How to Figure Out If You Need a Career Coach, a Life Coach Or a Therapist

@vegasworld | Twenty20

For many, the stresses of the pandemic have resulted in burnout. While everyone has their own personal ways of coping with work-related stress, like exercise or meditation, an expert can help.

There are several routes that you can take toward self-improvement, from therapy apps to coaches who specialize in helping executives and entrepreneurs. The question is, how can you tell which type of expert is right for your needs?

There's some overlap between the jobs of a career or life coach and a therapist, but they're not the same thing, Esther Boykin, a licensed marriage and family therapist and CEO of Group Therapy Associates, tells CNBC Make It.

For starters, therapists are required to meet education and license requirements to provide treatment. Coaches aren't held to the same rigorous standards. Anyone can say they're a "coach," and expertise can vary drastically. (The International Coaching Federation is a self-regulating organization that provides training and credentialing for coaches, and is trying to change this.)

And broadly speaking, a coach's job (whether life coach or career coach) is to partner with a client to figure out what's important to them and help them take actions to achieve that, Flame Schoeder, a professional certified personal development coach who offers both personal and corporate coaching tells CNBC Make It.

The overarching difference between coaches and therapists may be best described by analogy: "A really great coach can help you reach peak performance, but if you have some injuries that haven't healed properly, no amount of great coaching is going to get you beyond those," Boykin says. That said, both coaches and therapists provide useful tools and can be beneficial in different ways.

Whatever your goals are, here's how to tell which performance-boosting, self-improvement practice is right for you:

Career coach

What they do: Career coaches help people with their work concerns, specifically.

Who they're for: Typically, people see a career coach during a transitional period; either when they've left a job or lost a job, Schoeder says. Or sometimes people seek career coaches if they're dissatisfied, frustrated or "not feeling a sense of fulfillment" at their job, she adds.

What to expect: During a session, a career coach might ask you questions about your life to determine what's meaningful to you, Schoeder says. From there, "a good coach at the end will always end a session with designing an action that the client is going to take," she says. For example, you might make a specific goal, such as applying for a job or building a resume, that you'll plan to review in the following session. "It becomes an accountability partnership as well," Schoeder says.

On average, coaches (including life and career) charge $244 an hour in North America, but the price can be as high as $340 an hour depending upon the client's position, according to a 2020 survey from the ICF. Sessions can take place over the phone or video chat, or post-pandemic, in person. Schoeder likes to see people every other week, because "it gives them time to ... practice what we've talked about," she says.

Life coach

What they do: Life coaches can guide you through all aspects of your life, from your romantic relationships to your finances and beyond, and help you plan for the future and make decisions, Schoeder says.

Who they're for: The benefit of a life coach is they can assist with both your professional and personal life. Ultimately, a life coach is someone who can support you no matter what's going on in your world.

What to expect: Life-coaching resembles talk therapy, because the focus of sessions tends to be about you and what's happening in your personal life, Schoeder says. But unlike talk therapy, the point of life-coaching is to create an action plan that helps you change your behavior in some area of your life.


What they do: A therapist's job is to help you understand your own internal emotional and psychological workings that contribute to your behavior patterns, or get in the way of moving toward your goals, Boykin explains.

Who they're for: "If you're wondering whether or not you should see a therapist, you should probably go see a therapist," Boykin says. You don't have to wait until you have a problem or crisis to go to therapy; many high-functioning people go to therapy simply because they want to enrich their lives, learn to cope with stress and anxiety or be happier.

What to expect: There are several different types of psychotherapy that serve different purposes. In general, a therapy session involves a lot of talking (a therapist may ask questions about why you're seeking therapy, or your family history) and it can last between 45 and 50 minutes, according to the American Psychological Association.

Under the Affordable Care Act, small-group and individual insurance plans must cover behavioral health treatments. However, the price of a psychotherapy session can vary depending upon where you live or the education level of your therapist. Therapy can cost between $65 and $250 an hour, according to Good Therapy, a therapist and counselor directory. Today, many companies provide free, confidential counseling through employee assistance programs.

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