Health and Wellness

Coaching vs. Therapy: Know the Difference

June 19, 2021

Simply Put: Therapy treats mental illness. Coaching helps with distress. Sometimes you’re stuck, not sick.

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Coaching and therapy are different even if they overlap in places. Not all individuals who want help living a better life have a mental health disorder and need a mental health provider. Often the people we work with have been in traditional therapy for years and still are not where they want to be. Sometimes you’re stuck, not sick.

A good coach will discuss your needs to ensure they are able to be addressed within a coaching context. If you require more than what is provided through coaching, a well trained coach will make a referral to an appropriate licensed mental health provider. Often coaches will collaborate with healthcare providers and coordinate care to support the needs of clients.

Similarly to integrated/alternative providers, coaches neither make nor treat medical or mental diagnoses. Even when coaches are either licensed mental health providers or pre-licensed mental health providers, a coaching relationship prevents providing mental health treatment. So while a coach may be a therapist, in the coaching capacity they are not operating as licensed therapists, physicians, or psychologists providing traditional medical or mental health treatment.

Issues that are discussed in therapy are also, often, discussed in coaching. It is normal, albeit unfortunate, to collect messages, beliefs, fears, insecurities, etc along the way. Coaching helps remove these blocks. The distinction is the responsibility of the coach, but it is important to be aware as a consumer. A coaching client can have a diagnosis and seek coaching. However, a coach cannot treat the diagnosis. This means that if major depression or anxiety prevents a person from thriving, a coach can work with the client to live their fullest life, even while struggling with mental illness. However, a coach cannot treat depression. A therapist would collaborate instead!

There are benefits to working with a coach. Coaches are able to apply a wide variety of support and are able to offer advice that clinicians cannot. However, there are benefits therapists offer that coaches do not. For example, licensed providers are regulated by the state licensing body overseeing their license. Coaches do not have to be licensed. At all. Anyone can become a coach. This means that it is crucial to research a coach you intend on working with to be sure he, she, or they have proper training and experience.

At Well Coached Life all of our coaches provide ethical coaching.  Our team members are formally trained to work with both the mind and the body. We implement strategies informed by Eastern and Western medicine and provide alternative therapy that is complementary to the healing arts services that are offered by providers who are licensed by the state. We offer services that are in compliance with California state laws, including California Business & Professional Code § 2053.6. We have several licensed adn pre-licensed therapists and psychologists to ensure we are aware if a client needs more care than coaching provides. When this happens, we have highly trained therapists with whom we work to ensure full supportive services to our clientele. 

We are here to answer questions you may have to ensure you are afforded the best coaching opportunity we can provide.

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What else?

Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict. SE facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotion.


SE offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others— Excerpt taken from SETI.

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders resulting from multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Excerpt taken from SETI

An Embodied approach to healing

Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict. SE facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotion.


SE offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others— Excerpt taken from SETI.

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders resulting from multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Excerpt taken from SETI

An Embodied approach to healing

Excerpt taken from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. 

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) is a complete treatment modality to heal trauma and attachment issues. SP welcomes the body as an integral source of information for processing past experiences relating to upsetting or traumatic events and developmental wounds. SP incorporates the physical and sensory experience, as well as thoughts and emotions, as part of the person’s complete experience of both the trauma itself and the process of healing. Excerpt taken from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.  


An Embodied approach to healing

SP seeks to restore a person’s ability to process information without being triggered by past experience. SP uses a three-phase treatment approach to gently guide the client through the therapeutic process – Safety and Stabilization, Processing, and Integration. The therapist must pay close attention to the client to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the process while simultaneously engaging their own abilities and capacities for healing.

It is thought that SP strengthens instinctual capacities for survival and assists clients to re-instate or develop resources which were unavailable or missing at the time the trauma or wounding occurred. Once resources are developed and in place, the traumatic event can be processed with the aid of resources. SP is a well-developed approach with decades of success in the treatment of trauma and developmental wounds. — Excerpt taken from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. 

Excerpt taken from ACBS Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive multi-diagnostic, modularized behavioral intervention designed to treat individuals with severe mental disorders and out-of-control cognitive, emotional and behavioral patterns. It has been commonly viewed as a treatment for individuals meeting criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with chronic and high-risk suicidality, substance dependence or other disorders. However, over the years, data has emerged demonstrating that DBT is also effective for a wide range of other disorders and problems, most of which are associated with difficulties regulating emotions and associated cognitive and behavioral patterns. 

radical acceptance and change

As the name implies, dialectical philosophy is a critical underpinning of DBT. Dialectics is a method of logic that identifies the contradictions (antithesis) in a person's position (thesis) and overcomes them by finding the synthesis. Additionally, in DBT a client cannot be understood in isolation from his or her environment and the transactions that occur. Rather, the therapist emphasizes the transaction between the person and their environment both in the development and maintenance of any disorders. It is also assumed that there are multiple causes as opposed to a single factor affecting the client. And, DBT uses a framework that balances the treatment strategies of acceptance and change - the central dialectical tension in DBT. Therapists work to enhance the capability (skills) of their client as well as to develop the motivation to change. Maintaining that balance between acceptance and change with clients is crucial for both keeping a client in treatment and ensuring they are making progress towards their goals of creating a life worth living. — Taken from DBT-Linehan Board of Certification. (click to learn more)

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