How is Life Coaching Different than Counseling?

People looking for help in dealing with life problems may wonder how life coaching is different than counseling. Many professionals enlist the aid of life coaches in helping them make job choices. There is some competition between the two careers and more than a little confusion about them. Are life coaches psychologists, and can they address emotional and psychological issues with their client

Future Versus Past

Some professional life coaches say one of the primary distinctions between the two professions is that coaches work with clients to deal with future choices, while psychologists stress past issues to identify issues that create disorders and find solutions for them. Psychological counselors generally must provide a diagnosis of a psychological disorder so that insurance companies will cover their services. Coaches are different from counselors in that they are not bound by any such requirement to identify their clients as having a diagnosable condition.

Wellness Versus Illness

That means coaching clients are working to prevent problems by being proactive in making good choices. Sometimes life coaches help their clients to recognize destructive situations, but the emphasis is on avoiding them. Some professionals liken the role of coaches to that of personal trainers, massage therapists or nutritionists. According to Counseling Today, a publication of the American Counseling Association, coaches who discover an emotional illness or disability should refer their clients to therapists the way athletic trainers would refer someone to a doctor for an injury.

Employee Counseling Versus Professional Coaching

Many corporations employ counselors to work with their employees. The counselors teach stress management and deal with issues such as addictions among employees. The service prevents a lot of loss due to employees missing work when dealing with depression, frustration, anger, and other problems. In contrast, professionals and not employers often hire personal life coaches to help them see things that are hampering their careers and to set and meet career goals.

Master’s Degrees Versus a Certificate

Education is another difference between the two careers. While licensed counselors are required to have a minimum of a master’s degree, coaches are not required to have such training. Organizations like the International Coach Federation offer accreditation of training programs. One accredited program is offered by Martha Beck’s Life Coach Training. The complete program takes about 39 weeks and costs $6,000. The ICF also offers three certifications: the Associate Certified Coach must have 100 hours of coaching experience with at least eight clients and of which 75 hours are paid, the Professional Certified Coach certificate requires 120 hours of training and 750 hours of experience with at least 25 clients and the Master Certified Coach must have 200hoursr of training and 2,500 hours of experience with at least 35 clients. Clients looking for life coaches should note, however, that this certification is voluntary. Not all life coaches presently have this type of training.

Doctors often refer their patients to counselors. They understand that while many of the same concepts are used in both disciplines, coaches simply do not have the type of training necessary to deal with mental or emotional illnesses. In contrast, coaches are often peers who, understanding the life pressures that affect setting goals and following through to success, can be effective mentors. There is some competition between the fields, but many professionals believe that the two helping fields can coexist. Simply put, goal-setting, proactive wellness and supportive mentorship are some of the distinctives of life coaching, while the trained ability to help clients overcome dysfunction marks counseling. That is the difference between life coaching and counseling.