Therapy or Coaching?

You will find a variety of perspectives on this question. And so to begin, I want to acknowledge that this is an opinion piece based on my perspective and experience.

Rather than two discrete categories marked “therapy” and “coaching”, I find it more useful to use a continuum with therapy at one end and coaching at the other. Between are 99 degrees of overlap and positioning.

The closer to the therapy end, the more acute the mental health crisis, the more challenging one's day to day functioning. If you are in a relationship where you are being physically or emotionally hurt or if you are dealing with a significant current or past trauma, engaging in criminal behaviours, substance misuse, self-harm or are feeling suicidal, then I believe that before anything else you need to face and address these things.

At this end of the spectrum whatever is going on for you is significantly affecting all areas of your life. You are best to begin with a professional clinical evaluation and treatment plan that may include both therapy and medication. Talk to your doctor or other trusted professional.

The closer to the coaching end of the continuum the more easily or simply the end goal can be defined. While life may be complex and challenging, a clear vision can be constructed around one thing or only a few things. You know what your goal is or you have a pretty good idea about how to articulate it. Coaching helps fine tune vision and develops and supports a strategic realistic plan.

Ends aside, I believe most of us walk the middle of the continuum. In general people have complex multilayered challenges and concerns. And not all coaches or therapists have equal skill in all areas, so before you sign up ask yourself where you currently fit on this continuum and where you want to focus?


In what areas am I struggling – where are the edges in my life right now?“What do I need to move forward at this moment?”

Vision: I’m discontent or needing to move forward but I don’t really have a clear sense of what my bigger future looks.

Skills: I know what I want but I am not clear how to get there. Is my skill set adequate? How can I develop the skills? Do I want an accountability structure?

Old Stuff: Past experiences, including old thinking patterns and core beliefs seem to get in the way. I always end up in the same place.

Current Stuff: The unexpected inside or outside of ourselves and our control, existential crises (divorce, illness, job loss, loss period).

Environment: Responsibilities, limitations, opportunities, relationships, finances, time.

Physical Capacity: Age, health, wellness, energy

Reality: Is my vision or goal at all realistic. I want to be a rock star but I can’t sing and I hate crowds? I want to have a child but I’m 49 year old woman. (Ok it’s possible but realistic?). What can be changed? What needs to be accepted?

Emotions: Fear, anxiety, worry, sadness, grief, anger, resentment ....Bring these insights to your initial conversation.


We all hit edges. Life happens, the unexpected knocks us down, and we come up against ourselves or wonder if we really even knew ourselves. My passion is helping you put your unique puzzle together, decide where on the continuum you are, how I can work with you, and if necessary direct you to where you might most usefully begin at this time. While your dreams and your intentions can almost always be realized, the precise way they are realized may look different than you first imagined. My clients tell me that figuring this out is energizing and relieving.

gail@GailHJones.com www. GailHJones 604-351-4359