Coaching vs Counseling


People often tell me they prefer to see a “life coach” not a therapist. Coaching is all the rage. What’s the deal?

Even with all the medications Americans take for mental health, seeking help for depression, anxiety, or even relationship concerns is still considered taboo. Seeing a “coach” sounds good. There’s no stigma to seeing a life coach. Nothing is “wrong” with you and you won’t be pathologized or diagnosed.  You’re just going for a pep talk and maybe some clarity in direction.

Another thing I often hear is that people want “actionable homework” and advice. You want to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, with an expert’s opinion and fast, observable change. Enticing! I want fast change too. Real change isn’t fast. Sitting with yourself to find your own answers, which an experienced therapist will surely encourage you to do, may be uncomfortable. But the shifts you find will be sustainable and driven by your own depth of self-awareness.

Let’s examine this “expert” thing a little further. Is a coach an expert? Well, there is no state regulation for coaching, so ANYONE can be a coach. Literally. Anyone.

Sure, you say, but I got a great recommendation for a good coach. Is it possible to be credentialed as a life coach? Yes. The International Coach Federation recognizes Associate (60 hour) and Professional (130 hour) levels of training.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

Your personal trainer at the gym likely has more certification hours than a coach AND they are state regulated.

In contrast, a counselor or therapist has had years of graduate and post-graduate training. They have had hundreds of hours of supervision while providing thousands of hours of care before becoming fully licensed professionals. They are required to do ongoing continuing education in their field and, like the therapists at Mile High, may hold multiple licenses and certifications.

So sure, drop a couple hundred dollars an hour on a life coach. It sounds better… Or does it?