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How do you know whether life coaching or counselling is the right choice to help you? Here, we uncover some of the key differences to help you discover which of the two types of therapy is the most appropriate for your needs.

At Integrated Health Specialists, we offer both life coaching and counselling services on the Gold Coast, as well as psychology services. And so, we are often asked the question, “What’s the difference between life coaching and counselling?”. The two, whilst sharing some common qualities, are in fact very different types of therapy with some key differences. When you’re deciding whether to seek out life coaching or counselling services, it’s important to know these differences and understand what you expect to achieve in your therapy. Let’s start with counselling.

What is counselling?

Counselling, at its core, deals with cognitive and emotional blockages which may be impeding your ability to live a happy and healthy life and enjoy healthy and positive relationships in relationships. In broad terms, a counsellor is someone who creates a safe, supportive, and judgement-free space for you to explore your concerns, uncover solutions, and improve your life in ways that are important to you.

A counsellor will use what we call ‘talking therapy’ and may utilise several other therapeutic techniques to help you dig deeper to identify problems, find out where these stem from, and develop strategies for overcoming them. The most important premise of counselling is that you are in control of your life and are capable of making the changes necessary to improve it. Counselling puts you at the centre of your therapy, giving you back the power you might feel you’ve been missing, and empowering you to make changes.

Counselling can help with stress, depression, anxiety, and can help you to improve self-esteem, recover from addiction, overcome phobias, face daily challenges, recover from traumatic events, and more.

In Australia, counselling is not regulated strongly and therefore almost anyone can call themselves a counsellor even without having undergone extensive training and study. It is important to be sure that your counsellor is not only trained and qualified, but is experienced and able to offer you the kind of professional support you require. Always check your therapist’s credentials before undertaking any kind of therapy.

Who is counselling best for?

Counselling is really for anyone who is facing situations in life where a cognitive or emotional change is required or could be of value. If you’re dealing with issues that keep you from living a happy and contented life, or from experiencing positive relationships with the other people in your life, then counselling can be of enormous benefit for you.

If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, trauma, phobia, bereavement/loss, lack of motivation, low self-esteem, or anything that is holding you back from leading the life you want, then you’re an ideal candidate for counselling.

The purpose of counselling

The objective of counselling is to help you address and resolve emotional or cognitive issues you’re facing, so that they no longer impair your ability to live your life in the way you desire. Counselling aims to uncover issues, help you heal from past traumas, and give you strategies to better deal with problems that might arise in the future.

Why counselling is not as simple as talking to a friend or loved one

Although we often refer to counselling as ‘talking therapy’, this is an oversimplification in a way. Simply talking about your issues CAN be helpful, but it is not the same as receiving therapy from a trained and experienced counsellor. Here are some of the crucial elements of counselling that set it apart from talking to a loved one:

  • Counselling is confidential.
  • Counselling requires clear boundaries and limitations.
  • Counselling is focused on you and your needs.
  • Counselling is objective and not influenced by the feelings and emotions of your therapist.
  • Trained counsellors are able to delve into your subconscious and bring issues and blockages to the conscious level to be overcome.
  • Trained and experienced counsellors have a plethora of effective therapeutic techniques at their disposal.

 What is life coaching?

A life coach’s aim is to help you acknowledge your true goals, recognise where you stand in relation to these goals today, and help you to develop a plan to reach your goals. Much like a counsellor, a life coach is not there to tell you what to do, but instead, offer their expertise in helping you to reach your goals and achieve the things you’ve been dreaming of. Your goals for life coaching might involve personal development, career advancement, boosting self-esteem, or anything else that involves improving your life.

Who is life coaching best for?

If you have dreams for your life but are stuck not knowing how to achieve them, or can’t uncover the most effective path forward in life, then life coaching may be the answer.

You might want to become more confident at work and aim for a promotion or advancement in your career. You might be hoping to branch out on your own and start a small business. Perhaps you’re studying, but having difficultly with motivation and concentration. You might be feeling lost, but are unsure about where you want to head in life. Or, you might want to improve your health, fitness, or overall wellbeing and aren’t sure how best to do so. You might just want to lead a happier life. If any of these apply to you, you’re an ideal candidate for life coaching.

The purpose of life coaching

In short, the purpose of life coaching is to help people achieve their goals. This involves getting to know someone’s motivations and desires and uncovering what their true ambitions are, exploring the obstacles that have been holding the person back, and then developing strategies to reach their goals. Life coaching is future-focused and is designed to create meaningful and achievable plans for change.

Life coaching and counselling have several overlaps, however, they are very different and distinct services. Here are some of the ways that life coaching differs from counselling:

  • Although not regulated by the Australian government, training for life coaching is different to that of counselling. Be sure to enquire about your life coach’s qualifications and experience.
  • Life coaching is focused on your present and future, addresses the conscious mind, and focuses on what you want to achieve.
  • Life coaches are not experts in the subconscious mind nor in dealing with past traumas or emotional or cognitive blockages.
  • Trained and experienced life coaches are skilled in motivation and communication.

Choosing a life coach or counsellor

The most important considerations to make when selecting a life coach or a counsellor are 1) their qualifications and experience and 2) their ability to offer you the type of support you require. Whether opting for life coaching or counselling, be sure to explore your therapist’s experience and enquire as to whether they specialise in helping people with similar concerns or goals to yours. Better yet, select a therapist who has experience with both counselling and life coaching, and allow them to help you decide which service is best suited to your needs.

Here at Integrated Health Specialists, we are not only qualified and experienced in counselling, but also in life coaching, and psychology, so we integrate and utilise all approaches as needed. Utilising a holistic and solutions-based approach to therapy, and with many years of experience in assisting our clients with everything from depression and anxiety to motivation, self-esteem, weight loss, and more, we are experts in helping people turn their lives around. Get in touch with us today and we will help you to determine your main goals, so that you can begin to overcome the hurdles holding you back and start living the life you desire.

Michelle van Namen
Author: Michelle van Namen