Life Coach Or Counsellor? How To Choose Your Path

Life Coach Or Counsellor? How To Choose Your Path

To many, there might seem little difference between a life coach and a counsellor. Both give anyone seeking support at any stage in their life help to achieve overall well-being and personal growth. But there are significant differences between them – in their training, methods, and outcomes.

If you’re at a stage in your own life where you’re looking to begin a new chapter and a new career in talking therapy, it’s important you know the differences between a life coach and a counsellor. In doing so, you can choose the right path for you, while helping others in a way that’s right for them.

Getting accredited

One of the biggest differences between life coaching and counselling is the level of education and training behind each one. Training as a counsellor means several years of study, made up of theoretical learning and coursework, and practical experience in a real counselling environment, either in a GP surgery or private counselling practice, as well as a level of continuing professional development.

To become a counsellor, you’ll need recognised qualifications to become accredited and to join a professionally accredited register acknowledged by the Professional Standards Authority. With a minimum of diploma level 4 required, professional courses such as those available from Chrysalis counsellor courses will last 1 or 2 years and may include 100 hours at a supervised placement. On top of this, many counsellors have knowledge of common mental health issues such as depression or anxiety to further help their patients.

In stark contrast to the counselling training required, becoming a life coach requires next to no training or qualifications, meaning anyone can call themselves a ‘life coach’. But that isn’t to say life coaches don’t have a role to play in helping people.

People rely on this type of coaching and benefit from the techniques used, but there is no recognised qualification required to practice it. The main job requirement of a life coach is to motivate and encourage people to reach their full potential, so as long as you’re gifted in that area, you’re good to go. However, potential clients may see your life coaching skills as having more credibility with any kind of certificate of training in that area.

What’s the objective?

Now we’ve discerned the differences in the qualifications required to become a counsellor or a life coach, how about the objectives of each role? What does the counsellor or life coach aim to do and how do they do it? While, fundamentally, both roles help people, again, there are significant differences in the methods and objectives of each.

As a qualified counsellor, your principal aim will be to help people come to terms with and resolve any long-term issues that are having a debilitating effect on their mental health or emotional state. Common issues can include depression, bereavement and loss, OCD, or addictions (smoking, drugs, or gambling for instance), as well as many others.

By seeing a counsellor, it’s largely understood by the patient that through skilled talking therapy on specific subjects or issues over a period of time, they can then take action and make changes to their lifestyle. Studying with Chrysalis for professional diplomas in counselling can help you learn different techniques and skills which will help any patient heal or find coping strategies to achieve their goals.

As a life coach, your main aim would be to simply help people achieve their goals from the outset. If a client comes to you as a life coach, it’s expected that their mental health is good, with no sign of depression or any other emotional issues. And they’re ready to be guided by you on how to make life changes to help them get to where they want to be.

The work, as a whole, is focused on enabling the patient to create and maintain motivation for change in a particular area in their life. So they could be struggling to find a new job or even just need guidance if they reach a crossroads in their life.

A question of boundaries

The big difference between the two roles is that one is formally and professionally qualified to help tackle serious mental and emotional issues, while the other isn’t qualified at all, but can help to motivate a life change through positive action. There’s very little crossover and it would be unethical for a life coach to attempt talking therapy in clinical issues such as depression in which they’re not qualified and may have no experience or knowledge.

Connected to this, is the issue of ethics and boundaries. Qualified counsellors are bound to keep to strict professional and ethical boundaries where client confidentiality is concerned. Life coaches are not bound in the same way or indeed, at all because there is no regulation or formal qualification needed.

Though they may not do this, it means a life coach is under no obligation to keep a client’s progress confidential if they choose to talk about it in any circumstances. If a counsellor breaches any privacy or confidentiality, they’ll lose their accreditation and suffer irreparable reputational damage.

Which path to take?

Conventional talking therapy and professional counselling courses from Chrysalis will teach you methods to help your patients help themselves. With a structured plan and without giving them specific advice, your empathetic nature will shine through.

In contrast, life coaches will always give the best advice and recommendations they can. Providing clear strategies and guidance to help clients find specific answers to specific issues, energetically motivating them to bring change to their lives.

While both professions offer legitimate methods of help and support, albeit in two distinct areas, choosing the path of becoming either really comes down to exactly how you want to help people and what you’re best suited to do.

If it’s the role of counsellor, you’ll gain a sense of achievement as well as personal satisfaction, giving you the confidence to make a meaningful difference to your own life as well as your patient’s. Chrysalis counselling training courses will help you unlock your potential to help others and enrich their lives, as well as your own. Find out more at

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