Archive of ‘Academic and Emotional Success’ category

Life Coaching vs. Therapy

Who do I choose?!

One of the many questions I get from the parents of my teen clients and my adult clients is: what is the difference between therapy and life coaching, and which one do I (or my child/loved one) need? It’s a great question, and my honest answer is… it depends! Good therapy and life coaching will undoubtedly overlap, as they are both very similar in many ways while also being distinctly different. Clear as mud… right?! And let’s be honest… teasing the two professions apart can start to become a little fuzzy and confusing. The more research you do, the more confusing it gets. In this blog, I will highlight the three biggest differences between mental health therapy and life coaching, including a few important factors that one should consider before making a final decision.  

License to Practice

This is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to deciding between a therapist and a life coach. The biggest difference between the two professions boils down to having a license to practice. I often use the example of your primary care provider. Would you prefer to work with: 

Doctor #1: they have graduated from medical school, received proper clinical training, and works under a board who holds them accountable. 

Doctor #2: they did not graduate from medical school, they do not have a license to practice, but they’ve obtained medical knowledge based on their own independent research and personal experience.

If you prefer Doctor #1, then I would point you in the direction of a licensed mental health therapist. If you prefer Doctor #2, then I would inquire more about what the focus of your work will be, as this will make a difference in which professional is better suited for you.

The Mental Health Therapist is licensed by the state in which they reside to legally provide mental health treatment and services. There is a state and national board that holds therapists accountable for their actions, treatment, and services. If a therapist breaks a state law or violates the Code of Ethics, then that therapist can have their license revoked. In order to keep their license, therapists must obtain a certain amount of CEUs (continuing education units) in order to stay up to date with the latest research and therapeutic modalities. If the therapist fails to meet the CEU requirements, they can have their license revoked. It takes effort to obtain and hold an active license! One cannot label themselves as a mental health therapist without having successfully completed all of the education requirements, clinical training, and ongoing education units.

At this time, There is currently no license required for Life Coaching. Life coaches have the option to obtain a certificate in life coaching, however, this certificate is optional and not required. That being said, anyone can technically label themselves as a life coach and provide services, including those who have not received any educational training. Unfortunately, this has led to the life coaching field becoming largely unregulated. However, if having a license is not important to you, then I would recommend being very picky with choosing a life coach. It would be worth it to spend some time ensuring that you work with someone who, at the very least, has gone through a life coaching certification program.

Different Education Paths

Another important factor to consider when deciding between therapy and life coaching is to look at the difference in the educational paths of both professions. Mental health counselors have obtained a Bachelor’s degree, a Masters degree in mental health counseling, and must accumulate 3,000 clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed supervisor for a minimum of 18 months. In addition, there are a few national and state exams scattered throughout this process which the counselor must successfully pass before becoming licensed by the state to provide mental health services. It’s a very intense process, as it should be!

The field of life coaching has an optional certification program and little to no educational requirements. Don’t get me wrong, there are programs out there that offer education and training for life coaching, and again, these programs are optional. For this reason, life coaches are unable to provide treatment for mental health, as training to provide such services requires one to take a long educational journey through graduate school. 

The Focus of the Work

What are you looking to accomplish during your time with a professional? What is the presenting concern that is bringing you to a life coach or therapist? If your concern(s) involves mental health symptoms that are causing distress in your life (i.e. anxiety, depression, bipolar, eating disorders, trauma, etc.), then it would be most appropriate to work with a licensed mental health therapist before beginning life coaching. Life coaches cannot diagnose or provide treatment for mental health concerns, as one must obtain a license to do so. 

In short, therapy focuses on emotional healing and mental health; life coaching focuses on setting and achieving goals. Therapy sessions can be structured or unstructured depending on the therapeutic approach; life coaching sessions are structured in order to facilitate progress. Therapists are going to help you heal and assist you in getting to a place where you are ready to make changes and reach goals; life coaches are going to help you make moves to achieve those goals. If you’re in a good place with your mental health and you’re wanting to chase your dreams, longing for change, and want to embrace personal empowerment, then reaching out to a [certified] life coach might be helpful. If you have found a therapist who you love working with, then it could be worthwhile to ask your therapist if they are licensed in life coaching, if they have any life coach referrals, or if they can assist you with these goals.

There is beauty in both of these professions and both compliment each other quite well. Regardless of the type of professional you choose, the best thing that you can do is ensure that you work with someone who you have a connection with and you look forward to seeing every week. Once you find that person, do a little bit of research on them to make sure that they have some education in the area in which they are assisting you with. Be picky, be particular, and always trust your instincts… because you are worth it and you know what is best for yourself and/or your loved ones! 

