Coach Thought of the Week: Therapy v. Coaching

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Monday, May 30, 2022
By Emy Fernandez, MBA, Life Coach

“Therapists are archeologists that dig into our past to help us understand the present; Coaches are architects that help us build our future once we understand our past.” Author unknown

I don’t remember who shared this quote with me. It resonated with me years ago when I first heard it. I hope it does with you as well.

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As Mental Health Awareness Month comes to an end, I thought I would give my insights on a couple of questions I get regularly.

1.  What is the difference between therapy and coaching?
2.  Should I hire a therapist or a coach?

Therapists focus on working with clients on their overall mental health, including diagnosing and working with mental illnesses. Therapists are past to present focused. Therapy sessions are structured depending on the treatment required.

Coaches focus on helping clients identify future goals and how to overcome obstacles that are getting in the way of achieving these goals. Coaches are present to future focused. Coaching sessions are structured from week to week, depending on the immediate action needed from the client to move forward.

Therapists have master’s degrees in counseling and are licensed in the state they practice. The therapist and client relationship may be a long and emotional one. Hire a therapist you feel comfortable with.

Coaches do not need to have degrees or be licensed. Some have degrees and/or certifications. Others do not have either of them. Instead, they coach from their own life experiences. The coach and client relationship may be a short, action-driven, result-achieving relationship. Hire a coach you have researched and believe is qualified and inspires you to move forward to get the results you want.

Following is a guide that may help you decide whether therapy or coaching is best for you. However, this list is not exhaustive.

Hire a therapist if

  • you are experiencing mental health symptoms or are diagnosed with a mental health illness;
  • you have past traumas keeping you from experiencing life in the present;
  • you have relationship issues and can benefit from couples counseling;
  • you have children or adolescents that may be suffering from mental health symptoms, or have been diagnosed with a mental health illness;
  • you have children or adolescents that are having behavioral difficulties at school and/or at home;
  • you and your newborn have attachment issues and can benefit from working with a therapist on infant mental health;
  • you or a family member suffers from addictions;
  • you or a family member suffers from an eating disorder;
  • you or a family member self-harm;
  • you or a family member have had suicidal thoughts or suicidal attempts

Hire a coach if

  • you are unsure how to move forward in your life and need help identifying goals;
  • you have identified your goals, but you continue getting stuck without achieving them;
  • you want to accelerate your growth in your career and/or business;
  • you feel overwhelmed around specific areas in your life;
  • you want to achieve specific financial goals;
  • you want to overcome unhealthy habits in a manageable and sustainable manner;
  • you want to transition to a new chapter in your life but are unsure where to begin;
  • you struggle with time management;
  • you struggle with achieving balance in your work and/or your life.

Some clients may benefit from seeing both a therapist and a coach simultaneously; one is not exclusive to the other.

In the past few years, we have experienced global insecurity, a disease that does not seem to end, and some of us personal losses – both physical and financial. All of this has added to our everyday stress and overwhelm.

The help is out there.

It’s OK to seek it.

And to the families in Uvalde, I am truly so sorry for your losses. You are all in my heart and prayers. My deepest desire for you is that you take the time to grieve as long as you need and that eventually, you can move on to live a beautiful life in spite of your loss.

P.S. Do you have obstacles keeping you from moving forward and taking action? Are you looking for a change? Do you want someone to guide you through your journey instead of DIYing it? Join me and get started. Learn how thinking differently creates different results. Reach out to schedule a consult and learn how we can work together. Contact info: (office) 305-445-0477, (cell) 786-623-8344, or

P.P.S. Do you want to get on my email list to get all things Coaching? Email me at