The Relationship between Therapy and Life Coaching

Originally published in The Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch, 2016

Last time I shared with you some basics to therapy, what it’s about and how it works. To better understand the relationship between therapy and life coaching, where one ends and the other begins, imagine them on a spectrum or a 7-point scale. At the far left end (1), there is the very lowest point you could be feeling or experiencing, as far as imaginable from your ideal life. At the opposite end (7) is your ideal life. If you experience that point of realization where you say, “this isn’t how it should be,” you decide to seek help, and you fall on left, therapy may be the best fit for you. It’s a more intense, more specialized intervention for when a person is feeling that low.

The reason therapy and life coaching have a lot of in common is for when you are more in the middle of the spectrum, or you’ve worked your way up there. The focus shifts from healing to maintenance to reaching for happiness. At a 1 or 2, happiness may seem impossible. The focus is survival or day-to-day functioning.

An important step here is considering what happiness is, what your ideal life looks like. This is the meat of life coaching. Where do you want to be? The life coach works with you to help you get there through discussion, strategic planning and problem solving. There is still some important stuff to do that focuses on the left, learning about coping skills, relationship skills, overcoming unhealthy habits that have been place for a long time, learning or continuing to watch out for negative thinking patterns that impact your behavior or outlook.

When treating a severe wound, you have positive treatment, like antibiotics, the whole time. The focus has to start specifically on removing the bad (infected) areas immediately before one can really focus on healing. The positive treatment starts at the beginning, continues through the removal of the bad, and even after that is completed, the positive treatment continues. We take this approach with our bodies. We take it with our mind as well.

If you fall in towards the middle or right (3+) on that spectrum, medical insurance may not cover therapeutic services because they do not see it as a “medical necessity.” Your options for therapy are then paying out of pocket for the full fee or finding a therapist who will use a sliding fee scale to see you. As described above, this is where life coaching can become a great asset.

Typically costing less than therapy, life coaching focuses on the middle of the spectrum, moving towards the right (3-7): the ideal life. You’ve either done the treatment necessary in therapy, want a sharper focus with your therapist but are ready to begin working on living that ideal life (you can work with a therapist and life coach at the same time), or started out at a 3+ when you decide to talk with someone.

Every one of us internally moves towards change. We either change in a positive way (grow) or we change in a negative way, by directing developing negative habits or growing in laziness and neglect. In order to reach the ideal life, be it one’s personal life, professional life or relationships, it takes thought and intentional action. It is normal, at this point, to come up against obstacles when you seek to make changes in your life.

This is where life coaching comes in. Next time, I’ll discuss how life coaching works.

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