Additional Resources

If you’re interested in learning more, check out The Coach’s Circle Podcast – brought to you by Life Coach Path, an online resource for anyone who is curious about the field of coaching and would like to learn more about turning their passion for helping others into a career as a coach. Their blog is full of valuable information on topics like certification, becoming an entrepreneur, and real-world interviews with coaches who are making it happen every day. You can check out their latest blog post here.

I had the privilege of having a great conversation with the host of Life Coach Path, Brandon Baker, regarding therapy for teens, sandtray therapy, and much more! Check it out here

If you and your family are in the Austin, TX area or you are a resident of Texas, I highly recommend checking out Barb Steinberg’s website. Barb is a LMSW, tween/teen girl expert, parent coach, and speaker. Click here for Barb’s detailed description of the differences between life coaching and therapy. 

Written by: Taylor Vest, LPC-Associate Supervised by Karen Burke LPC-S, RPT-S


An Attitude of Gratitude

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – Proverb

One of my first jobs was as a waitress at a local seafood grill. There I learned the nuances of customer service and to not take things personally. Our motto was “the customer is always right”; however, sometimes the customer was quite grumpy, carrying in the weight of their day into the restaurant and our interaction. In those interactions, I could choose to internalize the customer’s frustrations or to offer kindness. I call this “choose your ‘tude.” I continue to use this as I strive to choose an attitude of gratitude by cherishing the good and seeing challenges as learning opportunities in my personal and professional life. Research shows that one key element to happiness is appreciating the good that we might be taking for granted, and there is science to support how gratitude supports happiness.

Gratitude; more than being thankful.

Gratitude is a multifaceted source of happiness and well-being. It goes beyond just listing things you are grateful for. The leading researchers on this topic created a definition of gratitude that is twofold; appreciating and attending to the good things in your life and recognizing that these things come from an external source (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Gratitude is described as an “empathetic emotion” whose practice can positively impact our social, physical, and emotional well-being. 

Gratitude is powerful.

Gratitude helps fire neurons in your brain that contribute towards positive thinking and feelings of happiness. When we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, which are responsible for the “feel good” emotions and support a lift in mood (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). A study that incorporated fMRI scans found that the participants who wrote gratitude letters showed greater activation in the area of the brain associated with learning and decision making (Brown & Wong, 2016). This suggests that this activation of the brain has lasting effects and can alter the way the participants see the world. The benefits you get from activating gratitude include (but are not limited to!) reduction in stress, increase in empathy, better sleep, enhanced resilience, increase in motivation, and improved relationships.

Gratitude opens up more room for positivity.

The intent is to help steer the focus on what you have instead of what you feel you lack. When you are thinking about the things, people, and experiences you are grateful for, it becomes harder to ponder the negative (Harvard Health Publishing, 2011). While the idea of practicing gratitude sounds simple, it can be challenged by competing priorities, a flux of emotions, and feeling drained. Some days we just don’t feel that grateful. The cool thing about practicing gratitude is this practice can help shift your mindset, helping you feel more positive emotions, which has a ripple effect and supports resiliency. 

“It is impossible to feel depressed and grateful at the same moment” – Naomi Williams

Gratitude can be unique.

There are various ways to express appreciation and incorporate this practice into your own life. 

  • Take a moment to reflect on fond memories
  • Start a daily gratitude journal
  • Thank someone for their kindness; verbally, through a thank you note, call, or text
  • Incorporate saying what you are thankful for at mealtime or bedtime
  • Meditate; focus on what you can hear, smell, see, and touch
  • Pay it forward to someone else (coffee is on me!)
  • Take time to appreciate small moments
  • Make a vision board
  • Create a gratitude jar, fill it when you feel inspired
  • Volunteer or donate to an organization in need
  • Use a gratitude app like Happyfeed
  • Listen to a Podcast focused on Happiness and Gratitude

I am grateful for the start of a new year and the opportunity to connect with our community. Now it’s your turn; what are you grateful for?

Resources:

Brown, J. J., & Wong, J. J. (2016, June 6). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 377. 

Harvard Health Publishing (2011, November). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Written by Janet Mize, LMFT-Associate Supervised by Kirby Sandlin Schroeder, LPC-S, LMFT-S

5 Ways to Find Peace When So Much is Changing

For nearly six months, our world has been swirling in a lingering state of uncertainty and change. Our normal routines were swiftly pulled from under us, and we’ve quickly had to navigate changes in our homes, our work, our income, our social interactions, and on and on.

Many of us are not moving as much these days, working from home and not driving as often.

So, why do we feel so exhausted?

Our Physiological Response

I came across a meme by Chani Nicholas the other day that read, “I’ve never done so little and been so tired.

