What Is a Life Coach Versus a Therapist?

Some people find it difficult to distinguish between a life coach versus a mentor versus a therapist. While they may all seem similar—therapists undergo rigorous training and life coaches can get ICF accredited life coach certifications—the practices are completely different.

Definition of Terms

Let’s begin by defining the two terms. Therapy is the process of reaching into past experiences to resolve negative beliefs, behaviors, and physical responses. Coaching is about helping an individual become the best version of themselves through skill development. 

Differences Between Life Coaching and Therapy

Now that we have a basic understanding of what the two terms are used to refer to, we can delve into the distinguishing differences.

1. What They Cover

Therapy focuses on mental health and finding long-lasting solutions, whereas life coaching focuses on a particular sphere of an individual’s life, such as health, relationships, weight or career.

Therapists are mental health specialists who are certified; individual life coaches may have received mental health training, but they aren’t required to know anything about mental health techniques or theories. In fact, currently, it is not mandatory that a life coach needs a license.

You should see a therapist if:

  • You have undergone an experience that caused you trauma and resulted in mental health conditions such as anxiety
  • You are looking for help healing from experiences in your past
  • You need someone to speak with regarding what you’re currently going through
  • You’re seeking couples counseling

You should consider speaking to a life coach if:

  • You want to achieve higher goals
  • You feel stuck in a certain area of your life
  • You want to substitute negative behaviors for healthy ones
  • You want to make a major change


2. Skills You Learn

Another way to differentiate between the two practices is by looking at the skills they teach an individual. Therapy is aimed at teaching the skills required to heal from past trauma, whereas life coaching teaches skills that help an individual become better in one or more spheres of their life, such as advancing in their profession.

3. Time

Therapy focuses on reminiscing to understand what’s causing you to be in your current mental state. Life coaching is futuristic in that it’s aimed at helping you achieve goals in the future.

4. How Sessions Are Conducted

Both life coaching and therapy begin with long initial sessions, but that’s all they have in common. In therapy, the direction the subsequent sessions take depends on your therapist. Subsequent sessions in life coaching are aimed at making the individual the best version of themselves by prioritizing goals.

5. Duration

Therapy continues until a solution is found or when an individual decides to end the sessions. On the other hand, life coaching is short-term and is only aimed at equipping individuals to achieve specific goals.


While they have some things in common, there are huge differences between a life coach and a therapist. Now that you understand each role, you can book a session based on your needs–the experts at Symbiosis Coaching are ready to help.

Class Schedule
ProgramStart DateClass TimesClass Schedule
Certified Life CoachWednesday, February 22nd9:30am ET
8:00pm ET
8:00pm PT
Once a week, 2-hours, for 24-weeks
Certified Organizational
Development Coach
Tuesday, February 21st9:30am ET
8:00pm ET
Once a week, 2-hours, for 25-weeks
Certified Executive
Thursday, February 23rd9:30am ET
8:00pm ET
Once a week, 2-hours, for 8-weeks
Certified NLP Coach
Monday, February 20th9:30am ET
8:00pm ET
Once a week, 2-hours, for 25-weeks
Platinum - ACC/PCC
Friday, April 7th9:30am ET
8:00pm ET
Once a week, 1-hour
for 6-sessions PLUS 4 one-on-
one sessions with mentor