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Do I Need a Psychologist or a Life Coach ? How Do I Choose?

How do I choose between a Life Coach or Psychologist ?

“Do I need a Psychologist or do I need a Life Coach?” Or do you have to choose and have both? I have recently had clients contemplating this very question….and its a really good one. So I thought I would explore this topic a bit more here.

For me the answer is simple – Life Coaching is forward and future focussed, while Psychology and Counselling help you to come to some resolution about something from your past that you can’t quite let go of . But when you are in your own head – these kinds of decisions can sometimes lack clarity, and thinking can get a bit hazy (we are all there at times in our lives!).

I remember pondering this question myself when I first experienced life coaching in 2006 – and asked my life coach (with a Psychology and Counselling background) if many people seek a psychologist, when they are better suited to coaching. She said “Yes – I term them “the yearning well“.

Life coaching as a profession has been growing rapidly over the past 20 years. Remember Tony Robbins anyone?  How influential has he been ! The original encouraging, motivating, “get the best out of you” guide.  A couple of reasons for the growth in life coaching, include:  it is a response to handle both the exponential speed of societal change, as well as the increased complexity inherent in society (Jarden and Anticich, 2005). But even though life coaching has gone through huge growth, people are still unsure what they will get from a life coach, and may tend to steer towards a psychologists’ services – when they would actually get a lot more from life coach.

What a lot of people like about life coaching is that it is not part of a medical model and focussed on problems and diagnosing the client “somewhere on the spectrum of psychosis“. In life coaching, the focus is upon the future and possibilities, seeing clients as whole and seeking a richer life and solutions to their problems.

To get some more insight into the distinction of these fields, I have asked my friend Naomi Arnold ( for some words of wisdom and her unique perspective. Naomi is a fellow Beautiful You Life Coaching graduate, who has a Bachelor of Psychology with Honours and a background in psychology, counselling and health,  and has chosen life coaching as her career path. In terms of the range of what a psychologist  does, she says: “a clinical psychologist is a mental health professional who has undergone extensive training (generally a minimum of six years plus supervision) in diagnosing and treating those who are experiencing mental illness. A psychologist does not prescribe medication, but instead uses therapy to assist their clients with understanding their past, their behaviours, and their ‘why’ for how they’re feeling – as well as provide strategies that will assist them with treating or managing the diagnosis. People who see a psychologist often feel stuck emotionally and feel like they cannot move forward until they have talked through past issues and learnt to manage their mental distress.”

Naomi goes on to distinguish that “Life coaches, however, are not qualified to treat mental health or emotional disorders. They tend to work with people who are motivated to move forward toward personal growth, expansion, and self-actualisation. Sessions do not focus on the past, but instead on where they are now, where they want to be, and what steps need to be taken to get from A to B.”

Naomi is a huge believer in the power of both professions. She finds that each is distinct from the other in terms of aims, methods, and focus. In her experience, she has found “In some cases, you don’t always have to choose between one or the other. I have a number of clients who see a psychologist to assist them with their depression or anxiety disorders – but see me to focus on other aspects of their life where they are strongly motivated to take action and move forward.”

Thanks for that clarity Naomi ! I think if people can make an informed choice – its all about moving forward. And thats what living a life is all about. Just keep moving forward.

From what you have read above, are you interested in life coaching ?

Life coaching is best embarked upon in a series of sessions (see what i have to offer HERE)  where a three month period is typically the minimum amount of time it takes to make, reinforce, and solidify major changes in a person’s life.

During our coaching sessions, a specific process is worked through which covers three integrated areas; 1) identifying where you currently are in your life, 2) recognising, identifying and articulating your goals and where you want to be, and 3) developing strategies and actions on how can you best close this gap between these two positions.

Key Points that you would be best suited to seeking a psychologist or counsellor :

There is something in your past that you keep mulling over, and need to resolve before moving forward

Psychology is more structured and regulated, and you are seeking that particular model of care

You feel you need to be diagnosed with a cognitive, medical issue – and need that medical practioner support.

Key Points that Life Coaching would be an ideal choice for you:

You are hungry for change – you want to/ not necessarily need to

You are not emotionally or intellectually fragile – you are part of the “yearning well“

Life coaching is ever evolving, and you can find a perfect coach for you, who you connect with and enjoy their philosphy and approach. Take people up on their “free – get to know you 20-30 minute chats” Most life coaches offer this. Its just as important for the coach to feel connection and ease as it is for the client.

Life coaching clients see changes that are more “whole” of person/ or holistic

The client is wholly responsible for their actions and therefore their successes, and you look at a coach as a “partner” supporting your change

Life coaching steers away from pathology to one of possibility

Coaches recognise the brilliance of each client and their personal power to discover their own solutions when provided with support, accountability and unconditional positive regard

(List inspired by: Jarden and Anticich, 2005)

So – would you like to design your future, or get over your past ?

If you are more future focussed – I would love to hear from you. CLICK HERE for more information about coaching packages, or HERE to contact me for a 20 minute, obligation free consultation to see if we are a good match to take you forward.


Jarden, A., & Anticich, S. (2005). Clinical psychology and life coaching: Comparisons, contrasts, and opinions. New Zealand Clinical Psychologist, 15(1), 17-21

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