More Information: FAQ
What is the difference between life coaching and psychotherapy/counseling?
They are both ways of working through problems through talk, so there is a lot of overlap, but there are several pretty distinct differences.
1) Coaching is very broad. There are life coaches who help individuals with personal issues, business coaches who help organizations grow their business, and wellness coaches who can help with diet and weight loss (I am a life coach.). Counseling has multiple methodologies, but it is all intended to help individuals, couples, and groups with issues based in mental health.
2) For life coaches and counselors who overlap the kind of clients they work with, the methodologies are different. Life coaches deal more in the now. We might touch on the past, but we are more focused on what we can do to bring you into the present. Counselors do a lot of looking at what in your past caused you to have the issues you have now. Life coaches don't tend to see their clients as "sick"--in fact, we are not even allowed to see sick patients! Counselors are uniquely trained to deal with those who have severe mental illness, life coaches are more about helping people get through things that happen. Life coaches can mix educating and motivating clients in with compassion, whereas much of counseling tends to be more about being a "blank slate" for patients to talk at and merely mirroring back what they say to help them arrive at their own conclusions. There are many different types of counseling, but many of them involve this mindset. Counseling works only on the mental and emotional plane of healing, life coaching can also be spiritual and even physical at times (yoga for instance) because life coaches aren't tethered to the same sorts of regulations.
3) Coaching is not highly regulated, counseling/psychotherapy is. This is good and bad depending on how you look at it. Every type of counseling one can practice, with the exception of spiritual counseling, requires a certain amount of schooling and supervision which eventually leads to licensure. Coaching is a new discipline whereupon there is essentially no regulation, so anyone can coach. This leads to a lot of concern in the psychotherapy community about the quality of coaching. But, I will say two things about this and leave this up to you. I am in this field now because the mental health community had no ability to help me with my own struggles; despite all the degrees and supervision and licensure in the world, if your issue is not mental or emotional, you could receive counseling every day for life and get nowhere. Additionally, there are several organizations within the coaching community where coaches can voluntarily choose to learn and certify, and they are very reputable and teach excellent methodology. If you prefer to have someone with credentials working with you, that is the route you should go. Also, I have studied both coaching and counseling, and it led me to ponder, what makes someone truly a healer? Is it the schooling? Despite having chosen to get the coaching certification myself and having a variety of certifications and a degree in counseling, some of the best coaches I know have NO credentials. They tend to be highly evolved people who have often lived through extreme difficulties and made it through, somehow managing to expand themselves into a mindset of peace, non-judgment, faith in something higher than them self (however usually open-minded), and joy that they have a strong conviction to help others attain. I have been blessed to meet some of these people and be mentored by them.
How do I pick someone to work with?
First ask yourself based on what is written above whether it is a better fit for you personally to work with a counselor or a life coach. If you've chosen life coach, it's important that you ferret out how much schooling and certifications matter to you when working with someone. Then determine what kind of issues you're experiencing and see if you can find someone who has experience in that area. Most importantly, the person you choose to work with has to resonate with you! That is really the MOST important thing. Don't be afraid to hurt people's feelings! The biggest factor in your ability to heal is how comfortable you are and how much you trust that person, hands down. If that person is not me, I will gladly help you find whoever that person is for you.
"I want to work with you, but this sounds spiritual and I'm atheist."
"I want to work with you, but I'm Christian/Jewish/Muslim/devoutly something else and this sounds contradictory to my beliefs."
Everyone is spiritual, it is how we are designed. I have met very few people in life who chose to turn off that aspect of who they were that wasn't in some way depressed, because they were out of balance. Spirituality doesn't have to mean "God" to you. Transpersonal psychology is spiritual insofar that it helps you attain meaning and higher purpose, whatever that means to YOU. For some it's nature, or their children, or a higher calling like helping others. For others it's God in whatever form they name him/her/it. My job isn't to tell you what to believe, it's to help you find expansiveness.