For many people, the work of a counselor or a therapist is similar to that of a life coach, and they wouldn’t be far wrong. There are many areas of overlap, both in terms of the methods of helping clients and the type of problems they deal with.
However, whilst there are many similarities, there are significant key areas in how the work differs.
Let’s consider the main differences between the two and then see how a Christian life coach can best be used to advance your goals.
Angle of approach
The work of a life coach is to identify and describe any given problem. Only from here can the client work on making changes to their lives.
The work of a counselor will analyze a client’s past to understand current behaviors.
So the primary difference is that the counselor/therapist looks backwards to work out the “why”, whereas a coach looks forward to working out the “how”. This may feel like a small and insignificant difference but it has huge implications both in the way a professional works with their client, but also in terms of how to move forward with that client.
There are often great benefits from having a therapist help someone overcome trauma and difficulty with past issues and hurts in life. However there are often times when there is little to no benefit to looking back, and the goal of moving forward is all that is needed. This is where a life coach best comes in.
REACHING your goal
Counselor/therapists work with clients in exploring your current understanding of your life and also to help explore your subconscious. The benefit of this is to help everyone achieve a deeper understanding of life’s patterns and behavior. Naturally, this can be beneficial with issues of anxiety or depression.
However, it’s a completely different approach for a life coach. Taking the above approach works with the belief that it’s the past that is causing a client to be stuck in the present, when that’s not necessarily the case.
A life coach works on the principle of seeing where a client is stuck right now, and what the immediate options are to help overcome the stagnation. It’s more than possible to move forward without having to unpick the past. In short, Life Coaching is all about action and results.
Usually a life coach will measure the success of their clients, using known and proven metrics such as SMART goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
It’s through the use of proven accountability and this focus on results that enables clients to progress towards achieving their dreams.
For both life coaches and therapists/counselor, the use talking sessions is how they help their clients, but that’s where the similarities end.
Counselling sessions are often unstructured sessions and client led. The conversation may start at one point, and then zig zag all over the place, pulling at random threads in life, covering the past, the present and the future… but not necessarily in that order!
Life coaching is far more structured. The goal is to find just one actionable outcome by the end of the session. This structured method, sometimes quick, sometimes slow, provides tangible results and visible growth for the client.
What is different about working with a Christian life coach?
Christians understand that the world has come into being through a creator God. Not only does the Lord create the wonder around us, but he has also created us as unique human beings, made in his image.
Christians understand that a life with God is not about obeying rules, but about being in an intimate relationship with God. He has counted and numbered the hairs on our heads. We were knit together in our mother’s womb. God has created us for good works. He knows us and we know him. In John 10:27, Jesus says “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me”
A Christian life coach takes all of those biblical principles, and weaves them together, into the life coaching framework.
This framework does two specific things. It helps clients achieve their best. However, more important than that, it helps a client achieve their best in God.
This is the unique approach that a Christian life coach offers.
It’s also worth noting at this point that a Christian life coach differs hugely from a ‘spiritual’ life coach.
A Christian life coach will be intimate with the bible and Christ’s calling for all believers. Often they will have studied theology at a deep level, with some, including the author of this article, being pastors themselves.
A Spiritual life coach may not hold to biblical principles at all. They may be open to a client exploring whatever they consider ‘spiritual’, but doesn’t particularly agree with Jesus’ statement of him being ‘The way, the truth and the life’.
So for a Christian life coach, to bring biblical spirituality to the role, helps those being coached to walk in godliness. This doesn’t refrain a client from seeking God’s will for their lives. In fact, completely the opposite. It is the hopes and dreams that the Lord places inside each of us, his children, that we need to draw out, examine and give back to God, that creates the success that both the coach and the coach is looking for.
So is life coaching right for you? Pray about it. Seek God’s will, and pray for direction as he guides you in your life. That guidance may come through a message at church, private reflection in your study of God’s word, or maybe, just maybe, it might come through the work of a life coach, as they help you to discover how God is leading you on in the future of your life.