Health Coach vs Therapist: Which One Is Right for You?

When it comes to seeking help for your wellbeing and mental health, it can be confusing to know which professional to turn to. On the one hand, you have health coaches, who focus on helping you achieve your goals by helping you make behavior changes. On the other hand, you have therapists, who focus on understanding and resolving psychological issues.

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So, what's the difference between a health coach and a therapist, and how do you know which one to choose? In this article, we'll explore the differences, similarities, and when you may want to choose one over the other, so you can make an informed decision about which professional is right for you.

Note: if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please call 911 or seek professional help immediately.

Differences Between Health Coaches and Therapists

Understanding the differences between these two professions is important, because they focus on different aspects of your wellbeing. Here are some of the main differences between health coaches and therapists:

Focus of Treatment

One of the biggest differences between health coaches and therapists is the focus of treatment. Health coaches are focused on helping you achieve specific goals related to your health and wellness, such as losing weight, improving your nutrition, or managing a chronic health condition. They work with you to create a customized plan that takes into account your individual needs, goals, and lifestyle, and help you stay on track with that plan.

Therapists focus on mental and emotional health. They provide a safe, supportive space for you to talk about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and work with you to identify and address mental health challenges. They may use techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to help you change negative patterns of thought and behavior, or they may use more open-ended approaches like psychodynamic therapy to help you explore your deeper emotions and experiences.

Health coaches may also use some techniques that therapists use, but the focus of their work is typically on helping you make lifestyle changes to improve your health.

Education and Training

Another key difference between health coaches and therapists is their education and training. Health coaches typically have a background in health and wellness, and may have a degree in nutrition, exercise science, or health education. A professional organization may also certify them, like the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC).

Therapists have a more extensive education and training process, and are equipped to diagnose and treat people with mental health issues. Most therapists have at least a master's degree in psychology, social work, or counseling, and may also be required to complete supervised clinical hours before they can become licensed to practice. In addition to their formal education, therapists may also undergo ongoing training and supervision to ensure that they provide the highest quality care to their clients.

Note: the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) requires health coaches to reach a certain number of continuing education credits every year to maintain their certification. As well as to meet the standards of their professional code of ethics and re-certification process.

Cost and Availability

The cost and availability of health coaches and therapists may also vary. Health coaches typically charge a fee for their services, which can range from $25 to $300 per session, depending on the coach's experience and location. However, some employers may cover health coaching services as part of preventive care or wellness programs. They may also offer packages or discounts for multiple sessions.

Therapists in private practice typically charge a fee for their services, and may accept insurance as payment. However, many therapists offer sliding scale fees to make their services more accessible, and some may even offer pro bono or free counseling services. In addition, there are often mental health resources available in your community that provide low-cost or no-cost therapy options.

Length of Treatment

Another key difference between health coaches and therapists is the length of treatment. Health coaching typically involves shorter-term, goal-oriented interventions, while therapy is more open-ended and ongoing. Health coaches may work with you for a few months to a year, depending on your goals and progress, while therapists may work with you for several months or even years, depending on your needs and goals.

Health coaches may also work with clients on an ongoing basis to continue to support and maintain healthy lifestyle habits.

Setting and Structure

The setting and structure of treatment may also differ between health coaches and therapists. Health coaches may work with you in various settings, including in person, over the phone, or via video conference. They may also offer group coaching sessions, where you can work with other individuals who pursue similar goals.

Therapy typically takes place in a more structured, one-on-one setting, either in person or via teletherapy. Therapy sessions are usually scheduled weekly or biweekly, and may last 45-60 minutes each time.

There are also group therapy sessions available, which offer the same type of support and guidance as individual therapy. However, they may be less structured and more focused on problem-solving within the group, rather than individual issues.

Similarities Between Health Coaches and Therapists

Despite the differences above, there are also similarities between health coaches and therapists. Both professionals are focused on helping their clients improve their well-being and quality of life, and may use various techniques and approaches to do so.

