helpful is psychodrama which also unleashes the pain from a traumatic past. At this point when I mentioned the word “energy”, again the panel became heated with the life coaches sharing there are many energy healing techniques such as Reiki or Theta Healing that don’t need to be facilitated by a licensed psychotherapist. This I agreed with and in fact, many of the energy healing methods, Somatic Experiencing included, can be administered by body workers and others who have been trained in these methods.
The bottom line is this, if someone is going to help a person deal with unresolved issues from the past, a psychotherapist or someone adequately trained in trauma work is most likely the better choice. However, there are definitely body workers that have been properly trained to deal with trauma as mentioned earlier. The psychotherapist is the person who is sought out for healing old wounds, focuses on past issues, and deals with personal problems that need to be analyzed and solved. The life coach, on the other hand, is a mentor or guide. Coaches focus on the manifestation of one’s future making their dreams come alive now with accountability and action steps designed both by the life coach and the client. A psychotherapist can also help a client move forward with solution focused or goal oriented psychotherapy. Both professions have their place, but by all means, get the proper training you need before you call yourself a life coach. Although life experience is absolutely important, there is something to say about someone who takes the time to be adequately trained to be the best professional they can be in their scope of practice.