Understanding the difference between Coaching and Psychotherapy will help you choose from these two services. While there is a great deal of overlap, there are some key differences. Often, Coaches used to be Psychotherapists or trained in other professions.
Mental Illness vs Wellness
An essential distinguishing difference between Psychotherapists and Coaches is service to those facing mental illness. Psychotherapists are trained to treat Mental Illness and Coaches are not. In Ontario, treating those with serious mental illness is a controlled act limited to Psychotherapy.
If you are seeking help for mental health problems such as clinical depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviours, borderline personality or PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) only a psychotherapist is empowered to treat severe disorders in Ontario.
Past vs Future Orientation
Generally, coaching is more focused on helping you achieve your future goals, while psychotherapy tends to have more of a past and present focus. Both coaches and psychotherapists may be able to help you understand how the past contributes to your present, and help you achieve your future goals. However, the focus is different. Coaches work with those seeking to enhance well being, strengthen capacity and access inner resources. Coaches identify both mental and energetic blocks such as beliefs, relationship dynamics, that no longer serve to live from your full potential.
The focus on psychotherapy is more on deeper healing from the past through a therapeutic relationship, while the focus on coaching is more on getting you to where you wish to be next.
Coaches often specialize based on their training, such as business, entrepreneur, spiritual, shamanic, energetic, career, life stages, organizational development, wellness, health and more. They provide information, skill building, support, motivation for action, clarification of vision and goals. Coaches generally work at the level of conscious awareness to facilitate inner alignment and expand self-awareness.
Certified Coaches are not regulated; however, they must meet accreditation. There are a few Coaching Accreditation organizations.
International Coach Federation https://coachfederation.org/
Certified Coaches Federation https://certifiedcoachesfederation.com/
Coaches partner with their overall well clients in an empowered relationship which facilitates Self-leadership and accessing mind, body and spirit inner resources.
Psychotherapy (College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario CRPO)
“Psychotherapy is primarily a talk-based therapy and is intended to help people improve and maintain their mental health and well-being. Registered Psychotherapists work with individuals, couples and families in individual and group settings. Psychotherapy occurs when the Registered Psychotherapist (RP) and client enter into a psychotherapeutic relationship where both work together to bring about positive change in the client’s thinking, feeling, behaviour and social functioning. Individuals usually seek psychotherapy when they have thoughts, feelings, moods and behaviours that are adversely affecting their day-to-day lives, relationships and the ability to enjoy life.”
Registered Psychotherapists will be competent to use a treatment approach or modality to work with serious mental health issues such as unresolved traumatic events from the immediate past or from childhood. Psychotherapists are trained to use categories of prescribed therapies, which include:
- Cognitive and Behavioural therapies
- Experiential and Humanistic therapies
- Psychodynamic therapies
- Somatic therapies
- Systemic and Collaborative therapies
Registered Psychotherapists are authorized with the Controlled Act of Psychotherapy. “In the course of engaging in the practice of psychotherapy, a member is authorized, subject to the terms, conditions and limitations imposed on their Certificate of Registration, to treat, by means of psychotherapy technique delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgement, insight, behaviour, communication or social functioning. See Psychotherapy Act, 2007, Section 4.”
Psychotherapy vs Counselling
“The practice of psychotherapy is distinct from counselling, where the focus is on the provision of information, advice-giving, encouragement and instruction, and spiritual counselling, which is counselling related to religion or faith-based beliefs.” HPRAC: New Directions, 2006; Chapter 7, Regulation of Psychotherapy, p. 208.
CRPO does not regulate counsellors or counselling. However, psychotherapy and counselling can be highly interrelated.
Differences in Payment
Psychotherapy, which is about treating a mental health problem, is often covered by your health insurance company, generally with a predetermined yearly amount.
Coaching is typically not covered by health insurance because the focus of coaching is not on treating an illness.
In order to legally provide psychotherapy in Ontario, one requires the credentials as determined by the CRPO. To practice psychotherapy, one needs to meet certain criteria which include an exam, training and a certain number of supervised hours of practice.
While there are many certification programs for coaching it is not governed by a regulatory organization. Despite a lack of a governing board in the field of coaching, many coaches offer tremendous services and some originally practiced as psychotherapists.
Psychotherapists face more restrictions due to their Regulatory College than coaches in terms of where and how they can offer services. In Ontario, they must be Registered with the CRPO.
Psychotherapy generally is offered face to face in private office, while coaching happens frequently over the phone or via the internet. Some psychotherapists now offer services over the phone or via the internet in a secure online format and some coaches have offices in which they see clients.
The above differences are generalizations and do not apply to all psychotherapists and coaches. If you are not clear on whether to choose a psychotherapist or coach, a suggestion is to interview a couple of coaches and psychotherapists so you can find out about their approaches.