Do I Need a Life Coach or a Therapist?

A senior-level executive reached out to me on my contact page and asked: 

“I am having some work, career, life issues and I am at a cross-road. I am not sure which type of professional help would be useful for my situation. There are so many coaches out there!  How do I know if I need a Life Coach or a Therapist?

Great question because there are so many choices when it comes to finding the right coach for you.

First, please know that if you are already working with a coach and think you also need therapy–ask your coach! A great coach will recommend when a client may need support outside of the coaching engagement because it is our ethical responsibility to serve our clients to be their best possible selves, and that may include coaching and therapy.

I know from experience because my clients have lost a partner, gone through a divorce, had a miscarriage, and been fired. I rely on my coaching expertise and intuition to actively listen, read their body language, energetics and pay attention to their emotional well-being to understand if they are ok to move forward with coaching, or if I need to recommend therapy to support them on their journey.

If you are considering working with a life or leadership coach or therapist, but don’t know what the right fit is for you, read on.

Lauren Michelle Jackson is the founder of Cultivate Your Essence, which is a counseling and coaching practice based out of Chicago and Atlanta. I loved interviewing Lauren because she is both a licensed therapist and life coach. She and I went through the same coach training program.

On Find Your Clear Vision, the podcast, Lauren shares that counseling, or therapy, works best when there’s healing that needs to take place. No one is ever 100% healed, but as you work with a therapist, you build various tools to understand what triggers your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and how to cope with them in a healthy and healing way.

Therapy is a partnership in healing, whereas coaching is a partnership in creating what’s next in your life.

Coaching, particularly mindset coaching, is collaborative and creative when it comes to building a future based on how you want to feel and the impact you want to make—then taking action from a proactive and often innovative place to get the results you desire.

As Lauren shares on the pod, “Coaching is accountability on steroids.”

Always consider what type of partnership will work best for you and your needs. Here are some questions to consider when you are teetering between working with a life or leadership coach, therapist, or maybe both. 

  • Are you experiencing anything out of the ordinary that you believe is a mental or medical issue?
  • Have you dealt with depression in the past, and are feeling its presence today?
  • Are stress and anxiety overwhelming your daily life?
  • Do you need to heal past trauma? This can be Trama with a capital T or trauma with a lowercase t. Trama is whatever thoughts or experiences limit you from expressing your fullest self.

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, consider interviewing licensed therapists to partner with. Let’s continue…

  • Are you ready to take action to create your future?
  • Are you ready to take radical responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, and actions?
  • Do you have a future vision and want accountability to create it?
  • Are you ready to commit to creating a future plan and take action?
  • Are you ready to proactively change your mindset with daily practice?

If you answered Yes to any of these questions, you may be ready for coaching and could consider interviewing certified coaches to partner with.

You’re not going to know if you need counseling or coaching until you try a few on for size. So it’s being open to whichever one you feel like is calling you the most.

Be honest with yourself, a lot of times the answer lies within you. Many times you know what you need to do is just a matter of following through and investing in your well-being and planning your future with clarity.

Just like you go to the dentist 2x a year (or you should!) consider investing in your emotional and mental well-being just the same. The goal of coaching, and therapy, is for you to learn how to do the work on your own. Just like your dentist doesn’t brush your teeth 2x a day….you do because you are worth it.

Therapy can create a baseline of what it means to be in a healthy relationship with yourself and others. Taking the time to educate and learn about yourself is a great reason to seek out a therapist. Then, with the foundation set, you can work with a coach to design your future knowing you’re capable and supported.

Finding your life coach or therapist is like trying on a pair of jeans. You have got to find your style, find what feels good, and find what works for you.

And guess what? It takes time.

You’re being vulnerable with someone you don’t know. Pay attention to how you feel in the process, keep advocating for yourself, don’t give up! Life coaching and therapy is not a one size fits all, it’s a personal choice.

How to find the coach that is your perfect fit:

  • Ask friends for recommendations
  • Go online to psychology.com
  • Search for “certified mindset coach”
  • Read Google reviews
  • Do interviews or discovery sessions; some professionals do these informational interviews for free.

I wrote an article for the American Marketing Association called “Know When to Hire a Professional Coach, a Consultant, a Mentor or a Therapist” which has sparked many conversations, questions, and most recently a 3-part series on Find Your Clear Vision Podcast:

You’ve had career and business success.​

But, you don't have a clear vision of a future that excites you. I can help.