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.

What Therapy is all About

Originally published in The Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch, 2016

I’m often asked the question, “what is life coaching?” It sounds a lot like therapy, and most people know a little of what counseling is like. So let’s start there.

Therapy or counseling deals with the past, healing and disorder. A diagnosis is needed for insurance coverage. Without insurance coverage, sessions range from $60 to $150 (or with a sliding fee, $20). Insurance companies, once they have received the paperwork and diagnosis will commit to covering a certain number of sessions. Once that number is reached, the therapist can petition that more sessions be covered.

For Medi-Cal recipients under 18, there may be a therapist available at their school providing services. The Center for Human Services, Sierra Vista and Catholic Charities are great local resources for low cost therapy. Because of the Affordable Care Act, many more adults now have access to counseling.

There are many theoretical orientations to therapy. That’s fancy for what the therapist believes about the human person, causes of distress, what motivates us, and how change works. You may find a therapist who focuses solely on the past, believing all of our current actions or feelings are tied to past experiences and understanding those experiences lead to healing. You may find a therapist who sees the best effort to be put into reshaping the present by changing behaviors, rewarding positive steps in the right direction.

Because of the differences in theoretical orientation, the length of therapy recommended will vary by provider and the needs of the client. The therapist will discuss this with the client early in the sessions. Weekly sessions are usually best although not always financially possible.

The therapist’s worldview should never be imposed on the patient. If the patient is upfront saying, “I don’t believe in divorce,” or “I don’t believe anything happens to us after we die, we just disappear,” a good therapist, even if he or she disagrees, will work within that framework.

Depending on your insurance, it may be possible to “shop around” for a therapist if you find that the therapist you met with was not a good fit, either because of personality, style or if that therapist was not open to your worldview. Trust is the key to this relationship. If you don’t trust your therapist and what he or she has to say, you won’t be nearly as open. Change will either take longer, not happen, or happen because of reasons outside of therapy.

Common issues like past trauma, anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behaviors are common indicators of a need for therapy. In counseling, you can learn about the difficulty your experiencing, help you understand the effects of it in your life, and guide you toward helpful resources to change.

A mother may know her infant’s fever is not high enough to warrant concern, so she checks with friends to find out what they do to help the baby be comfortable, only seeking medical help when certain warning signs occur. Attending therapy is like seeing a doctor. There is a lot of mental, emotional or relational distress we experience that we can handle, read about or talk to others to learn how to cope. But there comes a point for many when its’ time to see a doctor: when sad or angry or anxious moods do not shift but dominate, when we feel we have lost control, when we can’t let go of something in the past, if you’re experiencing thoughts of harming yourself or someone else. These are just some of the signs that therapy might be an important step for you towards happiness.

Here we come to the overlap. As healing and change occur in therapy, the focus shifts from the past to the future. Now that x is under control, what to do now? We’ll discuss this next time. Stay tuned.