Yes, a Therapist Can be a Life Coach!

In today's complex and demanding world, many individuals seek guidance, support, and professional expertise to navigate the intricacies of personal growth, mental health, and overall well-being. Two key roles that come to mind when discussing these areas are life coaches and therapists. We will address the question: Can a therapist be a life coach?

Can a therapist be a life coach?

As professionals, including licensed therapists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, professional counselors, occupational therapists, and other mental health professionals, play a crucial role in helping individuals achieve positive change and improved quality of life. We see the coaching world growing and wonder how can these nonlicensed coaches be providing these services and claiming to make a lot of money.

We wonder if we can add this service to our practices, or start a side hustle. Is it easy to start coaching as a therapist? Where do clients come from? Is it easy to gain clients as a coach? Are we risking our licenses by also coaching?

We will explore the similarities and differences between these professions and delve into the potential for therapists to effectively embrace the role of a life coach.

Then you can decide IF you want to also become a life coach and add coaching services to your practice.

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you purchase a product or service through my link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Life Coaches Versus Therapists

Understanding the key differences between life coaching and therapy is essential in recognizing the distinct approaches and goals of these practices. While both aim to facilitate personal growth and well-being, they have different focuses and methodologies.

Life coaching is primarily future-oriented and action-based, emphasizing goal-setting, accountability, and personal development. Coaches work with individuals who are generally functioning well and seeking guidance to optimize their performance and achieve specific outcomes. Coaching sessions often revolve around exploring strengths, identifying obstacles, and creating strategies to overcome them.

In contrast, therapy is rooted in addressing mental health concerns, emotional well-being, and past traumas. Therapists utilize talk therapy and evidence-based interventions to help individuals navigate mental health conditions, heal emotional wounds, and develop coping strategies. Therapy sessions delve into past experiences, emotions, and behavioral patterns to promote healing, self-understanding, and psychological well-being.

Therapy sessions versus the coaching processes

Therapy sessions typically involve a deep exploration of emotions, past experiences, and psychological patterns. Therapists employ various therapeutic modalities, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, or family therapy, tailored to the client's needs. The focus is on gaining insight, processing emotions, and resolving psychological challenges.

On the other hand, coaching processes are more action-oriented and focused on achieving specific goals. Coaches assist clients in setting clear objectives, creating action plans, and holding them accountable for progress. Coaching sessions often involve collaborative discussions, brainstorming, and providing tools and strategies for personal and professional development.

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Training and certification

Therapists undergo rigorous clinical training and education specific to the mental health field. They typically hold advanced degrees, such as master's or doctoral degrees, in counseling, psychology, or related disciplines. These programs provide comprehensive knowledge and skills in psychotherapy, diagnostics, and evidence-based interventions. Therapists must also complete supervised clinical hours and pass licensing exams to obtain state licenses.

While the coaching industry is not as regulated as therapy, there are certifications available for life coaches. These certifications, such as those offered by the International Coach Federation (ICF) and other coaching organizations, ensure that coaches possess the necessary competencies and adhere to ethical guidelines. Coaches can pursue additional coaching training programs to enhance their skills and knowledge in coaching techniques, goal setting, and client-centered approaches.

What qualifies you as a life coach?

Not much. It is greatly unregulated but I do recommend gaining some sort of certification to more deeply understand the differences and to keep from mixing your therapy interventions from your coaching with your clients.

I am a certified life coach along with being a licensed occupational therapist. I decided to get my life coaching certification from Transformation Academy. Use code TVPOT for 50% off any courses or membership.

State licensing requirements

Therapists, as part of the regulated field of healthcare, are subject to state licensing requirements. These requirements vary from state to state but generally include completing specific educational programs, accruing supervised clinical hours, passing licensing exams, and adhering to ethical standards.

In contrast, life coaches do not have standardized licensing requirements. However, certifications from reputable coaching organizations, such as the ICF, can provide credibility and demonstrate a coach's adherence to professional standards and ethics.

Liability Insurance

While not required, it is smart to add life coaching to your therapy practice liability insurance.

Can a Therapist be a Life Coach?

The answer is a resounding yes! Therapists have the potential to provide life coaching services alongside their therapeutic practice. The skills and expertise acquired through their training and clinical experience uniquely position therapists to offer valuable coaching support to clients.

Therapists possess a deep understanding of human behavior, mental health concerns, and the complexities of personal growth. This knowledge equips them with insights into the underlying factors that may hinder individuals from reaching their full potential. By embracing the coaching role, therapists can expand their scope of practice and provide a holistic approach to supporting clients in various aspects of their lives.

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Why Therapists Should Become Life Coaches

The increased potential client base for therapists as life coaches

Therapists have the potential to serve a wide range of clients as life coaches. Their expertise in mental health and understanding of human behavior make them well-suited to support individuals facing various challenges. Prospective clients may include individuals seeking personal growth, those navigating life transitions, or individuals striving to achieve specific goals. The potential client base for therapists as life coaches is diverse and encompasses people from different walks of life.

