Psychologist vs. Life Coach – What’s the Difference?

If you are interested in changing your life for the better, or need help dealing with a problem, speaking with someone outside of your life can be very helpful. However, for individuals looking for help with life’s ups and downs, there are more options than ever. While psychotherapy has been the traditional choice for decades, life coaching has emerged in the past 20 years as an alternative. However, they are not the same.

Today we will take a look at some of the differences between life coaching and therapy, and
when each is appropriate.

Defining Terms: Therapist vs. Life Coach

What is a therapist? A therapist, also called a counselor or psychotherapist, is a licensed mental health professional who helps clients enhance their lives, reduce symptoms of mental illness, develop better cognitive and emotional skills, and cope with various challenges. The foundation of therapy is to concentrate on past traumas and concerns to repair and improve relationships, change self-destructive habits, and work through painful feelings. Perhaps most importantly, therapy focuses on resolving past traumas to create a happy, healthy, and stable future.

What is a life coach? A life coach is not a healthcare professional, but rather someone who helps clients clarify goals, identify hurdles, discover troublesome behaviors, and to create action plans to achieve desired results. They are not trained to deal with mental health concerns or cognitive trauma.

Education and Regulatory Standards

Therapists are licensed healthcare professionals and regulated by the government in which they practice. As such, they are required to have achieved specific requirements, to include training and higher education. In order to use the term therapist or psychologist, a practitioner is required to meet the basic regulatory standards of the area they are practicing in.

Unlike therapy, which is highly regulated, there are currently no regulatory guidelines life coaches have to meet. While many life coaches seek specialized certification and training, anyone who wants to use the title of “coach” can do so. Essentially, a life coach could have little or no formal training at all.

Goals and Focus

People tend to seek therapy because they have symptoms of a mental health issue and want to function and feel better. Therapy also helps people by developing self-awareness and insight by identifying the root causes of problems and problematic behaviors/thinking. Therapy also often focuses on how past experiences influence our current thoughts and actions.

A therapist’s training and educational background allow them to work with individuals who suffer from severe mental health concerns. However, they also work with individuals who want more out of life. Therapists work with individuals struggling with a wide variety of day-to-day challenges and struggles, to include:

  • mental health conditions
  • substance abuse
  • trauma
  • relationship difficulties
  • loss and grief
  • and much more

On the other hand, life coaching tends to focus on the present and future rather than the past. Coaches help people identify their goals and the obstacles they are facing. While coaching involves guidance and support, it also places a great deal of emphasis on personal responsibility to achieve personal and professional goals.

Life coaches tend to work with individuals who are otherwise functional and healthy but not reaching their fullest potential. A person being coached is considered to have all the solutions they need within them. Their coach’s job is to help them find those answers by asking the right questions.

Location and Fees

Therapy most often takes place in the therapist’s office, and sessions are typically 45 to 50 minutes once a week. Typically, the cost associated with therapy is covered or reimbursed by medical insurance.

Coaching sessions often take place over the phone, but they can also occur online, by text message, in an office, or during a large group gathering (such as a convention). Since life coaches are not medical professionals, coaching is not reimbursed by insurance companies.

Which is Best for You?

If you seek help from a highly educated, licensed professional who shares a common language with other health care providers, and is trained to deal with the symptoms of mental health issues, as well as the traumas of life, a psychologist is your best option.

At Be Psychology Center for Emotional Wellbeing, our team of professional psychologists is dedicated to helping you achieve your therapeutic goals to live a happier and healthier life. Our custom-tailored consulting services are designed to empower individuals to overcome their struggles, so they can become the best version of themselves.

If you are on the way to improving your mental health, contact a member of our team and visit a qualified psychologist in Dubai.


  reem shaheen counseling psychologist  

Reem Shaheen – LMHC