October 11, 2020

Coaching vs Therapy: What is the difference?

Coaching vs Therapy: Which is More Effective?

Mental health can be a confusing environment to navigate. Therapy appears to be the main option for people looking for mental health help. So how do you know if you need therapy vs coaching? What is the difference between a therapist, coach, and support group? Coaching vs therapy — what is the difference?

Coaching might be more viable vs therapy if you feel stuck in life, don’t have a clinical illness, and therapy is too expensive. It can help you get unstuck in life using a present-focused, goal-oriented approach. [1]

There are some similarities and differences in how coaching works. Keep reading this article, we will outline the differences between coaching vs therapy. It will help you decide which one is suitable for you. [2]

You can learn more about Healthy Gamer Coaching here.



What is a Mental Health Coach?

Healthy Gamer Group Coaching

Mental health coaches excel at helping you get unstuck in life. They work on your thought processes and self-beliefs and help you create realistic, achievable goals. Additionally, coaches guide you through the process of achieving these goals. They can also help you deal with failure, which is part of the process. [3]

There is a common misconception that only therapists work with emotions. However, most coaches, including our own Healthy Gamer Coaches, are trained to help people process their emotions to build a better future. Coaches regularly talk to people about how they feel and help them process these emotions. This combination of goal and action-oriented growth combined with emotional processing allows Healthy Gamer Coaches to help clients with varying issues. [4]

Coaches equip their clients with the tools they need to move forward in life. While therapists tend to deal with clinical issues, Healthy Gamer Coaches are comfortable assisting with problems like a lack of motivation and excessive procrastination. They can also aid with emotional processing, relationship issues, video game addiction, and more!

Coaches cannot diagnose mental illnesses or provide medical treatment or advice.


Mental Health Coaching vs. Therapy



  • Mental health coaches generally do not deal with clinical issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia. They also cannot handle acute suicidality, as that requires intervention from a trained mental health professional.
  • Therapists, typically psychologists and psychiatrists, are trained to diagnose and treat clinical issues. They know how to administer appropriate treatment programs.


  • Mental health coaches tend to have lived experience of the issues that their clients are facing. That is especially true of the peer coaching model, which is the foundation for Healthy Gamer Coaching.
  • Therapists generally don’t have personal, lived experience of their client’s issues. However, they rely on their psychiatric and psychological training to assist their clients and patients.


  • Coaches primarily help their clients move forward in life by helping them recognize present-day barriers to their growth.
  • Therapists help their clients overcome clinical illnesses such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc.
  • There is some overlap between a coach and a therapist’s goals, as both of them help their clients live a fulfilling life.


  • Coaches tend to work on present-day issues, occasionally touch on the past, and build towards the future.
  • Typically, therapists help you process your past experiences. They also help you understand how those experiences affect your life today.
  • Coaches use evidence-based techniques such as reflective listening and motivational interviewing. They may also use techniques from clinical tools such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), although what they do is not CBT or ACT.
  • Psychiatrists can also use tools such as medication along with talk-therapy to manage clinical illnesses.

Time Commitment

  • Coaching tends to be a shorter-term intervention vs therapy, even though it can take place over months.
  • Therapy can run from anywhere between 3 months to several years, depending on the client’s problems and needs.


Is Mental Health Coaching Effective Compared to Therapy?

Mental health coaching and therapy can be equally impactful if you lack life purpose and motivation but do not have a mental illness. However, you should seek therapy if you have clinical anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or similar problems.

coaching vs therapy

If you are unsure if you have a clinical illness and don’t know how to find a therapist, you can start by seeing a coach. They will be able to direct you to a mental health professional if you need treatment.

Suppose you have been moving forward in life for a significant amount of time. If you still have negative emotions that hinder your day-to-day functioning, you may need to see a mental health professional.

If you feel stuck in life, lack motivation, and do not feel like your life has a purpose, coaching can help. However, you should see a therapist for a mental health concern, diagnosis, or treatment. While coaching is a useful supplement, it is NOT a substitute for therapy.

Here are some areas in which coaching and therapy overlap and use similar methods to achieve the same goals:

Positive Psychology

Coaches and therapists use positive psychology to help draw their client’s focus on well-being and strengths-based thinking. Cultivating the approach to happiness is a part of the coach’s toolkit. On average, coaching is pro-happiness, vs traditional therapy seems to be anti-depression. [5]


Coaches and therapists have started to incorporate aspects of mindfulness and mind-body relaxation therapies into their practice. These techniques are handy when dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. Mindfulness is a great tool that allows the client to observe their behaviors and catch negative thought loops. As a result, they start to manage their emotions and take action, which creates lasting change in their lives. [6]

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based technique used by both therapists and coaches. The number one rule in Motivational Interviewing is never to tell the client what to do. Instead, coaches empower clients to discover their reasons for creating change in their life. They accomplish this through active listening and helping them cultivate self-reliance. [7]

Strengths-Based Focus

Coaches help their clients identify their strengths and values and anchor those in their imagination. Clients can use this knowledge when challenges and difficulties arise. As a result, a strengths-based focus is a core part of empowering the client. [8]

Solution-Oriented Focus

Both coaches and psychotherapists use a solution-oriented approach. They focus on helping the client find ways of creating their solutions. This approach reduces the client’s dependency on the coach and allows them to feel more empowered as they build the life they want. [9]


When to Seek Mental Health Coaching vs Therapy

Mental Health Coaching is useful when you feel stuck in life. If you have any of the following issues, it can be worth giving coaching a try:

  • Unclear life purpose
  • Lack of motivation
  • Excessive procrastination
  • Behavioral addictions such as video game addiction
  • Relationship issues

Keep in mind that you could feel stuck in life because of mental illness, such as clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. If that is the case, your coach can direct you to see a mental health professional who can diagnose you and provide treatment. As a result, coaching can be an excellent starting point to kickstart your growth.


