What is the difference between “therapy” and “coaching”?

We get many calls from couples who are in need — some couples are only in need of a tune up, and other couples are in crisis and need more. We are well versed in several approaches that can help. Based on our experience, the main delineation that you would need to make up front is whether you want therapy or coaching. Most people don’t realize that there is a difference between the two. Both can be effective if used in the right circumstances.

Therapy involves the treatment of a mental or an emotional disorder. Therefore, if it turns out that you or your partner are suffering from a diagnosed mental illness, then therapy would be an option that is available to you. Similarly, if you or your partner believes that you might have anxiety, depression, etc. such that it might be impairing your daily living in a substantive manner, then therapy might be an option worth considering.

Coaching involves processing through personal and/or relational challenges that does not involve a diagnosable mental disorder. Therefore, if you and/or your partner are having conflict, but you do not believe that a clinically diagnosable condition is playing a role in the challenges you are facing, then coaching may be the best option.

As a client, you may not notice a perceptible difference between therapy and coaching. (Of course, to a licensed clinician, there are several differences that exist below the radar.) As a client, one of the main practical differences between therapy and coaching is whether your health insurance can be used to pay for the services. Health insurance is (medical) health insurance. It is intended for medical conditions — i.e., conditions that are clinically diagnosable. Therefore, health insurance can only be applied to therapy services, because therapy services are exclusively reserved for addressing clinically diagnosable conditions. Health insurance cannot be used for coaching services because no clinically diagnosable conditions are involved. So if you are trying to decide whether you should pursue therapy or coaching, one of the main practical considerations that you need to think about is whether you would like to use your insurance or pay out of pocket. From a client experience perspective, both therapy and coaching can be very effective.

NOTE: The exclusive use of insurance for therapy is not a rule established by Sonja Williams and Associates, it is statute (law). Some prospective clients have indicated that they have used their insurance for service in times past without a clinically diagnosable condition. However, when these individuals have reinvestigated and dug deeper, they learned that they had indeed been diagnosed with a condition (without their knowledge). We, at Sonja Williams and Associates, simply believe that a) full disclosure is best, and b) it is best to have this conversation up front.

If you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to reach out to us at 301-437-5311.