Ep23: The Difference Between a Coach & a Therapist

Apr 22, 2020

What is the title you use for yourself? Are you a Coach, a Therapist, a Consultant, or a Mentor? Can you tell the difference?

For many, these terms are just one and the same, and there is little to no difference in what each does. But in reality, there is a HUGE difference in how each of these impacts a person’s life. In this episode, I want to clear the fog and help you get to know what a coach, a therapist, a consultant, and a mentor really do, and how each one helps a person improve his or her life. If you just starting your coaching business, or you want to have a better explanation of what you can truly do as a coach for your clients, then this is the podcast for you!

Soul Stirring Quotes


“Understanding the subtle differences between being a coach, consultant, mentor or therapist will keep you in your zone of genius.”

“A coach is a person who has mastered a specific skillset of getting a person from point a to point b.”

“The purpose of coaching is about performance improvement, learning, personal development. We are more goal-oriented and results-oriented.”

“As a coach, we hold space for a client’s continued growth and transformation.”

“Coaches are more present moment centered and more future-focused. We try to make a person go from good to better.”

“A coach is someone who is an expert at facilitating the change process for and with another individual.”

“A therapist helps under-functioning people restore their mental and emotional well-being and navigate through trauma or dysfunctional circumstances to move forward. A coach works with people whose baseline is functional and helps them get even better to attain a goal.”


Episode Timecodes:

  • 2:11 What is a Coach? What is the purpose of coaching?

  • 4:23 What is a Psychotherapist? What does a psychotherapist do?

  • 6:36 Getting to know the big difference between a Coach and a Psychotherapist

  • 10:48 Hiring a Life Coach- why it matters today and in the future

  • 15:56 Mentor, Consultants, and Coaches- what are the differences between these three?

Links Mentioned:

Website: www.heatheraliceshea.com

The Atmana Intuitive Coach Collective Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/atmanaintuitivecoachcollective/

Connect with Heather

Email: hello@heatheraliceshea.com

Timezone: America/New_York

Website: heatheraliceshea.com


The Atmana Intuitive Coach Collective

Join The Atmana Intuitive Coach Collective Facebook Group here: 


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Episode Transcript:

Hey friend, a coach, a therapist, a consultant, and a mentor. I’ll walk into a bar. Can you tell who’s who? After this podcast, you’ll be able to welcome to the everyday intuitive podcast. I’m your host, Heather Alice Shea intuitive life coach trainer status quo, shaker and founder of atmana coaching academy.

Listen in each week to break up with your comfort zone, cling yourself confidence and radically embrace your role as an intuitive healer mentor. Sought after coach let’s get within and get after it today. I want to talk about the distinction between being a coach and being a therapist. And I think naturally unfolded in that idea is also the question.

You know, should I hire a coach versus should I hire a therapist? And this is a really important conversation to have if you are a coach, because understanding the subtle differences between these roles will really help keep you in your zone of genius with respect to your coaching work as well.

Inoculate you from potential legal or ethical dangers that could arise if you work outside of a domain in which you don’t really possess expertise. But one of the things I’ve noticed in the coaching industry is there tends to be. Very loosey goosey ideas of the line between therapy and coaching. And, you know, I figured we might as well throw a mentorship and consulting in there as well.

So my goal for this podcast is for you to walk away with a crystal clear idea of exactly what a coach is. Exactly what a therapist is as well as a mentor and a consultant, and also know what they aren’t so that you can draw really strong distinctions between either someone, maybe you’re looking to hire someone or you are a person in the helping profession yourself.

So this is empowering you basically to have a stronger coaching practice and also just make better decisions in finding the right people to collaborate with. The way I like to define what a coach is, is to say that a coach is a person who has mastered how to facilitate the change process. Right? So coaches are people who have studied and gained a specific skill set that allows them to move a person from point.

to point B. Now therapists also do this and we’re gonna get into the difference in how in just a second, but, you know, really just to keep summing up coaching in a nutshell, the purpose of coaching is usually about performance improvement. Learning personal development in some area of a person’s life.

