The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy

Coaching has been around for decades and it can still be a mystery as you begin to explore the possibilities, especially for those considering a coach to help them reach their goals. Holistic health coaching can benefit your overall outlook on life.

Coaching is a goal-centered process where goals and actions emerge from the client’s interaction and dialogue with their coach. The client has all the answers she needs within her and it’s the coach’s focus to help her breathe new life into her thoughts, reflections, and perspectives.

The outcome is that she is energized and motivated to achieve her goals, maximize her potential, and be empowered to pursue sustainable and positive behavior change to help her thrive.

The Definition of Coaching

The International Coaching Federation (ICF, 2020) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” 

Many variables of the definition exist, but the ICF’s definition is a great starting point to better understand the difference between coaching and therapy. The coach and client are in a partnership where responsibilities are shared in their effort to co-create and collaborate equally. 

The partnership is based on meeting the client where she is at present and building on that with future-focused goal-setting to achieve her vision. The process is deliberately inspirational for the client.

The Coaching Partnership

Coaching has many dynamics with the end goal of supporting a client during their own unique journey. It’s how progress is made and sustainable behavior changes are accomplished by the client. 


  1. Is a way to support a client realize her full potential.
  2. Inspires a client to develop their creativity, resilience, resourcefulness, and capability to reach their objectives.
  3. Acknowledges the client’s ability to be the expert in her own life and fully capable of determining what goals to pursue.
  4. Is solutions-oriented, not problem-oriented.
  5. Is focused on conversations about the present and future, not past experiences.
  6. Is a partnership that enables the client to discover, strategize, plan, and develop goals that build the foundation for sustainable behavior change.
  7. Is based in a two-way accountability model. The coach is accountable for managing the process and creating a space for exploration. The client holds herself accountable for the commitments created during the coaching process.
  8. Creates a safe, trusting, and respectful space to inspire curiosity, open-mindedness, and reflection.
  9. Ia client-centered.
  10. Is a collaborative partnership that is focused on growth and development.

The Coaching Difference

Coaching can be confused with a form of therapy, consulting, and/or advising. Those all have distinct fields of study and licensing. A simple way to understand the difference is by stating what coaching is not.

  1. Coaching is not about dwelling on the past in order to discover the root cause of a person’s psychological or relational issues. It’s not therapy.
  2. Coaching is not consulting (as with business performance) or advising to give expertise for guidance. The client has the vision and the Holistic Health Coach is there to support with creating goals and accountability.
  3. Coaching is not a synonym for anything related to or resembling therapy.
  4. Coaching is not a rehabilitative or therapeutic process. It’s a learning process for growth and development.

The Coaching Process

Are you goal-oriented? Coaching may be right for you. Your goal can be a target, objective, standard, purpose, ambition, pursuit, or your own definition. You have intentions, desires, hopes, and wishes. You want to achieve or accomplish something. 

The coach and client’s conversations are purposeful so that you can seek out the objective you have in mind. Goal-centric coaching is supported by the coach working with the client to formulate well-designed goals that are supported by action plans. 

The Benefits of Holistic Health Coaching

Wondering what holistic health coaching is exactly? Let’s break it down.


Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The medical model of health is that the person is absent from one or more of the five D’s: death, disease, disability, discomfort, and dissatisfaction. Meaning, if you are not sick, disabled, or mentally unstable, you can be defined as healthy.


Wellness encompasses the physiological, mental, emotional, social, spiritual, and environmental aspects of health. It’s the act of practicing healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes so that instead of just surviving, you’re thriving. Wellness includes six dimensions:

  1. Emotional Wellness
  2. Intellectual Wellness
  3. Spiritual Wellness
  4. Occupational Wellness
  5. Social Wellness
  6. Physical Wellness

Holistic Health Coaching

This type of coaching focuses on an integrative, whole-body approach that includes both health and wellness holistically. The purpose is to assist and help a client feel their best through personalized lifestyle changes that balance all areas of life. Working as a guide toward an overall healthier life, the coach helps the client discover how to fuel their body, live a healthy lifestyle, manage stress and find the best wellness and health routines that work for them.

  • Coach 
  • Empower 
  • Educate 
  • Co-create
  • Acknowledge and Celebrate

A Holistic Health Coach will help educate clients about how health is not just about diet and exercise, but it’s about all areas of their life including supportive relationships, meaningful work, work/life balance, spirituality, and more. We look at many areas of a client’s life that may be contributing to stress and poor wellness, not just diet and exercise alone.

As the client, you can first ask yourself, do you want to improve your own health and wellness? If yes, then coaching can add the support, motivation, and accountability you will benefit from as you pursue your goals. 

Topics we can explore include and not limited to:

  • Goal Setting
  • Mindset
  • Stress Management
  • Self-care Toolkit
  • Healthy Whole Foods Implementation
  • Nutrition Strategies
  • Movement Planning

Coaching Outcomes and Successes

Holistic health coaching by design can help you improve the vitality and passion you have  for life by creating sustainable behavior change.

  1. Help you learn to stay on task.
  2. Encourage you to set clear goals.
  3. Improve holistic life satisfaction.
  4. Create sustainable behavior change for a renewed lifestyle.
  5. Define strategies for achieving health and wellness goals.
  6. Build your confidence and your mental toolkit. 
  7. Inspire you to take action towards achieving goals.
  8. Motivate you to be more self-reliant.
  9. Get you to take more responsibility and accountability for actions and commitments.
  10. Grow your knowledge, skills, and ability to become an active participant in your own care and achieve your self-identified health goals.

Both coaching and therapy have distinct purposes. Exploring holistic health coaching is an exciting way to connect from within, and provides you the opportunity to focus on your short-term and long-term goals that will help you thrive– body, mind, and spirit. 


American Fitness Professionals & Associates: Holistic Health and Wellness Frequently Asked Questions

Foundations of Professional Coaching, written by James Gavin

Forbes: 5 Difference Between a Coach and a Therapist

Pfizer: What is wellness?

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