In many respects Life Coaching and Counselling are similar; they are both aiming at making your life more rewarding and fulfilling. But they tend to start from different positions. Counselling typically starts from the recognition that there is something wrong, something that is causing unhappiness in your life, we may call it “a problem.” Life Coaching, on the other hand, typically starts from a sense that everything is quite okay, but that there nevertheless is more to reach for in your life.
Both Life Coaching and Counselling transform the present!
While Life Coaching spends little time focussing on the past, and rather looks at the present with an aim toward the future, Counselling commonly addresses experiences that have affected you in the past, and that are still affecting how you operate in the present. But this distinction is typically somewhat blurry both in Life Coaching and Counselling. Life Coaching may not be able to take you to the future you desire, unless some of your experiences from the past are sufficiently addressed, so that you can function well in the present. Reversely, Counselling is only meaningful if it addresses past experiences for the explicit purpose of transforming your experience of the present, and doing this in a way that leads to a future that is more fulfilling than the past.
It must also be understood that there are various approaches to both Life Coaching and Counselling. When Counselling is done according to the principles of Gestalt therapy, it is clearly recognised that whatever the effects may be from past experiences, those effects are fully present in the present, and therefore it is not usually necessary to dig into the past. Past experiences can be dealt with by addressing how they are manifesting in the present, here and now, and thus the effects of the past can be transformed.
Most life coaches don’t have the necessary training for doing “the counselling part” of the work with you, and they therefore take the position that this work is not important, but this is not the case. When your life coach also has training, experience and skills for helping you do deeper emotional-psychological explorations of who you are and of what drives and motivates you, the outcome of your work will be so much more fulfilling and deep-reaching than it would otherwise be.
In reality, it is quite common that successful Counselling after some time gradually begins to take on more and more of the qualities of Life Coaching; we are no longer working on sorting out “the problems,” but are looking into how to make that which is okay even better. Equally, it is often the case that Life Coaching identifies an obstacle to living the life you want, which cannot be overcome without addressing “a problem” by use of counselling or psychotherapy.
So, in summary, good Life Coaching and Counselling have more in common than they are different, and often Life Coaching and Counselling are overlapping and complementary to one another. At least if you find yourself a counsellor/life coach who has the skills required to span the whole spectrum of personal growth and development.