10 Reasons a Therapist may consider becoming a life coach

There are various reasons why a therapist might consider switching to becoming a life coach. Here are potential motivations:

  1. Flexibility in practice: Transitioning to life coaching allows therapists to have more flexibility in their practice. They can design their coaching programs, choose their niche, and offer services in a way that aligns with their interests and expertise.
  2. Entrepreneurial opportunities: Becoming a life coach can open up entrepreneurial avenues, giving therapists the freedom to build their own coaching business, work with a diverse range of clients, and potentially increase their income. This is especially true for therapists whose license requires oversight from other professionals in their practice.
  3. Meeting evolving client demands: With the growing interest in personal development, self-improvement, and goal achievement, there is an increasing demand for life coaches. Therapists may choose to switch to life coaching to meet the evolving needs and preferences of clients seeking support beyond traditional therapy.
  4. Working across state lines: One advantage of transitioning to life coaching is the ability to work with clients across different states. While therapists typically need to be licensed in the state where their clients reside, life coaching is not subject to the same regulations. This flexibility allows coaches to expand their client base beyond geographical boundaries and connect with individuals from various locations, increasing the potential reach and impact of their services.
  5. Less paperwork: One significant advantage of transitioning to life coaching is the potential reduction in administrative tasks and paperwork compared to traditional therapy practice. Therapists often spend a significant amount of time documenting client sessions, submitting insurance claims, and adhering to regulatory requirements. In contrast, life coaches typically have fewer administrative burdens, allowing them to focus more on their clients and coaching work.
  6. Higher pay rates: Life coaching can offer the potential for higher pay rates compared to traditional therapy practice. While therapy reimbursement rates are often dictated by insurance companies or government programs, life coaches have the freedom to set their own prices and determine their worth based on their expertise, experience, and the value they provide to clients. This financial autonomy can lead to increased income and financial stability for therapists transitioning to coaching.
  7. Less insurance oversight: Unlike therapy, life coaching is not typically covered by insurance plans. While insurance coverage for therapy can provide a steady stream of clients, it often comes with various limitations, pre-authorization requirements, and documentation demands. By transitioning to life coaching, therapists can reduce their dependence on insurance reimbursement and the associated administrative burdens. Instead, they can focus on building a private coaching practice and working directly with clients who are willing to invest in their services.

Disadvantages of Working as a Life Coach

One of the main challenges for therapists transitioning to life coaching is the need to actively market themselves and their coaching services. Unlike traditional therapy, where referrals may come through insurance or established networks, life coaches must proactively seek out potential clients and promote their expertise. This requires developing effective marketing strategies, building an online presence, networking, and continuously engaging in self-promotion. For therapists who are not accustomed to marketing themselves, this aspect of running a coaching business can be demanding and time-consuming.

Life coaching is your own business. If you have been a therapist who has run their own private pay practice or counseling practice, the transition may be seamless. However if you are like myself and working as an occupational therapist, even though I have run my own business, the stream of referrals has been through insurance or early intervention. Learning to market myself as a life coach has been challenging.

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Does becoming a life coach as a therapist hurt your license?

The impact of becoming a life coach on a therapist's license depends on various factors, including the laws and regulations of the jurisdiction in which they practice. It is crucial for therapists to thoroughly research and understand the specific guidelines set forth by their licensing board and professional regulatory bodies.

This is probably the most tricky part of this transition to life coaching.

Please check with a lawyer for the legalities of coaching as a therapist, especially if you are concerned about your license. I find all of this such a catch-22 as anyone can technically just call themselves a life coach.

As a therapist who also does coaching, I recommend the following:

  1. State laws: Research your state licensing laws as a therapist and follow them. Feel free to reach out to your licensing board with any concerns.
  2. Liability insurance: Check if your liability insurance as a therapist covers you for coaching sessions. If not, add coaching to your insurance.
  3. Coaching certificate: I recommend gaining some type of coaching certificate. This is helpful to not only increase your coaching skills but to show you are not just doing therapy and calling it coaching. While most ethical therapists would not do this, others may do so to skirt insurance requirements or licensing laws such as seeing clients out of state.
  4. Paperwork: Use the same paperwork for your coaching clients as you do your therapy clients. This includes informed consent and an agreement.

In some jurisdictions, there may be restrictions or limitations on therapists providing services outside the scope of their license. Engaging in coaching activities that are considered therapeutic in nature or overlapping with mental health counseling may be subject to regulation and require appropriate licensure. Therefore, therapists must ensure they adhere to the legal and ethical requirements of their profession to avoid any potential negative consequences for their license.

Personal Experience with Life Coaching

I have had personal experience with life coaching as a consumer and a provider. Several years ago my son was having a rough time and we looked at therapy. He did not like exploring the history and the why of his behaviors, but when we found a life coach who gave him forward-thinking exercises, he was a great fit and was very successful.

As an occupational therapist who has also gained several life coaching certifications I now have the ability to work for myself and not be required to obtain doctors' prescriptions the way, it is required for many rehabilitation therapists. As an OT with a mental health background being able to work in the life coaching field gains me credibility, higher hourly rates, and without the insurance paperwork and oversight for my clients.

The question of whether a therapist can be a life coach has been thoroughly explored in this article. The differences between therapy and life coaching have been outlined, highlighting their distinct approaches and goals. It has been established that therapists possess the potential to effectively embrace the role of a life coach, leveraging their expertise in mental health and understanding of human behavior to offer valuable coaching support.

It is important for therapists contemplating the switch to life coaching to carefully consider the factors discussed in this article. This includes evaluating the benefits of therapy and coaching, seeking proper training and certifications, understanding the focus of the work in therapy and coaching, and ensuring compliance with legal and ethical guidelines. By making an informed decision and seeking the expertise of a good therapist or coach, individuals can choose the right path that aligns with their individual needs and aspirations.

Get Certified and Add Life Coaching to your Therapy Practice.

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