Why Do Therapists Hate Life Coaches “”

By Jared Levenson - Reviewed on September 7, 2023
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Life coaches and therapists are two distinct professions, often misunderstood and sometimes seen at odds with each other.

Why is there tension between these two roles?

Essentially, therapists might view life coaches as infringing upon their ‘economic’ territory, taking away opportunities from working with clients. Coaches counter critics by saying the mental health market is under-served.

Either way, hate is a strong word, and I don’t see much animosity between the two professions. It seems like coaching is accepted these days, albeit with a sense of resignation from the therapy side of things.

The Online Mental Health Review Team is uniquely qualified to delve into the conflict between therapists and many life coaches because of our extensive experience in the mental health sector.

Let’s dive deep into the details, look at both sides of the argument, and explore potential solutions for bridging this gap.

Therapists vs. life coaches


Navigating the world of mental health, personal development, and growth can often lead us to a crossroads: Should we seek help from a therapist or a life coach?

Let’s take a gentle stroll through the key differences between the two.

  • Focus on healing vs. goal-setting: Therapists help us heal past wounds, while life coaches focus on setting and achieving future goals.
  • Dealing with mental health: Therapists are licensed professionals trained to deal with mental health issues; life coaches are not.
  • Long-term vs. short-term: Therapy is usually a long-term process, while life coaching is often more short-term and goal-oriented.
  • Digging deep vs. moving forward: Therapists dive into your past to understand present behaviors, while life coaches concentrate on future actions.
  • Regulation: Therapists must be licensed to practice, but there’s no such requirement for life coaches.

What Critics of Coaching Say:

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While life coaching can be a transformative journey for many, it’s essential to recognize the pitfalls that could make it a costly and unproductive endeavor for some.

  • Lack of regulation: The life coaching industry lacks uniform rules, leading to potential risks associated with unqualified practitioners.
  • High costs: Life coaches often charge high fees, which may not always result in commensurate benefits.
  • Potential for dependency: Clients may become overly reliant on their life coach, inhibiting their personal growth and self-reliance.
  • Not a substitute for therapy: Life coaches aren’t qualified to treat mental health conditions, and treating them as such can delay necessary professional help.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Some life coaches may promise more than they can deliver, leading to disappointment and wasted resources.
  • Lack of personalized approach: Not all coaches offer tailored strategies, which can limit effectiveness.
  • Establishing credibility: Life coaches often struggle to develop their credibility due to a lack of standardized regulations and certifications in the industry.
  • Overcoming skepticism: Despite its growing popularity, life coaching faces skepticism, often due to misunderstandings about its role and benefits.
  • Setting boundaries: Life coaches must balance professional guidance and personal involvement, which can be challenging.
  • Maintaining confidentiality: Ensuring privacy and confidentiality is critical in life coaching, yet it can be not accessible in certain situations.
  • Handling emotional distress: Life coaches may face challenges when dealing with clients’ emotional severe pain or mental health issues, as they are not licensed therapists.
  • Finding clients: As with any business, finding and retaining clients can be a significant challenge for life coaches.

Bridging the Divide: Therapists and Life Coaches

The origins of therapy and coaching can provide insight into why tensions might exist between the two. Therapy has a long-established history, traced to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis in the late 19th century. On the other hand, life coaching emerged more recently, around the 1980s, and has grown exponentially since.

Therapists often feel that their extensive training and licensure requirements, which usually involve a master’s or doctoral degree and ongoing professional development, are not mirrored in the coaching profession.

Although it has certification programs, life coaching does not have the same uniform regulatory standards according to Grand Canyon University. This discrepancy sometimes leads therapists to perceive life coaches as encroaching on their territory without the equivalent qualifications.

Methodologies: Different Lenses, Same Picture

While therapists focus on helping clients understand and manage their past and present emotional issues, life coaches primarily concentrate on the future, providing practical steps for personal and professional development.

This difference in approach sometimes leads to the perception that life coaches offer “quick fixes,” which therapists might view as superficial compared to their in-depth, healing-focused work.

However, it is essential to note that these different approaches can complement each other. For instance, someone recovering from trauma might benefit from therapy to process their experiences and seek a life coach to build new skills and move forward.

Boundary Issues and Misconceptions

Some therapists’ resentment towards life coaches can also be attributed to the perceived blurring of boundaries.

Since life coaching isn’t a licensed profession, there’s a concern that coaches might inadvertently step into areas better served by a qualified mental health professional.

However, these feelings may stem from misconceptions. Many life coaches respect these boundaries, focusing on career development or personal growth and referring clients to therapists when mental health issues arise.

The Cost Factor

There’s a perception that life coaching is a “cheaper” alternative to therapy. Some therapists might see this as undervaluing their services, especially given their extensive training.

However, it’s important to remember that cost varies widely in both professions and often reflects the practitioner’s experience, expertise, and geographical location.

Is a Life Coach Not a Therapist?

Many often wonder, Is a life coach not a therapist?

  • Focus Areas: Life coaches focus on personal and professional development, while therapists primarily address mental health issues.
  • Approach: Therapists delve into past experiences to heal present issues, whereas life coaches concentrate on the current and future.
  • Regulation: Therapy is a regulated profession requiring formal education and licensing, while life coaching lacks such stringent rules.
  • Sessions: Therapy sessions often have a more structured format, while life coaching can be more flexible, oriented towards career or spirituality issues, and action-oriented.

What is a Life Coach?

What Do I Think About Life Coaches?

In simple terms, a life coach is a guide who helps clients navigate personal or career challenges. They work with individuals to develop essential skills, set and see clients achieve their goals, and make transformative changes in their lives.

Life coaches partner with clients; coaching focuses on the present and future, helping them move towards a more ideal version of their lives. They empower others by aiding them in making, meeting, and exceeding goals in their personal and professional lives.

Why Do Therapists Hate Life Coaches? Conclusion

In conclusion, while there are differences between therapists and life coaches, they share a common goal: to help people thrive. Each profession brings unique strengths, and the rivalry may not serve the best interests of those who could benefit from both.

Let’s encourage understanding and collaboration between therapists and life coaches, respecting each profession’s unique contributions. After all, isn’t the ultimate goal to support individuals on their journey towards better mental health?

Finally, we’d appreciate your thoughts! Suggest a mental health software you think the Online Mental Health Reviews platform should review next. Our team would love to hear about your experience!

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Additional Reading

For more distinctions between various mental health jobs/terms, please see our articles covering: counselor vs therapist and salary comparison, psychiatrist vs psychologist (depression), therapist vs psychologist, depression, LPC vs PsyD, clinical psychologist, counseling versus coaching, mentors vs sponsors, psychotherapy vs CBT, therapy quiz, trauma coach vs therapist, hospital vs psych ward, and psychologist vs social worker.

If You Are In Crisis

Waiting for an online therapy session in a crisis may not be the safest option. If you’re in immediate danger or have plans to harm yourself or others, please dial 911. For those grappling with suicidal thoughts, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available around the clock at 988.

You may want to try virtual urgent care via Sesame Care or DrHouse for non-emergency but still urgent situations.

Don’t hesitate to reach out; assistance is available 24/7. Alternatively, contact the National Helpline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 800-662-HELP (4357). This toll-free service offers confidential guidance, helping individuals with mental health or substance abuse issues find appropriate treatment options and providing necessary information anytime, every day of the year.

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