Coaching is more goal oriented and results oriented coaches serve as encouragers and accountability partners by holding space for their clients, continued growth and transformation. So unlike therapists, coaches do not really focus on a client’s past in order to obtain or, you know, help shepherd the person through the transformation process.

So coaches really are and should be more present moment centered, more future focused. That’s what a goal is, right? It’s something you wanna accomplish in the future. So really that’s why you see so many coaches online, you know, with very motivational, positive messages, right. We’re trying to take a person from good to better.

Right? So in essence, a coach says I have the knowledge and expertise about how to help you close the gap. Between where you are now and where you would like to be, or who you are now and who you want to become so that you can live a life more congruent with what you envision for yourself. So again, nutshell definition, a coach is someone who is a professional, who is an expert at facilitating the change process for and with another individual.

Okay. So let’s compare and contrast that with a psychotherapist and a psychotherapist is just another word for mental health counselor. So a mental health counselor or a psychotherapist is someone who has a master’s degree or higher in a helping profession. So typically psychotherapists will have a master’s degree in social work or clinical mental health counseling.

Okay. So these are people who are. Medical professionals. They are a part of the healthcare system. They undergo many, many years of rigorous training to fully understand how to navigate the human psyche in a safe and a helpful way. Therapy emphasizes healing. It emphasizes. Psychopathology, right. That’s just a $10 word for psycho, meaning mind and pathology, meaning disease.

So therapists focus on people who are mentally a psychotherapist is trained to work with someone who is mentally unwell, someone who’s baseline functioning. Actually isn’t normal or average, right? It’s substandard. There’s something dysregulated or wrong with that. Person’s mental state, right? I really shy away from using the word illness.

I, I can’t stand the term mental illness. I think it carries so much stigma. I think life happens. Sometimes we exhibit a constellation of symptoms that, you know, would justify having a label from the DSM slapped on you. But I try to stay away from that word because I think, you know what, sometimes life happens.

Sometimes we get depressed. Sometimes we get anxious and yeah, sometimes that would land. In the quote unquote realm of the mentally ill. And that is of course what, uh, therapists are trained to do to handle people who have a constellation of symptoms that just a coach just doesn’t have the training to know how to handle.

So, you know, but even with that said, I wanna encourage everyone listening to this. Like. Don’t buy into the label. Right? it’s all just us trying to, you know, wrap our head around all of our lived experience. Okay. So the difference between a coach is a coach says, yeah, I’m a master at the change process.

And a therapist says, well, I am too. The difference between a coach and a therapist is a coach works with people who have a, I hate to use the word normal, but their baseline level of functioning is adequate. It’s a functional level. Their baseline is functional. They work with people whose baseline is functional and they help them get even, even, even, even better to attain goals.

Whereas a therapist works with someone whose, uh, system is disregulated, right? Who is under functioning. In their daily lives, right? So they have disruption. Maybe they can’t make it to work or they’re not sleeping. Well, they’re not eating enough. Right. There’s just, there’s something kind of off. So that is the difference.

Coaches make people better too, quote unquote. But what they do is take someone who is mentally unwell and restore them to baseline. And then from there, if you’re at baseline, You’re really better off working with a coach because a coach is much, in my opinion. I think coaches are a lot better at helping people attain goals, because we do have that present moment kind of future focused way of viewing the change process.

Whereas a therapist views the change process as you know, healing trauma to make you quote unquote normal again. So again, the distinguishing attribute of a therapist and not a coach is that a therapist is trained to work with a person’s trauma in their past to help restore them to proper functioning coaches work with well functioning individuals.

Whereas therapists tend to work with individuals with some sort of disorder or dysfunction. So in essence, a therapist says I help under functioning people restore their mental and emotional wellbeing. And I am an expert at helping you navigate through trauma or dysfunctional circumstances so that you can move forward.

