Coaching or Therapy?


What are the differences, and which one do you need?

Some professionals differ on where they draw the line.

Here, I will define the difference for me and my work, to help you gain clarity on what is most appropriate for you.

Deciding whether you need a coach or a therapist can be confusing because there are many similarities:

-Work one-on-one with a professional in a confidential relationship to receive help

-Designed to increase your wellbeing, and may focus on different aspects of your life and include personality, psychology, emotions, spirituality, etcetera

-Work towards specific outcomes and make concrete change, so you can live a better life

-Work on beliefs, behaviors, and mindsets that aren’t serving you

-Help you live in alignment with goals and values 

-Provide a space to process, be “seen,” and feel understood and supported

Despite the similarities, there are important differences. 

Therapy helps you recover from mental health issues by healing old wounds and reducing suffering so you can cope more resiliently and achieve functional wellness.

Personal growth can be part of therapy, but mental health treatment can and should only be done in therapy.

Basics of Therapy:

-Alleviate suffering and symptoms of mental health issues (If you believe you have a mental health issue, are in crisis, or are suffering, always see a therapist)

-Create a safe space to resolve trauma and heal past or current hurts

-Restore wellness and feel “okay” again

-Provides clinical treatment: A therapist has a license and is bound by the ethics and laws of their profession and state. Therapy is also HIPAA-compliant, meaning your personal health information is encrypted. (The guidelines of the therapy profession are firm in order to protect you.)

-Potential to be reimbursed by insurance

-Generally longer-term (a few months to a few years)

Coaching with Emma typically involves personal and spiritual growth sessions for people who are “well” and want to understand themselves better, tap into their core self, and live their fullest potential.

Therapy can help you achieve these things too, but coaching can’t help with mental health issues. That’s the difference.

Basics of Coaching:

-Coaching clients generally do not have mental health issues and are coping well, feeling fully stable

-It can help you overcome obstacles, such as procrastination, stress, or overwork

-Set specific goals, like self-love, better decision-making, or work-life balance

-Get to know yourself better so you can perform well, grow personally, feel holistically well, or feel spiritually connected

-Cannot be reimbursed by insurance, but there are some creative ways to help you afford it (see FAQs)

-Coaching is a self-regulated profession. While some coaches follow the ICF code of ethics, not all coaches are bound by ethical or legal codes (however, therapists who also coach must report abuse or danger to the authorities, as they do for therapy clients)

-Brief work (a few weeks to a few months)

2 Simple Questions To Help You Choose

1. Where do you fall on average on a scale of 1 (terrible) to 10 (fantastic?) Those averaging 1-5 need therapy, and those ranging 5-10 can benefit from coaching or therapy. Their choice!

2. What are your goals? Are you looking primarily to heal, or primarily to grow?

What’s Next?

If therapy is the best fit, I am a therapist in-person in St. Louis MO, and online for residents of MO and IL. I practice only within the limits of my licenses, so I do NOT do therapy with anyone outside of MO or IL. No exceptions.  Look at Psychology Today to find a therapist in your area.

If coaching is the best fit, I provide virtual sessions globally. As a coach, I work holistically with beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. This can be deep work. Clients must be functionally well to participate and benefit in a brief timeframe. If you know deep down that you are not at least “okay” as a baseline, then please seek a therapist.

If you are still unsure, please schedule a consultation. If I cannot help you, I will point you towards someone who can.

Copyright Emma Donovan, 2019, 2020. All Rights Reserved.