Comparing Coaching and Therapy

Exploring this chart comparing coaching and therapy will help you understand the differences.

A session with a therapist, coffee with a friend, an appointment with a coach, or simply petting the dog can all be therapeutic – they provide help and support. Listed below are the classical and historical ways to differentiate between therapy and coaching. Good coaching and good therapy can overlap quite often.

Coaching Therapy
Power The client is in charge. Coach works for the client and the client determines the agenda Therapist is in charge. The mental health professional  diagnoses and sets the agenda
Function Develops strengths Fixes what is “broken”
Focus Focuses on actions and the future Focuses on feelings and the past
Purpose Focuses on actions and the future Heals dysfunction and pathology. Improves the “being.”
Depth of Work Behaviors and skills Core beliefs
Process Focuses on solving problems Explores the root of problems
Assumption The client is whole The client needs healing
Path to Success Works with the conscious mind Works to bring the unconscious into consciousness
Method Works for external solutions to overcome barriers, learn new skills and implement them Works for internal resolution of pain and to let go of old patterns
Questions and Questioner A coach asks the questions “Who are you? Where do you want to go? and What do you want¬†your future to look like?” Therapists deal primarily with answering the question “Why do I . . .?”


Sources: Hayden and Whitworth (1995), the Relationship Coaching Institute, Sharon House