And a coach just says, Hey, I’m here to help you bridge that gap. Right. You’re doing well. Let’s make you even even better. So I’m hoping that that distinction. Really clears it up. A psychotherapist can hang out in a person’s past. If somebody wants to sit there and talk about, you know, what happened when they were five, you know, session after session, after session and process, you know, trauma or whatever happened.

That’s fine. They’re trained to sit in that. Whereas a coach. I always say with the coach, you can talk about the past. We just don’t stay there. A coach can listen to, you know, we listen to that story. We can certainly help our clients process it. But what we are really trained to do as coaches is say, okay, what do you want to do with this?

How is this affecting your present life? How is this affecting the future life you want to create? What can we do now in your present? That’s over. That’s in the past. I hear you. Yes, we can talk about it, but what are we gonna do right now? And I really, really love, you know, I am a master’s level trained clinician.

I do have a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. So I’m trained to do both, but I have to tell you, I really love the coaching model because I think it’s. Helps people, you know, that are well, really be able to get the help that they need. And there are far more people who are mentally well, but suffering in some way.

You know, if you look at the stats, I think it’s 20% of Americans qualify for some type of mental health diagnosis, you know? Well, what about the rest of us? what about that? 80%. Okay. So, you know, I really envision a future. There’s a strong delineation between, Hey, I should go be seeing a coach cuz I’m mentally.

Well, my wellbeing is fine. I just want to go work on some stuff. The delineation will be far greater right now. It’s all kind of muddled. It’s like, well I kind of need some help, but I don’t really need to go see a therapist. Oh, what should I do? It’s like, well, I’ve heard about this coaching thing. I’m not really sure about it.

And what are coaches anyway? I don’t really know what that is and are they even trained? So, you know, coaching is in its infancy and I really envision a future. As a coach, it’s going to become, um, much, much, much more obvious to that 80% that you are somebody that they should be hiring somebody that they should be working with to attain a goal.

Another thing that I think is really interesting about. Coaching is, you know, back in the, if you look back in the forties and the fifties, everybody thought that it was insane. If you went to a gym, I don’t even think they had them back then. Right. Very, very, very few people attended a gym. Right? If you were a professional athlete, you did, but you know, that wasn’t something that people really did.

Like why would you go hire a personal trainer? Like that’s crazy, right? gyms. Weren’t filled with people out, you know, getting their sweat on, but. Life started to evolve. As we started to get more desk jobs, we started to realize the importance of having a professional, walk us through the very, very complicated waters of staying physically fit.

And now of course, if a person looks at you and says that they don’t go to the gym or that they get no exercise, we kind of, you know, cock an eyebrow at ’em and go, well, you know, buddy, don’t you think you need to be doing that? I mean, we all understand now. That physical exercise is absolutely vital to our physical wellbeing and for us to hire a coach to help us do that is something that we aspire to.

Right. I think, you know, every person on earth is like, oh man, it’d be great to have a personal trainer because we understand the benefit. The benefit of that is very clear to us. So again, if you’re an aspiring coach or you are a coach, this is good news for you because what I see happening in the market and happening for our society in general, as we move along is the complicated nature of navigating.

One’s mental and emotional wellbeing is going to become as obvious to us as navigating our physical wellbeing. Right. Right. Now we don’t see it like that. We see it as, oh, I don’t need a therapist. I’m fine. It’s like, no everybody could do with a life coach. Just like everybody could do with a personal trainer.

Even if you are. Physically healthy. Wouldn’t you be even more healthy if you hired a trainer, of course you would. And wouldn’t you be better off as a person if you did, of course you would. And I don’t think there’s anybody on the planet that would say hiring a trainer, a well qualified, well trained physical fitness trainer is a bad move.

I think that again, that’s something that every person on the earth could benefit from and it will absolutely. Be like that for life coaching in the future. So I’ve done podcast episodes in the past on, um, you know, kind of the stats on coaching and how it’s the second fastest growing industry in the world, right behind tech.

