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Therapy vs. Coaching

If you research the Internet for information about the difference between Coaching and Therapy, one relatively common theme you'll find is that coaching is basically intended for healthy, capable people that want to become more effective, while therapy is for disfunctional, broken people that need healing.

Often this is presented in a somewhat simplistic set of contrasting bullet lists. I think the differences are more subtle than this, with even a noticeable amount of overlap.

A More Accurate Perspective

I was struggling to capture my own perspective on this topic until, during some research, I came across the information Greg Mulhauser provided on his website:


As both a therapist and a coach, I believe Greg has a more objective and realistic perspective. Here are some excerpts from his website:

The Distinction Between Coaching and Therapy is Subtle

I am skeptical of coaching writers who offer to tell you, sometimes with a simple bullet point list, how coaching and therapy differ. All too often, the explanation reads like a shameless marketing pitch designed to coax you into viewing yourself as the ideal coaching client. ("Coaching clients are forward-looking people who take charge of their lives!" or "Counselling clients are in need of guidance and possibly a medical cure" -- that sort of thing.) more...

The Most Important Difference is in You

Having said all that, it remains the case that coaching and counselling are not the same thing. Generally speaking, the most important difference is actually in you, the client (simple bullet point list, coming right up!):

  • Generally, clients seek counselling when they sense something is wrong.
  • Generally, clients seek coaching when they sense something is not as right as they would like it to be. more...

For Adults with ADD It's Really Therapy PLUS Coaching

The first consideration as it relates to us folks with ADD is that it really is not an either/or decision. ADDers often simultaneously sense something is wrong and something is not as right as they would like it to be ;-) And I think there's some good reason for this ...

First, there is something wrong. Wait, before my coaches and mentors hyperventilate, let me re-language that: There is something different that seems wrong (Madelyn, Peggy , Kate does that ease your minds?) The difference is ADD brains do not work the same as a typical brain. A qualified therapist understands and recognizes ADD symptoms. With a wide range of medication and behavioral modification options, she is well qualified to provide diagnosis and treatment to help normalize an ADD brain. Often adults with ADD (myself included) have suffered decades of self-critical evaluation and frustration, without a clear understanding of the medical options available to help them.

Second, ADD adults often have ethusiastic vision and great ideas about the future, but sense there is something inhibiting them from carrying things out as well as they would like. This is where coaching became critical for me.

Often, I would try to explain my struggles to someone (even to my wife, who knew everything about me) only to leave both of us frustrated. Neither one of us could clearly understand the other's perspective. Techniques that seemed so straight forward and worked so well for her would simply discourage me when she offered them as a possible solution for me. My inconsistent behavior and unpredictable responses only added to her confusion. One day I would be on, only to spend the next 3 days seeming confused and exhausted. Even as I write this, I can sense her frustration when she would finally say, "I just don't understand."

What I've learned through my experience (personally, as well as through coaches, mentors, and clients) is that an ADD adult typically has the most success through a combination of therapy (having someone who understands, diagnoses, and treats the disorder) and coaching (having someone who understands - first hand - the impact of the disorder). toReview


  John Liptak |                 919-413-8186 |               107 Crickentree Dr, Cary, NC 27518 |                           home@johnliptak.net