What is the Difference Between a Life Coach and a Therapist? or Consultant?
Life Coaching is NOT the same as other helping professions. A key difference is that the life coach's focus is on your life in the present, right NOW, ... and on moving forward toward well-formed outcomes. Life coaches usually help you ask yourself "how?" or "what?" "or tell me more about that" about your choices for the present or future rather than "why?" about your past.
Life Coaching is not the same as consulting. People hire consultants as content experts, to give answers and advice. People want help from a professional about a specific issue, from the coach's specific area of expertise ...consultants often tell you exactly what steps to take to get where you want to go. Professional Development Coaches and Life coaches operate under the assumption that you are the expert in your life and your situation. You can come up with your own solutions.
A coach asks questions so that you get to your solutions and answers via the route that is best for you personally. She operates from a holistic perspective and often stays with you for a while on your journey toward full-filling your dreams and goals. A consultant usually moves on after you've reached your goal in that specific area.
Life Coaching is not the same as therapy or counseling. A therapist usually operates under a medical model with dysfunctional areas of a client's life (often calling them "patients"). He or she helps "fix" problems and mental health issues, like depression and neurosis. A therapist often focuses on the "why?" from their client's past and spends a lot of time exploring problems and giving advice.
Life coaches believe you are fully functional and proactively focus on solutions based on "how?" questions. Life coaches know how to help you focus the present .... on getting from where you are today, to where you want to be!
Life coaching is not the same as athletic or sports coaching.They are very similar because an athletic coach helps you become your best you. She challenges you, holds you accountable, and is often your cheerleader. Coaches do all that!
The main difference is that sports coaching is about competition and is focused on winning and loosing. Your life coach helps you bring out the best in yourself. And if winning is part of the situation, she will often help you come up with a win-win for everyone involved.
Life Coaching is not the same as a 'friendship.' If you make a good choice in coaches, she will probably feel like a really good friend, maybe even a best friend. But she is a trained professional. You can trust her to work with you on what is important to YOU.
Your coach will let you vent like a friend, but she knows how and when to help you move on. She won't worry about hurting your feelings by pointing out things you might want to be working on.
Your coach won't give you well meaning advice, tell you what you "should" or "should not" be doing and she won't have her own agenda for your relationship.
You Know What Life Coaching is NOT But What IS a Life Coach?
A Life coach is a partner who holds YOUR agenda. She listens actively and non-judgmentally and gives you powerful, honest feedback. You are collaborators working together on your goals, your interests and passions, your professional and personal development .... whatever really matters in your life.
So far the answer to "what is a life coach?" has been to contrast it to other helping professions. ... but how about a concise definition of a coach? There a lot of coach training schools and each has a slight variation on their definition of a coach. Most of them are valuable for different some clients, each in their own situation. I'll give you two definitions for now. If think you want or need a coach, I'm just glad you are doing your research and asking what is a life coach early in the process!
The International Coaches Federation (ICF) is the recognized, worldwide credentialing organization for coaches. ICF answers "what is a life coach?" with this definition: "...an ongoing partnership that helps the client produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives."
The Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) iPEC is an ICF approved training program and here is their definition of coaching: It is a profession that "... helps people tap into their inner purpose and passion and connect that with outer goals and tasks to bring about extraordinary and sustainable results."
iPEC's answer to the "what is a life coach?" question really resonates with me because my passion has long been to help connect people not only with their outer goals and with their inner personal growth potential, but also to their passions in life.