The differences between coaching and psychotherapy

The differences between coaching and psychotherapy

Coaching or psychotherapy, how do I choose?

More and more psychologists choose to specialize in coaching, and just as many of those who practice coaching join psychotherapy courses. Both are structured as one-on-one sessions of approximately one hour, during which a specialist helps you overcome problems or reach personal or professional goals. They seem to be pretty similar, so how do we know what to choose, a coach or a psychotherapist?

The kind of problems addressed


In coaching, people can work on various issues, not only business-related but also personal, especially since many of the personal limits or conflicts can alter our productivity at work. However, the coaching process has a series of boundaries, there key moments when the coach may suggest psychotherapy or a medical approach with specific problems.

Psychological or psychiatric disorders are not addressed in coaching. Disorders like depression, pathological anxiety, and other types of strong emotional imbalances cannot be addressed in coaching, therefore the coach must refer you to a psychologist, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist. 

Sometimes, the client cannot realize this need, so it's the responsibility of the specialist to see and solve this issue. If you choose a well-prepared coach, they will be able to identify the need for a multidisciplinary approach. 


Focus on the present and the future

Another important difference between coaching and psychotherapy is the focus on the past vs. present and future. When the discussion inevitably goes towards exploring and resolving past situations and the focus on the present and future cannot be settled, then it means that the subject is beyond the coaching limits. This applies to childhood experiences, past traumas, resolving and understanding issues that have strong roots in the past. 


In coaching, the focus is on the present and the future, on objectives and solutions. Inevitably, the flow of the session might refer to things that happened in the past, but the coach's responsibility is to return to the present, to how this or tat from the past affects your current situation. If your goal is clearly to understand or solve past issues, then it becomes the competence of the psychotherapist.


A good coach will notice this difference and make the recommendation, even if sometimes the observation can be subtle.

Certifications and training


The psychotherapist and the coach have different training paths, even if there are people who are certified for both practices.

In short, psychotherapists are certified by the Romanian College of Psychologists, after graduating from the Faculty of Psychology and followed a master's degree and accredited private training, which includes a large number of hours of personal development. Of course, they involve a series of exams, projects, interviews, and several years of supervision.

Coaching training is certified by several institutions such as ICF (International Coaching Federation) and includes theoretical courses, practice during the coaching school, several mentoring hours with a more experienced coach, and finally a practical exam. Good coaching schools include elements of personal development in their training structure, the courses being an experience in itself. Each specialist goes through a coaching experience of their own, testing and actually "feeling" the process, to better understand it. For a coach to become ICF accredited, they must also take a large number of private coaching hours and successfully pass a theoretical exam.

Methods used in the process

psychotherapy_coaching3John Withmore first applied the questions-based approach (the basic coaching technique) in golf training, and then it was extrapolated to business. His approach proved that a beginner in golf performed much better if he/she explores the right movements on their own - positioning, distance between legs, hitting force, etc. while gently guided by the coach's questions. The results were better and faster when compared to the basic training, the one where the trainee followed precise instructions from someone else. The basic idea is that all the resources are inside of us, we just have to pay attention and discover them, with a little bit of non-invasive help.

Psychotherapy, more than coaching, has several methods that can be used in the process. Despite the outcome, the coach does not directly intervene in the coachee's process. Specifically, a coach cannot make recommendations, offer solutions, suggest options for action, or be "leading" in any way.

The coachee must find their own path, their own answers or insights, only those they are prepared for in that stage of their life. The coach's responsibility is to create a safe and comfortable space (both literally and metaphorically), to guide the coachee using insightful questions, to support him/her to see different perspectives, to understand emotions, make decisions and wisely use the available potential to make life better.


When deciding whether you need coaching or a psychotherapeutic approach, you have to consider all of the above. If you need further information, feel free to contact one of our specialists!

Articole similare

Dr. Taibi Kahler, founder of PCM®

Find out the story of Dr. Taibi Kahler in a well documented article and discover how he created PCM® methology and collaborated with NASA.

Find out more
Organizational culture. How can it help you?

Find out the story of Dr. Taibi Kahler in a well documented article and discover how he created PCM® methology and collaborated with NASA.

Find out more
The hidden salesperson and the inspirational sales process.

Until not long ago, selling was a very well-articulated process, in which the position of sales agent was quite controversial. But how are things today?

Find out more
Facebook LinkedIn Instagram Twitter
Programe de dezvoltare organizațională și soluții inovatoare care te ajută să câștigi timp, bani și înțelepciune.
Strada Popa Nan, nr. 171, Bucuresti
0745 755 484
  1. The differences between coaching and psychotherapy