Goal-Oriented Approach

Both health coaches and therapists use a goal-oriented approach to treatment, meaning they work with you to identify specific goals and objectives and help you develop a plan to achieve them. This may involve setting short-term and long-term goals, identifying steps to take towards achieving those goals, and tracking progress along the way.

Support and Encouragement

They provide support and encouragement to their clients, helping them build confidence and motivation to make positive changes in their lives. They may offer guidance and feedback, help you identify and overcome barriers to change, and encourage you to make progress towards your goals.

Confidentiality

They must abide by strict confidentiality laws, which means anything you discuss with them is kept private and confidential. This creates a safe, supportive environment for you to share your thoughts and feelings, and can help build trust and rapport between you and your professional.

'If you have a mental health concern, contact a mental health professional or your primary care provider to discuss your options and find the best course of treatment for you.'

When to Choose a Health Coach

If you're considering working with a health coach, there are a few key situations where this may be a good choice:

You Want to Make Lifestyle Changes

If you're looking to make lasting changes to your health and wellness, a health coach can be a great resource. They can help you set goals and develop a customized plan to achieve those goals, and provide ongoing support and encouragement as you work towards making those changes.

You Have Specific Health or Wellness Goals

If you have specific health or wellness goals in mind, such as losing weight, improving your nutrition, or managing a chronic health condition, a health coach can be a valuable resource. They can help you develop strategies to achieve those goals and track your progress over time.

You Need Support and Motivation

If you're feeling stuck or unsure about how to make positive changes in your life, a health coach can provide the support and motivation you need to get started. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, overcome obstacles, and stay on track with your goals.

Note: Some health coaches are trained life coaches, meaning they can also provide guidance and support on topics such as career, relationships, and personal development.

When to Choose a Therapist

If you're considering working with a therapist, there are a few key situations where this may be a good choice:

You're Struggling with Mental or Emotional Health Issues

If you're struggling with mental illness or emotional health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or trauma, a therapist is the best professional to turn to, as they are properly trained to provide mental health treatment. They can provide a safe, supportive space for you to talk about your thoughts and feelings, and help you work through any challenges you may face.

You Need Help Coping with Life Stressors

If you're struggling to cope with life stressors, such as a major life change, a relationship issue, or loss, a therapist can help you process and work through those challenges. They can provide you with tools and strategies to help you manage your emotions and navigate difficult situations.

You Want to Explore Your Thoughts and Feelings

If you're curious about your thoughts and feelings, and want to better understand yourself and your motivations, a therapist can be a great resource. They can help you explore your deeper emotions and experiences, and provide insight and guidance as you navigate your inner landscape.

Working with both a health coach and therapist

Both health coaching and therapy can be invaluable tools for creating positive changes in your life. Depending on your needs and goals, you may benefit from working with both a health coach and therapist. A health coach can help you set and achieve specific wellness goals, while a therapist can provide deeper insight and address mental health care.

Together, they can serve as a powerful team, helping you make changes that can last a lifetime. With their support, you can gain insight into yourself and your behavior, create healthy habits and routines, overcome obstacles and make meaningful progress towards achieving both your mental and physical health and goals.

Summary

Health coaches and therapists are both valuable resources for improving your well-being and quality of life. While they have some differences, such as the focus of treatment and the length and structure of treatment, they also have similarities, such as a goal-oriented approach, support and encouragement, and confidentiality.

Ultimately, the choice between a health coach or therapist depends on your individual needs. Health and wellness coaching may be the right choice for you. If you're dealing with mental health problems, need help coping with life stressors, or want to explore your thoughts and feelings, a therapist may be a better fit.

If you're not sure which professional is right for you, it may be helpful to talk to your primary care doctor or consult with both a health coach and therapist to see which one is the best fit for your needs. No matter which professional you choose, the most important thing is to find someone you feel comfortable with and who can help you reach your goals and improve your overall well-being.

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