Coaching vs. Therapy

Is life-coaching the same as psychotherapy?

No. Life-coaching involves working with a coach towards a more fulfilling life. Coaches provide guidance for making lifestyle changes which may help you live more in-line with your values. This differs from psychotherapy, which works to address symptoms of psychological distress related to mental illness. While some aspects of coaching can seem like therapy (e.g., identifying your values, working to change unhelpful habits), life-coaching cannot take the place of psychotherapy, particularly if you feel any extreme emotional distress which inhibits your ability or motivation to change your approach to life.

For more information:

When do you suggest psychotherapy rather than life-coaching?

Sometimes we need to work through and process emotional events before we are able to move on. Extreme emotional and psychological distress makes it difficult to create positive change in your life and requires more support than can be ethically provided during life-coaching. If you experience any of the following forms of distress, you will need to complete psychotherapy before you can benefit from life-coaching: feel so anxious that you cannot focus, think of only the worst case scenario, feel afraid to leave your home, feel so depressed that it is hard to get out of bed, nothing brings you pleasure or joy, you have lost hope for yourself or for your future, experienced a traumatic event which leaves you feeling easily startled, unable to sleep, unable to trust others (or yourself), or if you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.

  • If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others, please contact a crisis hotline
    • SF specific: (415) 781-0500
    • National Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
  • If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SF Drug information line at (415) 834-1144 or the SF Relapse line at (415) 288-7160
  • If you experience distress related to feeling depressed or down, please contact the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at 800-826-3632
  • If you would like a referral to specific mental health services or support programs in your local community, please contact Mental Health America at 800-969-6642
  • If you experience distress related to experiences of sexual assault, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673.

What if I want to do both psychotherapy and life-coaching at the same time?

We will not act as psychotherapists for any life-coaching client. Different coaches (and probably therapists) will have different rules for this particular client request. We would examine this possibility on a case by case basis depending on the severity of psychological distress, evidence of on-going psychotherapy with an appropriate and licensed mental health provider, and our judgement of if you can benefit from coaching before you have completed therapy. In the event we decided to take on a client who is actively in therapy for psychological distress, there would be further contract requirements related to ensuring that you are receiving the appropriate psychological care.

Need to set up a consult to see if we are a good fit for your needs?

Please fill out our contact form. You can also contact us by email at

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