And this is me sort of, you know, continuing on with that conversation and talking about this here and now this is another reason why the coaching industry is the second fastest industry. It’s. It’s because people who learn to master their mental and their emotional game, right. Their psychic game. Again, the word psyche just means it’s from the Greek, meaning mind.

Okay. And the mind, isn’t your mind? Isn’t your brain. the brain isn’t organ. The mind is the compilation of one’s thoughts and beliefs. Okay. And feeling. So as we move into this cognitive based society, right, as we move into that, those who possess greater amount of understanding and control over their mental and emotional game, over their own psyche, they are gonna be the ones who really Excel in our world because ever increasingly and ever increasingly life becomes truly.

A game of mental toughness as I am recording this, we are in the middle of the COVID crisis. And, you know, I tell you what we are all really taking a hit with this. And there’s one thing I have noticed it is that those who are mentally strong and emotionally able to handle not only the stress of the world, but really just our own reaction, right?

Our own AB ability to mitigate our responses to what is happening in the world. You know, that. Truly the differentiator between those are us who are able to kind of keep our equilibrium versus, you know, those who maybe aren’t and this isn’t a judgment call. I mean, look, man, life is frigging hard for all of us.

And I think it is, you know, so unfortunate that more people do not have an opportunity to get the mental and emotional support that they need. Or are afraid to get it because of the stigma that comes along with hiring a therapist. Okay. So again, historically in our culture, the only option you had was to go see a therapist and, you know, if you weren’t mentally ill.

If you just were a person who needed to work on some stuff, it’s probably pretty frustrating and painful. Cuz a therapist isn’t really thinking about, you know, goals. They’re trying to look at you through this medical model of, okay, what’s wrong with you? Let’s get you fixed. Whereas a coach looks at you and says, I know you’re fine.

Let’s just make you better. Okay, so now let’s move on. Let’s just go ahead and kill the other two while we’re at this. The other two, most prominent helping roles that you see in the world today are consultants and mentors. And a lot of people think that coaches, like what is the difference between a coach and a mentor?

Well, these terms are actually not interchangeable, not even close when you really start to understand the difference and it isn’t. People can’t be all things. I’m a mental health counselor and a coach, right. And a mentor and a consultant. I’m actually all for you can be all for, but it’s understanding when you’re wearing what hat.

Okay. So a consultant is an expert who is called on for professional or technical advice or their judgment. On specific subject matter consultants are subject matter experts with a depth of knowledge in a specific field that allows them to come into a situation or a company or a project and ascertain the root causes of the complex challenges that are arising in that system or business or.

The attribute that distinguishes a consultant from a coach is that consultants are paid to offer their clients their unique understanding and explanation of the problem, and also formulate a viable recommendation. to solve said problem, right? Coaches do not do that. The distinguishing feature between a coach and a consultant is a coach, is someone who is trained to help you identify problems, but help you identify the problem.

Right. A consultant comes in and goes, okay. I spent a week here at your firm. I’ve looked at everything that’s going on. Here’s your problem. Here’s your solution? Give me my. goodbye. A coach says, okay, we’ve spent all this time in session. What do you think the problem is? And then they use their coaching skills to help you discover what you feel is wrong.

Okay. What do you think? And then they say, okay, how would you like to solve it? And then they use their expertise, their knowledge of that, of the change process to help facilitate in you. The answer. Right? So in the coaching setting, the coach is the guide. You are the expert in the consultant setting. The consultant is the expert.

Okay. So in coaching, the client is the expert. The coach is the guide with a consultant. They are the expert, they are paid to be an expert and they are a paid to come in and assess and then make, um, strategic recommendations on finding a. so in essence, a, a consultant says I have the knowledge and expertise that you do not inherently possess or have access to that upon.

My recommendations can greatly diminish or eradicate your problem and a mentor let’s move on to mentor. So. a mentor is someone who you can really think of a mentor as like a non trained professional. This is just someone who has accomplished the same or similar goals as their mentee. So mentors typically in enter into mentor mentee relationship as a way of giving back to their community or to their profession, uh, or maybe they want to work with youth that they are in, you know, a unique position to be able to help groom.

