I am sometimes asked about life coaching versus psychotherapy. Coaching is at its source a technique of cognitive behavior therapy. Within the psychotherapy I practice, I often employ a certain amount of coaching with my clients, helping them achieve their life goals in situations when I think that this method will be helpful.
Both life coaches and psychotherapists may be helpful to clients. Either may help a person by listening, offering practical advice, and helping someone visualize and realize certain potentials.
What is the difference between employing certain coaching techniques within psychotherapy and offering life coaching as a complete solution? I think the difference may be best illustrated by highlighting the actual differences in requirements, training and licensure. Bear in mind, I am an advocate of coaching in many situations, in fact my program, Your Parenting Coach, is itself a coaching program for parents, although facilitated only by licensed mental health professionals.
Here are some differences in standards for Life Coaches and Psychotherapists:
|Education||None. Any person can call themselves a life coach. Self elected training may be very brief, even a few hours. Certificates may be earned in days and advanced training is offered over the course of months.||Typically at least six years combined of university and graduate school are required. Graduate school is typically resultant in either a masters degree or a doctorate. Additionally, most of these degrees require internships and supervision/practicum to gain practical field experience.|
Coaching programs do not require advanced degrees or licenses.
After earning a masters degree or doctorate, as well as the required number of supervision or practicum hours (usually takes approximately 2 years), a person is eligible to sit for a licensing exam. The exam type depends on the type of graduate degree achieved.
|Ethics/ HIPPAA/Regulations||There is not a code of ethics for all life coaches. If a coach elects to be a member of the International Coach Federation, they commit to abiding by its code of ethics.||Yes. All licensed social workers, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists must abide by the code of ethics for their profession.|
There are regulations in place for psychotherapists. Many of these are governed state by state and require licensed mental health professionals to take approved CEU’s, Continuing Education Units, in order to maintain their licensure.
Many licensed psychotherapists are also required to abide by HIPPAA standards of privacy, especially if they participate with insurance plans.
The education about psychological and neuropsychological as well as a certain amount of psychiatric knowledge can be essential in helping a client progress. I cannot imagine, for example, how I would work with a client dealing with real and serious anxiety issues without the extensive training and education I have had. The treatment is not such that intuition and good intentions alone can make a difference. With great respect for life coaches who do great work helping people with goals, organization and the like, I am a firm believer in the value of licensure and training for psychological work.