Do I need a coach or a therapist?

I started this post as some ideas for people who want to get better at self-care (hopefully that will come later). I’ve been working on self-care for awhile (starting with a big realization about two years ago that Basic Hygiene Doesn’t Count as Self-Care) and it’s something I still feel like it’s a part of my life where I have plenty of room to grow.

One of the foundations of my self-care is having people in my life who I pay to support me. As a caveat: you cannot buy your way out of needing friendships and relationships in your life, but I find that having people who help me deal with specific things in my life –  from spiraling negative feelings to “how am I going to schedule my work week” – frees up my time and mental energy when I am with my friends and family to talk about other important things that matter.

These days, therapists and life/business/executive coaches have a lot of overlap in the kinds of work they do, and I think it’s useful to know the difference, so that you get the right person/people in your life.

Therapy:

First off. I am not a therapist. I am not an expert on therapists, mental illness, or mental health. You should not take my advice over the advice or your doctor or mental health professional.

The biggest thing that I think is important to keep in mind is that not all therapies and therapists are going to be a good fit for you.

My therapist uses a variety of techniques such as EMDR, sand tray therapy, play therapy (she also works with children), and the Gottman Method (which is excellent for couples counseling). I really appreciate that she has a lot of tools in her belt that have helped me move through my emotional challenges and negative feelings rather than feeling stuck in them. It is some of the best money I spend, and I’m really glad I do it.

For some people, conditions or situations, this might not be a good fit. But I am sure that there is a therapist and therapy method that probably will be a good fit for you.

In my experience, the goal of therapy is to address the emotional issues and challenges that are holding you up in your life. Maybe something happened in your past that makes your more sensitive to issues/situations/circumstances/people in your every day life, and if you can process that event and feel your way through those feelings, it can help you live your daily life in a better way.

Or, maybe you’re going through a really difficult time right now that brings up a lot of feelings that are hard to deal with – a therapist can help you develop better coping skills in real time, so you don’t have to rely on destructive coping mechanisms that are not going to work in the long term.

Even though I’ve worked through a lot of issues that got me into therapy and would probably be fine if I stopped going, I continue to go because (I’m borrowing a metaphor here) the laundry just gets dirty again. And I find that if I skip a couple of sessions with my therapist, it just piles up and takes more time to catch up with it than if I just dealt with it the first time.

Coaching

If you’re not depressed, anxious, a worrywart, grief-stricken, casually traumatized by life, or don’t feel ready to see a therapist. You might find that a life-coach, business coach or mentor that you can call up with your questions can be really valuable.

In my experience,  a coach is different from a therapist because they’re not there to delve into your past or your emotional relationship with your problems. They’re more focused on the nitty gritty of your work or personal habits and how you can manage those things better and set goals for going forward. Managing those things more effectively can be emotionally freeing (kind of like how cleaning up a room can make it easier to get your work done), but is different from therapy.

Your coach is different from your best friend because they have some emotional distance from you and hopefully a level of experience that allows them to tell you when you’re making a mistake.

I have really enjoyed the Checking In program with Beth Silvers. Beth is a great business coach for me because she has a lot of Human Resources experience, understands how businesses operate, and really helps me with some of my skills gaps in time management, prioritizing tasks and managing workload, and has really helped me feel like I’m in charge of my business rather than my business being in charge of me. (This is not a paid advertisement or anything, I just think Beth is great, and recommend her whenever possible).

I’ve tried lots of coaching over the years, and I think that what’s really important when you’re trying to see if a coach is going to be a good fit for you is that you’re not hiring someone who has all the same skills that you have. In my situation, my husband and I feel pretty confident with the “teaching Marital Arts” part of our business – yes, there’s always room for growth and professional development, but the area that we’re consistently out of balance with is the administrative “run your business like a business” part of it, so a good coach for our business is someone who can teach us how to do those things. It might be more fun or feel easier to keep working on the parts we’re already good at (and we should do that), but the current priority is fixing the thing that’s broken.

So, do you need a therapist or a coach?

I don’t know.

For me, as long as I’m living far away from my family, parenting two kids, owning a small business, and all the other things – it’s helpful to work with both a therapist a business coach. The business owner in me appreciates having a coach, because it gives me some of the benefits of having a boss (accountability, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to talk about my challenges with) without actually having a boss. The part of me that can let being a parent, business owner and wife consume all my time and emotional energy and cause me to forget to be a person first really likes having a therapist to check in with regularly to help not solve all my problems with snack food and scrolling social media (because that doesn’t actually solve problems).

One of the things I think is most important is sticking with a person or program that’s a good fit for you.

Good luck!

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