WRITTEN BY Felicia Kashevaroff

Coaching vs Therapy – What’s Right for Us?

We often get asked about the difference between coaching and therapy. What’s the difference? Is one better than the other? Why would my partner and I see a coach and not a therapist? Let’s talk about it!

Therapy is healthcare. You and/or your partner are working with a trained, licensed healthcare provider to diagnose mental health conditions and alleviate the associated symptoms. Therapy typically focuses on past traumas and events that impact how you function in your life and relationships. Patients often work with therapists for an extended time, perhaps indefinitely.

Coaching, on the other hand, is for personal or relationship development. It is typically focused on the present and the future. When working with a coach, clients develop specific goals they want to achieve in their lives and/or relationships. The assumption in a coaching relationship is that you are healthy and functional, but you seek to make targeted improvements to specific areas of your life. Because the focus is goal-oriented, coaching engagements tend to be shorter.

There’s another facet of relationship coaching that’s important to consider. When you work one-on-one with a coach, you are the client. But when you work with your partner, YOUR RELATIONSHIP is the client. This is why it is so important for your coach to maintain a neutral, non-judgemental approach. We can still acknowledge frustration or resentment. However, the goal of the work is to address the whole relationship, not to side with one partner over the other.

When you are in a relationship, you function within a system or a team. This is sometimes referred to as the “third entity.”

Let’s step out of my comfort zone and employ a sporty metaphor for clarity. I’ll use Ted Lasso as a great example of a team coach (and also because I know little to nothing about actual sports). While Ted is always observing his individual team members, he is focusing on how their individual behaviors affect the team’s overall success. If one member is too self-focused (Jamie), the whole team’s performance suffers. Ted is looking at the AFC Richmond as a living, breathing entity and everything he does supports the team’s function.

On the other hand, when one of his players is injured, that player sees the team doctor to address their specific injury. They are managed by the medical team until the injury has healed. Once they are brought to whole, they are reintegrated back into the team. In fact, when Ted starts to experience anxiety symptoms, he works individually with a therapist to address those symptoms to allow him to become healthy again.

Ultimately, both coaching and therapy are incredibly useful tools, depending on what your needs happen to be. A therapist is critical if you or your partner are experiencing a mental health crisis, addiction, or abuse. But if you and your partner are frustrated, in a rut, or simply think you can do better, a coach can help you to achieve your goals.