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Crafting Your Path: Distinguishing Between Mental Health Counseling and Life Coaching

Updated: Feb 29

The self-improvement world is vast, but nuanced. Discover the distinctions between therapy's healing touch and life coaching's forward momentum. Choose which one is your best next step.


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There were a lot of great things about the 1990s, such as the Discman, TGIF, and the Dream Team. While it seems like life was simpler back then, if you were struggling with mental health concerns and sought out a therapist, you probably did it "on the down low" (pardon that '90s slang 😃). These days, counseling is now widely recognized as a common practice to ensure good mental health. Popular therapists are New York Times best sellers and sought-after podcast guests. Life coaching is an emerging professional field. Much like therapy, life coaching is becoming more recognized, but it is less common these days. Many people are still unsure about the need for a life coach, recalling how the last time we had coaches was that JV basketball coach who wasn’t all that effective at improving our jump shot.


Life coaching is experiencing its social debut, but it needs to be understood. I think the best way to think about the difference is to consider yourself as a building project. Your life is being built, but each specialty brings a unique set of tools to the process.


Benefits of Life Coaching and Counseling

The Healing Journey of Therapy

Therapy is more like an archaeological dig, delving into the layers of one's past. It's a process of uncovering, understanding, and ultimately healing deep-seated emotional wounds. For many of us who find ourselves weighed down by unresolved issues from our past, therapy offers a space to heal and rebuild. Key tools of therapy include approaches like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns, and Psychodynamic Therapy, which explores the influence of past experiences on present behavior. These methodologies, among others, equip individuals with strategies to process and overcome their challenges, fostering lasting emotional well-being.


The Forward Momentum of Life Coaching

In contrast, life coaching is akin to architectural drafting. It's about designing a blueprint for the renovation that is ongoing as we reform our life based on our experiences. Life coaches work with individuals to identify their goals, harness their strengths, and create actionable plans to achieve them. Key tools used by life coaches include goal-setting frameworks, accountability strategies, and strength-based assessments. These tools help clients set clear, achievable objectives, maintain focus on their goals, and leverage their innate abilities for personal and professional growth. Expect a life coach to employ techniques like SMART goals for clarity and motivation, regular progress check-ins to keep you on track, and personalized action plans that cater to your unique life circumstances and aspirations.


Combining Insights and Action

While therapy provides the healing touch, life coaching offers the elevating push. Therapy can help mend the gaps and soothe past afflictions, acting as a restorative force. Life coaching, on the other hand, is about optimizing one's inherent potential. It's not uncommon for a life coach to say, “Hey, I think you need to see a therapist to really dig through those emotions that seem to be holding you back.” Equally, after some illuminating therapy, you may find yourself asking, “What’s next?” It’s great to understand your past and heal from previous traumas, but what do you do with that?


The Choice at the Crossroads

The choice between therapy and life coaching isn't about superiority; it's about suitability to one's current needs. Sometimes, the journey requires looking back to heal and move forward. Other times, it's about setting sights on the horizon and taking bold steps toward it.

Maybe you need to assess what your needs are. If you think it is the right time for coaching, give it a shot. Craftd can help you by providing a low-cost introduction to coaching conversations. It may be all you need to cut the noise and move forward. It might help you realize you need more human interaction and direction, but the process of learning that will never be time wasted.

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