What is the difference between Psychotherapy and Coaching?

Sometimes, there seems to be a bit of confusion between Psychotherapy and Coaching, and depending on the professional, their practice, and even where they practice, there may actually be different degrees of overlap.

That said, here is a quick chart of general difference distinguishing Psychotherapy and Coaching (there are likely more and some exception may apply):



·        About addressing disturbance or
dysfunction as well as enhancing function
·        Solely about enhancing function
·        Inner work / Awareness oriented
(though action may be an outcome)
·        Outer work / Action oriented
·        Addresses underlying concerns ·        Addresses external concerns only
·        Brings unconscious material to
·        Only works with conscious mind
·        Enhance insight and self-awareness ·        Clarify goals and enhance motivation
·        Focused on past, present, and future ·        Primarily focused on present and future
·        Focused on personal outcomes ·        Focused on concrete worldly outcomes
·        Focus on whole person ·        Acknowledges whole person but focuses
on specific tasks or activities
·        May have an educational component,
but no advice-giving.
·        May have a mentoring or consulting
elements, depending on the client’s goals
and the coach’s expertise.
·        In some places, like Ontario,
Psychotherapy is a legally regulated
profession overseen by a professional
college. (Check your local laws.)
·        Coaching is an unregulated profession,
though various organizations do exist to
provide the option of training,
certification, and oversight.

And here are some of the ways they are similar:

  • Each has a variety of sub-specialties based on certain theories or techniques.
  • Each has many practitioners who use integrated approaches rather being limited to a given sub-specialty’s theory.
  • Both may involve insights, or shifts in meaning-making, albeit in different ways.
  • Both may involve ‘homework’; not everything occurs in the session.
  • You, as the client, must do ‘the Work’ – just like a physiotherapist can facilitate certain exercises, but can’t do them for you; a psychotherapist and/or coach can facilitate certain processes, but what the client gets out of the process is related to what she or he puts into the process.
  • Both hinge on the openness and trust of the client/practitioner relationship; so finding a ‘good fit’ is vital to the success of the work.

So, if your challenge is an addiction, trauma or PTSD, anxiety, depression, bereavement, the natural stresses that go with certain transitions in life, or the deep work of understanding yourself better, you may require a psychotherapist.

However, if you’re looking to enhance performance or meet certain personal or career goals, you may want a coach.

I am both a registered Psychotherapist as well as a certified Coach.  In my own practice aspects of either service can come into play depending on the client and the client’s needs.  However, even here, it is very important to clearly identify what scope of practice is being leveraged. This keeps the work transparent and maximizes the clients opportunity and agency in our work together.


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