The primary role of a mentor is very, very similar to a coach mentors, encourage they offer assistance with goal setting, accountability. They provide expertise and guidance to their mentee to help them navigate obstacles. However, the distinguishing attribute of a mentor mentee relationship is that it’s informal.

So a coaching relationship is a formal relationship. You enter into a contract with that client, you establish formal goals, the clients and the coach have very specific things that each person is supposed to do. And then money is exchanged for that versus with a mentor. It’s, it’s not really that firm.

It’s more like you just come in. The mentee usually talks to the mentor about what’s coming. And then the mentor can offer guidance, offer support, offer encouragement from the place of, Hey man, I have been through what you’ve been through. I know what this is like, I got your back and okay. Let’s come up with a solution together or, Hey man, have you tried this?

Right. But our mentor is not an expert or a professional at the change process. They’re just someone who’s been through the same thing so they can help guide you. Whereas a coach absolutely can work with people that they ha who have issues and problems that they have never encountered in their life.

But it doesn’t matter because again, They’re a trained professional. They’ve got, you know, their coaching, uh, their coaching skills in coaching academy. We train on 33 skills by the time you get outta the program. And those are just our basic skills, right? Like the bare minimum that you, uh, that you learn before you graduate with your certification.

So, you know, a mentor basically says I’ve been through this. I’ve accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish. I wanna give back to you, so, Hey, I’ll help you. You navigate that. Okay. So again, coaches really help their client improve their future by learning new skills, helping their clients learn new skills and really help them overcome obstacles and achieve their goals from this place of allowing the coach.

To help them discover that the answer that they need or the wisdom that they are seeking is already right inside them. So I would love to hear your thoughts on the difference specifically between being a therapist and being a coach, but also on the other four. Categories. That would be amazing. And I am going to leave a link in the show notes to our fun and free Facebook group, which I would love to have you in.

It’s called the intuitive coach collective. And what we do in this group is really talk about. All things, helping you step into your role as a coach and a healer in this world. So if that is, you know, if you’re picking up what I’m laying down, if that’s making you feel warm and fuzzy inside, then check the show notes for the link, or you can go to Facebook and just search bar atmana intuitive, coach collective and clicky click.

And ask to join and we will approve you and see you in there. Okay. Have a great day. Okay. Let’s wrap up with three quick things. So my intention for this podcast is to be of impactful service to you. And one of the ways that I can tell how well I’m doing that is by reading honest reviews of the pod. So the reviews really allow me to see the topics and the ideas that are resonating with you.

The most. So I would be forever honored and grateful if you would leave a review on iTunes for the show. And I get super excited every time a review comes in, because it helps me stay in my purpose. And in my intention of supporting the coaches and entrepreneurs out there doing the heavy lifting of helping other people heal and expand and grow.

So if it feels aligned, go to Heatheraliceshea.com/podcast, and show me some love by leaving me. Built review and to express my gratitude each week, I read the names of everyone who leaves a review as a thank you to you for helping this podcast thrive. And speaking of showing the love, did you know that I make 100% free tip sheets for almost every episode on this podcast?

Why? Yes I do. So you can go to Heatheraliceshea.com/podcast, tip sheets, and enter in your name and best email address. And I will send you over a page link where you can download them all into your little heart is content. And the third and final thing is that I get. Emails each week asking how to begin the process of becoming an intuitive coach or from existing coaches and therapists who would like to begin applying intuition in their sessions.

So if you are interested or you feel called and would just like to explore, uh, the services that we offer over atmanacoaching academy, then just head over to my website@heatheraliceshea.com and check out our different offerings for coaches and creatives, who would like to explore intuitive development, business development.

Or both. So that is it for this episode. My lovely, remember, you are more powerful than you can possibly imagine. So step into your greatness and stay after it.