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What is the Difference Between Life Coaching & Counseling Psychology?

by Sara Mahuron

Life coaches and counseling psychologists both help people to live better and more fulfilled lives. While the nature of these positions is similar, the techniques and viewpoint of the practitioner differs. Life coaches are coaches -- there to push and motivate their clients to do more or be better. Counseling psychologists, on the other hand, help clients through therapy to resolve issues and to fix problems that are holding them back.

Life Coaching

According to the Certified Coaches Federation, life coaching deals with helping people to live life to its fullest potential. Life coaches support clients to obtain goals. These goals can be anything the client wants to achieve, including things at work, in relationships, their lifestyle and or their health. The life coach helps their client see how they can get ahead, including identifying and capitalizing on their strengths and holding the client accountable. Through coaching, clients learn to believe in themselves and to follow through to achieve goals. The CCF defines coaching as “a professional relationship that helps people break through their limitations to achieve extraordinary results.”

Becoming a Life Coach

Life coaches are not counselors or therapists; they cannot diagnose or treat patients in a mental health setting. While they might help a client manage or overcome unwanted habits or behavior, they are not doing so in a medical or therapeutic manner and generally are not licensed psychologists or counselors. According to the Certified Coaches Federation, coaches generally use their expertise, experience and skills from another profession to become a coach. Coaches may obtain certification through an organization such as the CCF by completing training requirements and experience requirements, or from the International Association of Coaching by demonstrating your mastery of IAC Coaching Masteries by passing an exam. Many life coaches work independently or in a consulting nature.

Counseling Pyschology

Counseling psychologists are a specialty area within the psychology profession. These practitioners focus on helping a diverse population achieve well-being across their life span. According to the American Psychological Association Division 17, this specialty focuses on the “emotional, social, vocational, educational, health-related, developmental and organizational concerns” of individuals and organizations. They work with clients to resolve specific problems or dysfunction, helping people improve their lives by fixing what is wrong.

Becoming a Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychologists are licensed counselors in the state they practice. They follow the American Psychological Association ethics and standards and generally have a doctoral degree. These professionals learn theory, diagnosis and counseling in a university setting and complete supervised practicums, internships and post-doctorate work. Counseling psychologists often work in college or university counseling centers or mental health facilities. While counseling psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medication, they often work in conjunction with a medical team to help diagnose and to treat mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

About the Author

Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.

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