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What is the difference between Psychotherapy and Life Coaching?

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Many of us have been and continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic one way or another. As a result, an increased number of people are seeking out professional support to deal with the impacts of the pandemic. As a Licensed Psychotherapist and Certified Life Coach, I have seen firsthand the influx of people turning to either psychotherapy or life coaching to cope with the aftermath of the ongoing pandemic. A question that I get asked often by both clients and colleagues is what is the difference between psychotherapy and life coaching? In case you are wondering the same, let us take a closer look at three key differences between therapy and life coaching.

1. Life Coaching vs. Psychotherapy

A major key difference between psychotherapy and life coaching is the focus of the work. Life coaching focuses on setting and achieving specific goals often related to a person's personal or professional development. Whereas psychotherapy focuses on treating and managing symptoms of mental health conditions. Unlike psychotherapy, life coaching is generally time-limited and short term. Psychotherapists may be more interested in exploring the history of problems or behaviors with the goal of identifying and establishing healthy coping strategies opposed to Life Coaches who look towards the future and focus on the “how” to achieve specific goals.

2. Privacy and Confidentiality

As healthcare professionals, Psychotherapists are ethically required to uphold privacy and confidentiality federal laws such as the Privacy Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rules. In other words, professional Code of Ethics requires that Psychotherapists maintain clients’ information including the course of treatment private and confidential. While Life Coaches may choose to honor such a level of privacy and confidentiality for their clients, there are no universal guidelines or professional standards which require this.

3. Accreditation

Psychotherapists undergo extensive educational training to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Furthermore, Psychotherapists must obtain licensure to practice as mental health professionals in the regulated field of healthcare and require licensure in specific states or judications to practice ethically. Although there are strict restrictions on how Psychotherapists can practice, Psychotherapists are not restricted to just the field of mental health. In fact, many Psychotherapists are choosing to expand into the coaching world. On the contrary, Life Coaches are not necessarily required to undergo educational training experiences to practice coaching and are not equipped to diagnose or treat mental health conditions. Therefore, while Psychotherapists can provide life coaching, Life Coaches are unable to provide psychotherapy (unless they receive the proper training and licensure to do so).

So, while there are many benefits to seeking both psychotherapy and life coaching, it is helpful to understand the key differences between the two in order to get the support you are in need of, especially when psychotherapy and life coaching can lead to very different outcomes for the person being served.

Life Coaching is not a substitute for Psychotherapy


About the Writer...

Tacha Fletcher is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP), Holistic Life Coach and Founder of Wellness Tree Counseling Services.Using an eclectic approach, her treatment is warm, compassionate, collaborative and culturally attuned while creating a safe and nurturing atmosphere which allows individuals to delve deeper into their feelings and thoughts that are causing conflict. Tacha enjoys working with Black, Indigenous and Women of Color (BIWOC) to address depression and anxiety related symptoms etc.

Our mission at Wellness Tree Counseling Services is to promote wellness through a culturally sensitive lens so that individuals, families and communities are encouraged to rise to their full potential and engage life in meaningful ways. To learn more about our services, please visit


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