There are times in the lives of many people when they benefit from the help and support of a counselor. Many counselors work with clients who experience depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorders. Married couples and families may also seek a counselor at times of distress in their lives or relationships.
There are other times in the lives of many people when they would benefit from the support and insight of a professional, yet they are not experiencing mental or emotional distress. They may experience episodes of imbalance in their lives, times of transition such as career, marital or family changes, or they may be looking to improve their overall physical and mental well-being. It is these times in life when a person may seek the services of a life coach. A life coach is a professional who helps clients develop clarity for what they desire from life. A life coach then helps those clients to set goals and develop plans of actions toward achieving those goals. A life coach will also follow up with clients and help them maintain focus on the goals which they set.
A life coach does not take the place of a counselor who works with clients who experience emotional or mental distress or illness. However, once an individual has gained a good level of health due to working with a counselor, a life coach can support that person through establishing goals that will support that new found health.
Like a counselor, a life coach will use listening skills and questioning techniques. These techniques help clients to gain and maintain clarity for their goals as well as responsibility and accountability for their progress. A counselor may ask a client to reflect on situations in the past in order to gain an understanding that will help that client to heal. A life coach will help a client focus on the future and the life they desire with very little attention paid to the past. However, a life coach may ask questions about past events that will offer information about the strengths, skills and motivations a client possesses. Both the counselor and the life coach must have the interpersonal skills required to build a positive relationship between them and their clients. A positive, healthy relationship is one of the most important elements required for client health and progress when working with either a counselor or a life coach.
When considering a life coach or a counselor take a quick look at your mental and emotional health. If you are feeling “stuck”, like something is missing, or as if you are ready for a change in your otherwise well-balanced life you may want to consider a life coach. If you are feeling overwhelmed or emotionally reactive, or if you find yourself retreating from your normal life situations due to stress or other factors you may want to consider a counselor.
The following resources provide information on how to find a counselor or a life coach:
Find a Pro
National Alliance on Mental Illness
The Coach Connection
American Association of Christian Counselors
The International Coach Federation
Griffiths, K., & Campbell, M. (2008). Semantics or substance? Preliminary evidence in the debate between life coaching and counselling. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 1(2), 164-175. doi:10.1080/17521880802328095.