Life Coaches are not the same as Therapists, Counselors, Consultants, Mentors or Holistic Practitioners in very important ways. While there can be some overlap, each of these disciplines is extraordinarily valuable in the right situation and some practitioners can operate in more than one. Below are some of the distinctions that may be valuable as you select the professional that is right for you. Let me start with a disclaimer that I do not represent any of the professional organizations for these disciplines and my definitions probably are imprecise. Hopefully they can be helpful.
Life Coaching is grounded in identifying, defining and establishing specific measurable goals. It is built on you being the supreme expert on you with the Life Coach being a skilled practitioner at helping you uncover, discover, develop and implement actions that will achieve your goals. It is forward looking from where you are to where you want to be with little or no concern about how you got here. It is based on unleashing your gifts and talents with focused intention in full alignment with who you are as opposed to identifying, labeling or diagnosing deficiencies or illnesses to be corrected or healed.
One of Merrian-Webster’s definitions of therapy is “therapeutic treatment especially of bodily, mental or behavioral disorder.” There are many varied and valuable approaches to therapy but it is grounded in healing a disorder. Therapist have specialized training in identifying and labeling disorders or disease as well as expertise in helping resolve or control the presenting problem. Some people can benefit from having a Therapist to help with addressing their disorder and a Life Coach to help them establish and achieve life goals. Occasionally you will find a person who can serve both functions.
Counseling in a Merrian-Webster definition is “professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of personal interview and testing interest and aptitudes.” Counseling as a field is broader than therapy in that it may not involve a disorder model so one can seek a career counselor without having to be healed. On the other hand it may not be goal specific and forward focused as a Life Coach would be. Again sometimes you will find a Counselor who is also a Life Coach.
“A person who gives professional advice or services to companies for a fee” is Merrian-Webster’s definition of a Consultant. Consulting is very wide ranging. It can go into almost any area of a business with many specific areas of expertise such as management, accounting, time and efficiency studies, transition strategies, etc. Some Life Coaches serve as Consultants in specific areas of Business Coaching or Executive Coaching but in general being a Consultant is a much broader term.
Merrian-Webster says a mentor is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person”. There are a couple of significant distinctions in mentoring. First, it is an unequal relationship. For example a Life Coach’s expertise is based on two coequal people where the coach focuses on helping the client define, refine and accomplish their goals utilizing their special gifts, talents and expertise. A mentor is the expert in the area and is teaching the client who is less skilled how to do it. A person may have a Life Coach to help them identify and establish specific goals and a mentor to help them achieve them. A mentor may have a client establish specific goals but then teaches in their area of expertise.
A Holistic Practitioner addresses a person with a view to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects. All of the above categories will have specific practitioners who view people in this context but the distinction is how they approach the client. A Holistic Practitioner operates from the view that we are spiritual beings having a human experience rather than a human looking for a spiritual experience. The significance of this difference is the approach to cause and effect. The traditional view is that the physical world is the “real world” or causal level and everything involves controlling or manipulating it to achieve our health, satisfaction or success. The Holistic Practitioner views the physical world as the results end of the spectrum. Spirit is directed through the mental and emotional levels into the physical. A Spiritual Life Coach would be an example of a person who applies this approach to the profession of Life Coaching. A Holistic Healer would apply this to healing on any level.
My expertise is as a Life Coach, Counselor, Consultant and Holistic Practitioner. I spent the first nine years of my career as a Counselor and Administrator in corrections and substance abuse programs. The next fifteen years were as a Certified Financial Planner and Business Consultant. Since 1995 I have run my practice as a Holistic Practitioner, Life Coach and Teacher. (Click here to set up a free introductory consultation)