"Counsellors and therapists may look to the past for answers. Life Coaches deal with the now and the future"

To identify the differences between coaching, counselling and therapy, it is necessary to present an overview of the procedures that are sometimes mistakenly confused with coaching. These typically include counselling, physiotherapy, psychotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), hypnotherapy and psychiatry.

Take physiotherapy and coaching. At first glance there is no obvious link between them although using one therapy might lead to using the other. Physiotherapy is, according to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, 'treatment of diseaseā€¦ '. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Life Coaching. Life Coaching does not deal with diseases of the body or mind. It does help with clients' dis-ease, unease or dissatisfaction. It helps with issues of self-esteem and inability to achieve desired goals.

There may be a possible link of cause and effect. If, for example, a client comes to you for support and encouragement whilst they are receiving treatment from their physiotherapist. Then your coaching could take the form of motivating the client to keep performing the exercises recommended by their physiotherapy programme. By encouraging and congratulating the client on the improvements made and then helping them to set new targets, your coaching can have a huge impact on their speed of recovery.

The reverse of this is less pleasant. It could occur after you have encouraged your client to take up some form of exercise to improve their health. If, under your guidance and encouragement, they over-stretch themselves and suffer injury, they may require the assistance of a physiotherapist. Do note however that these are simple 'cause and effect' links. There are no links, which concern the methods of working.

All of the other therapies mentioned generally involve some form of personal history analysis. The client ordinarily has to go into their past for the therapist to devise a method of treatment. Thus the therapists need extensive knowledge and ability if they are to offer useful advice. Counselling, for example, may be needed following a single and clearly identified trauma like bereavement, serious accident to self or family, divorce or redundancy.

Life Coaching however, is based in the present and the future. It is founded on the premise that the past need not equate to the future. Most coaches do not advocate giving advice to clients, preferring to work as a catalyst in helping the client define their own way forward. This is a very different method of working from those used by a therapist or counsellor.

Many counsellors and psychotherapists are drawn to a career in Life Coaching. This presents serious challenges for them as coaching differs from the way that they have become accustomed to dealing with their patients. The distinguishing mark of calling a patient or client helps to identify intervention from guidance.

Generally speaking, both these professions explore the patient's past by discovering previously created blocks or obstacles. Then they use interventions to remove these blocks or obstacles to help the patient's recovery. They use techniques and language patterns, which are designed and dedicated for this approach.

These methods are not needed in Life Coaching. Indeed they could present problems for the coaching client who may become confused and misunderstand the vital distinction between therapy and Life Coaching - that therapy works from the past and Life Coaching starts from the present.

Life Coaching is not about the past, which is only important if it seriously affects the results of the coaching. In such instances the Life Coach would refer the client to a specialist therapist for help, as it is not part of coaching to offer therapeutic interventions.

Even if the Life Coach, like myself, has the appropriate therapy skills and qualifications to do this it is still preferable for the client to seek help from other professional sources. The reason for this recommendation is that clients can easily become confused about whether their sessions are therapy or coaching and this can irrevocably damage the relationship.

The serious implication of attempting to combine therapy with Life Coaching is that a confused client may find no benefits from either. If the client needs therapy and becomes disillusioned because of this confusion of boundaries, there is a risk they may never again seek or receive the assistance that they need to live a fulfilling and rewarding life.

This is a very serious burden for the therapist and should be avoided at all costs. So, to summarise, a therapist should stick to therapy during a session and a Life Coach should stick to coaching. The therapist can then continue looking towards the past with the Life Coach dealing with the present and the future.

Life Coaching has absolutely no connections with psychiatry. Should a Life Coach suspect that a client might have a need for such specialist attention, they should not attempt a diagnosis. They should firmly and gently tell the client to consult their doctor who is trained to diagnose and to recommend psychiatry or other treatment.

NLP includes some very useful techniques for Life Coaching. The NLP section of this book identifies these with the emphasis on the linguistic aspects. It also covers some of the neurological features, which the Life Coach can use. It deliberately excludes therapeutic interventions. Life Coaching is not about interventions. It is about goal setting and achievement.

There are currently no formally recognised professional qualifications for Life Coaching. This means that anyone - a carpenter, a tarot card reader, a doctor, a preacher or even a child molester could put a sign outside their door, 'Beware of the Life Coach' and then start to advertise and practice Life Coaching.

There are several good organisations, which offer training leading to their own qualifications in Life Coaching. Training is delivered at day or residential courses, distance learning via the Internet or, in some instances, a combination of both. It is important for all Life Coaches to obtain some form of qualification, which a client can check and verify if they are so minded. All coaches should advocate the importance of thorough training and qualifications and the adherence to a stringent code of ethics to protect the reputation of this still young, but fast growing, profession.


There are links with therapies and Life Coaching but the links are not in the style, methodologies, techniques or tools of working - they derive from cause and effect. Even if they have the ability for intervention, Life Coaches should always refer clients believed to need therapeutic help to fully trained and qualified professionals. Life Coaching and therapy have very different agendas for the client. There is no officially recognised UK body for professionally qualified Life Coaches.


  • Types of therapy; physiotherapy, counselling, psychotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, hypnotherapy and psychiatry
  • Treatment of disease has nothing whatsoever to do with Life Coaching
  • Life Coaching is based in the present and the future
  • The Life Coach must refer special need clients to a qualified professional

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