Life Coach, Counsellor, or Therapist; - How do I choose?

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Life coaching has become fashionable in recent years and there seems to be a big demand for what they offer. Counselling and many forms of therapy are also on offer, these may have been around for many years and have advantages to offer clients. Yet how do you choose which one to go for?

Choosing a therapist is possibly the easiest choice to make. Generally, a therapist will offer a form of therapy to treat a particular range of conditions in a particular way. So a reflexologist will offer to treat a range of ailments by using reflexology (generally massage of the feet). So you'd approach a therapist if you wished to try that therapy for your condition or you had previously had success from that therapy, or the therapy (therapist) had been recommended to you by a friend or other professional.

The more difficult choice comes between choosing a counsellor or a life coach. What is the difference in the services they offer? How do you select which one is best for you?

It would be a mistake to dismiss life coaching simply because it may appear 'new' or 'faddy'. Similarly, it would be wrong to choose counselling just because it appears to have more of a tradition or has become better established.

On the surface, there is much similarity between life coaching and counselling. Both are usually carried out in individual sessions or sessions for couples. The best life coaches treat their clients with 'unconditional positive regard' and to be 'non judgmental', so do counsellors. The best personal life coaches claim to be 'non-directive', whereas counsellors claim to be 'client centered' or 'person centred'. In fact, all these terms have their roots in the work of the same man; Carl Rogers.

If you go to both life coaching and to counselling sessions, you will notice similarities in the approaches used. The listening skills and the style of questions being used are often the same or similar. If you go to life coach or counselling training, you will see that there is great similarity between the two.

All the similarities make it difficult to choose between the two. Yet there are differences and it is these differences which make a decision easier.

Generally if you feel there is something 'wrong', you would be best to choose counselling. A counsellor will help you focus and understand what is 'wrong' and how it is affecting your life and help you find ways of dealing with the problem. Generally, if you feel there is nothing 'wrong' or 'dysfunctional' but you simply want to change, progress, improve or to achieve your ambition, then coaching would be better for you.

An additional factor you need to take into account is the qualifications of the life coach or counsellor. Counselling is an established profession and its practitioners should all have recognised qualifications. Life coaching is still new and there are a range of training bodies offering many different sorts of training. Indeed, some life coaches may not be trained at all. So do ask what qualifications and experience the life coach has.

Douglas Woods is qualified as a life coach, teacher and a counsellor. You can find out more about his work on his website,

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