Online Mental Health Coaching Programs

Healthy Gamer Personal Coaching

The Healthy Gamer Coaching Program is an online peer-to-peer support service that aims to create a modern and accessible approach to mental health and wellness.. Peer support is a well evidenced intervention that is built off of the idea of a shared lived experience being a key factor for building trust and rapport.

HG Coaches commonly tackle issues like life purpose, motivation, procrastination, relationships, video game addiction, and more. Evidence suggests that peer coaching can, amongst other things [10]:

  • Improve social functioning.
  • Increase hope, quality of life and satisfaction with life.
  • Reduce substance use.
  • Reduce depression and demoralization.
  • Improve chances for long-term recovery.
  • Increase rates of family unification.
  • Reduce the use of acute services.
  • Increase engagement in outpatient treatment, care planning and self-care.

HG Coaches work with their clients to help them remove barriers and take action towards a fulfilling life. Our program combines the following perspectives to create a unique and effective coaching experience:

  • Cutting-edge neurochemistry, along with effective addiction interventions and recovery coaching techniques.
  • Eastern perspectives, including meditative techniques and ayurvedic mental health.
  • Psychology tailored to the internet generation: emotional suppression, dopamine exhaustion, and the triumph circuit.

Click here to learn more about Healthy Gamer Coaching.



Fundamentally, there is a simple distinction between when to seek therapy vs when to seek coaching; if you are stuck in life due to environmental or emotional obstacles, see a coach. However, if you have a clinical issue, such as clinical depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, you should see a licensed mental health professional.

You can learn more about Healthy Gamer Coaching here.



1.      Bishop,L., 2018. A scoping review of mental health coaching. The CoachingPsychologist14, pp.5-15.

2.      Bora,R., Leaning, S., Moores, A. and Roberts, G., 2010. Life coaching for mentalhealth recovery: the emerging practice of recovery coaching. Advancesin psychiatric treatment16(6), pp.459-467.

3.      Grant,A.M., 2003. The impact of life coaching on goal attainment, metacognition andmental health. Social Behavior and Personality: an internationaljournal31(3), pp.253-263.

4.      Corrie,S. and Parsons, A.A., 2021. The contribution of coaching to mental health care:An emerging specialism for complex times. In Emerging Conversations inCoaching and Coaching Psychology (pp. 60-77). Routledge.

5.      Linley,P.A. and Harrington, S., 2005. Positive psychology and coaching psychology:Perspectives on integration. The Coaching Psychologist1(1),pp.13-14.

6.      González,M., de Diego, A. and López, J.G., 2018. Mindfulness and Coaching: Promoting theDevelopment of Presence and Full Awareness. Psychology Research1(1).

7.      Minzlaff,K.A., 2019. Organisational coaching: integrating motivational interviewing andmindfulness with cognitive behavioural coaching. Coaching: AnInternational Journal of Theory, Research and Practice12(1),pp.15-28.

8.      Lai,Y.L. and Palmer, S., 2019. Psychology in executive coaching: an integratedliterature review. Journal of Work-Applied Management.

9.      Whitmore,J., 2002. Coaching for performance. London: Nicholas BrealeyPublishing.

10.      Texas Health & Human Services Commission. Benefits of Peer Support Services.

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Boss Type
Favorite Quote
Communication Strategy
Seeks control.
"Did you do what I told you to do?"
Approach privately, don't contradict them in public.
Career Climber
Ambitious. Concerned about own image.
"How does this reflect on me?"
Understand their goals. Support them or avoid embarrassing them.
Company Man
Wishes to avoid criticism from above.
"Will my boss/the company be happy?"
Align your work with corporate/group goals.
Minimize hassle, collect pay, go home. Value peace above fairness.
"Who is causing me a hassle now?"
Pitch assurances of safe ideas.
Old Timer
Values safety of the proven past. Operates on inertia and fear.
"This is how we've always done it."
Present ideas as small, safe, and as tiny deviances of current systems.
Made a manager because of craft excellence, not management skill.
"Is this work at my standards?"
Ask for their expert opinion and help. Be meticulous in your work.
Value adherence to instructions.
"Did you do it exactly as I told you?"
Invite oversight and give frequent updates.
Cannot say no. No balance.
"I'm so busy, I have no time for this."
Set boundaries, offer help, bother them rarely.
Invisible Hand
Remote. Delegates the day to day. Trusts employees.
"Call me if you need me."
Handle problems you can, call them quickly if there are issues.
Servant Leader
Values team players. Struggle with disruptive or selfish employees.
"How can I help you succeed?"
Work towards team goals.
Retail Manager
Disempowered. Common in fast food, mall stores, etc.
"That's what HQ said; I can't change it."
Adhere to the letter of the rules.
Deep emotional ties. Threats to business are threats to them.
"My name is on the building."
Treat their business as personal property.