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15 Ways to Determine if You Need a Life Coach or a Shrink

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Raise your hand if you can’t help feeling like you’re nuts half the time. If you are one of the lucky few who is completely satisfied, in control and happy with all aspects of your life, then kudos. But if you’re like the rest of us, that hand is way up. Luckily help is out there and it comes in many forms. Psychotherapy has been around in some capacity since the days of Freud. More recently, life coaching has emerged as a profession and the field has grown rapidly in the past 10 years or so. So what’s the difference and how do you know if you need a life coach or therapist? Psychotherapy is performed by a licensed mental health provider and deals with mental, emotional, and interpersonal issues; while life coaching deals more with life transitions, communication skills, and inspiring clients to take action.

Business executive, management consultant and aspiring life coach, Lynn Mitchell tells the American Counseling Association, “Counseling focuses on moving people from a state of dysfunction to one of being functional. But there are many people who are very functional, yet maybe not highly functional or achieving their full potential.” For those people, life coaching might be a perfect fit. While either a life coach or therapist can probably help anyone in need, there’s clearly a large spectrum when it comes to issues and requirements. It’s important to remember that help exists. And to maximize your potential you must understand your options, so here are 15 ways to determine if a life coach or therapist will work best for you.

1. A life coach can help if you are stuck at a crossroads

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Maybe you are having trouble making an important decision about a job, a relationship or a move. A coach can help you weigh out your options, work through the potential results and support you.

2. A therapist can help you figure out the underlying fears that are keeping you stuck

If you’re not just looking for motivation to make a change, but want to get to the root of your problem and find a way to resolve those deeper issues, you might want to consult with a therapist.

3. A life coach can help if you feel lost or unfulfilled

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If something seems to be missing in your life, a coach can help you identify and achieve that missing piece of the puzzle.

4. A life coach can help if you are unhappy

If you feel a consistent lack of joy, then something is not right. It’s not always easy to identify what is missing or what is wrong, and a life coach can help you do that as well as offer solutions and strategies to achieve a state of satisfaction. Of course, a therapist can also help in this regard, but starting with a life coach may feel less intense.

5. A life coach can also help if you are already happy

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You don’t need to be sad or unfulfilled to benefit from the assistance of a life coach. If you are happy with your life but strive to grow in new ways and achieve your full potential, a coach can work with you to achieve your higher goals.

6. A therapist can help you with habitual patterns of behavior

We’re not talking about one poor decision or one unhealthy relationship. Habitual behavior indicates an underlying emotional or mental issue that might require a more clinical intervention, rather than just motivational counseling.

7. A therapist can help if you just ended a relationship

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When a relationship ends, not only are you dealing with a life change but you are also experiencing a loss. A therapist can help you work through your sadness and find ways to break old patterns and move on to a new, healthier and more fulfilling relationship.

8. A life coach can help if you are too comfortable

The harsh reality is that you can only change your life if you are willing to get out of your comfort zone. A life coach can help push you to get a little uncomfortable and take action.

9. A life coach can help if you are afraid

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If you have fears that hold you back from achieving your goals, you might benefit from working with a coach who can listen to your concerns, identify your issues and offer tools to move forward.

10. A therapist can help if you have serious phobias

A therapist can also help with general fears, but if you have a debilitating phobia which prevents you from functioning in your daily life, you should seek a licensed mental health professional.

11. A therapist can help you work through a trauma

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The loss of a loved one, a major life change, a serious illness or other traumatic experience can be extremely hard to process on your own. Sometimes you need the counsel of an objective and experienced therapist.

12. A life coach can help if you are done with therapy and think ‘Now what?’

Life is a work in progress. Even after therapy has ended, there is still work to be done to ensure you stay on track and maintain the happy, fulfilling and healthy life you’ve worked so hard to build.

13. A therapist can help if you are depressed or anxious

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If you are suffering from depression or anxiety for an extended period of time, you may want to see a therapist for talk therapy or medication.

14. A life coach can help you attain your goals

It’s always scary to set goals for yourself and it’s even harder to admit them to someone else who will hold you accountable for those aspirations. A coach can help you identify your dreams for the future and create an action plan.

15. A therapist can help you if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental or emotional disorder

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Mental and emotional disorders, ranging from substance abuse to personality disorders, require thorough evaluation and counseling from a licensed mental health professional. Basic coaching probably won’t be enough to help you return to a state of emotional stability and mental wellbeing.

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