Mental health matters in these times of increased anxiety and widespread burnout. Critical shifts in the work environment are raising awareness for the importance of coaches and therapists. They can help unblock you, work you through the difficulties of change, help you to acknowledge and accept mistakes and – most crucially of all – move beyond them.

But do you need a coach or a therapist? What are the key differences between them? And how can you ensure that you choose the right person for you?  

Coach or therapist: Answer this one question

Ask yourself what you believe you are struggling to get done. Are you clear about what you want out of work, but don’t necessarily know how to get there? Or are there more personal, emotional forces at work that you can’t manage on your own?

Knowing the answer to this question first can help you to determine the path that is right for you. Coaching is most effective when client and coach can share expertise and ideas. Therapists are most suitable when clients don’t quite know what their goals are and feel that there are unsolved questions and issues from their past that are obstructing them.

And, if you can’t answer this…

If you can’t answer the above question just yet, reverse engineer it. One question that both coach and therapist are likely to ask is: “What’s the most difficult thing you’ve had to overcome? Your answer to this question can vary depending on context. A coach is much more likely to listen to you outlining problems with Ed in the legal team or trying to launch a new business, while a therapist might be expecting to discuss your childhood trauma.

Therapists set the agenda, coaches work with clients

A therapist is typically trained in psychology or counseling. They set the agenda, and then they guide the following conversation. Coaching is based on a mutual agenda, and is intended to be much more collaborative, where expertise is shared. Often, executive coaching leads to collaboration and long-term relationships where the coach is called on to support other members of the team.

Coaches can also be suitable for group work

On the whole, therapists tailor their work to helping individuals through their own crises. A coach can either help an individual leader and then extend their work into helping their team, or they can start by acting as a support to a team and providing more help to individuals on an ad-hoc basis.

Therapists spend more time on past experiences

Coaching envisions the coach and client as being mutual partners who share and reveal insights to each other, opening up new possibilities and looking to the future. Coaching offers insights into the way our minds work at the level of business, helping you to work towards greater success. Therapy helps patients who might have suffered severe trauma, to access past events in a safe space.


While these approaches may be different, the outcomes will be similar in the goal to give their subjects an improved ability to navigate life. The best coaches understand how to help their clients see their current work from new perspectives. They place an emphasis on performance insights, increasing productivity, and improving mental well-being through healthier business operations. For organisations that need to grow, an executive coach can be an incredible way to get results quickly and sustainably.

If you’re looking for an executive coach for yourself or for your business, let us know. We’ll set up an introductory call to talk through your needs and work out a plan to reach your goals faster.