She continued with this quote from Emily Baron Cadloff:

“Nancy Sin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, says that in stressful situations like this, there are physiological responses in our bodies. ‘Our stress hormones increase. We prepare to fight or flee,’ said Sin. And as this pandemic continues and isolation drags on, ‘we’re having a lot of these physiological adaptations, each time we feel stressed, each time we feel worried. And over time, these repeated hits, physiologically and psychologically, can accumulate.’ That accumulation is called the allostatic load, essentially the damage on our bodies when they’re repeatedly exposed to stress. And while it feels like I’m doing nothing most days, my brain is still dealing with the anxiety and strain of this pandemic. I’m exhausted not because my body is working hard, but because my brain is.”

Uncertainty is Exhausting

While our bodies might not be as physically active at this time and while we might not have as many places to be, we are feeling the stressors of having to quickly adapt to so much change, while simultaneously holding the truth that we don’t know when this is going to end. 

Our brains are frantically searching for certainty so we can feel safe again:

When will work go back to normal?

What will school look like for the kids?

When will I have more freedom?
When will I be able to gather with friends again?

When can I relax at the coffee shop like I used to enjoy?

When will I be able to get on an airplane to visit family without worrying?

When will it all go back to normal and will things ever be the same?

That’s a lot to carry on a daily basis without getting any clear answers.

So…

First, we need to acknowledge the immense amount our brains and bodies are holding and have compassion for ourselves. This is a lot to navigate.

Second, we need to admit that self-care is not only a good idea, but essential at this time.

What might that look like?

Here are five nourishing self-care ideas aimed to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of calm and safety.

Be mindful of the energy in your home environment.

We are all spending a lot more time at home these days. Do you enjoy your home? Is it clean? Is it comforting? Does it feel like your own personal sanctuary (or at least do pockets of it)? I currently see clients from home and have been spending the majority of my day in this house of mine. As a result, I have been mindful of treating it differently. I clean my home more often. I use a diffuser that sprays essential oils into the air. I’ve purchased some new plants to fill my space. I want my home to feel ultra peaceful and comforting. I know this isn’t always possible and can be more challenging if you have young ones at home, but are there small changes you can make to create a more enjoyable home environment?

Intentionally create personal space.

BOUNDARIES are so important right now. Before quarantine, many of us had boundaries naturally carved into our lifestyles. We’d go to work and leave the home. The kids were at school for a large majority of the day, which meant parents had some time for themselves. So many of our normal boundaries have disappeared. This means less personal time to recharge. It is so much easier when our boundaries are automatically set for us. But when you are at home with everyone ALL the time, setting boundaries can be hard. Are you able to say no to your children or partner when you need personal time? Have you found new ways to create space for yourself? This is a group effort and may require creating a new calendar with new agreements. Maybe Mom decides she is not available to the family on Tuesday afternoons. She will be in her room with the door closed because she needs to take a bath or work on her own projects. The kids know that Dad is available for them at this time. Guilt can rear its head here. “Shouldn’t I be available to my kids all the time? Will they think I don’t love them?” This is about understanding that rest and personal space are necessary in order to recharge and be able to show up well for the people around you.

Double up on support.

Be proactive about creating consistent avenues for receiving support. We all need places where we feel like we can lean back and be held. Maybe this looks like meeting on a friend’s porch for coffee and conversation, going for a morning walk in nature, or finding a therapist or therapy group where you can be vulnerable. Aim for weekly support like this (the more the better).

Get in touch with your senses.

Be mindful of bringing activities into your life that feel nurturing and grounding. Anything that helps you get out of your brain and back into your body. More cuddling. Taking a slow evening to cook a homemade meal. Preparing a candlelit bath. Going swimming. Committing to morning stretching. Getting your hands in the soil and gardening. Getting in touch with our senses is beneficial on so many levels. It slows us down, brings us back to the present moment, and regulates our nervous systems.

Connect with something deeper than circumstance.

If we look to the state of the world to determine how safe we feel right now, we’re not really setting ourselves up for success. The chaotic nature of society is not going anywhere anytime soon. This period of time is asking us to find safety in something deeper than circumstance. It is asking us to find safety in our relationships with ourselves and our relationships with others. How can you become more connected to yourself during this time? How can you be kinder to yourself? Maybe this looks like developing a meditation practice or starting to journal again or practicing any of the self-care activities I’ve mentioned here. How can you become more connected with others? Can you be more vulnerable with the people you love? How can you improve the communication in your household and find new ways to work together as a team? Are you able to find joy in the simple things again, like movie night with the family? There is beauty in this opportunity, and a lot of potential for growth as we learn new ways to be there for ourselves and others. 

No doubt, this is an unexpected time that none of us saw coming. So much change inevitably brings fear, grief, anger, stress, and fatigue. 

My hope is that you’ll acknowledge all you’ve had to navigate over these past six months and show yourself more love and compassion. Be proactive about creating the support you need right now. It’s essential, and you deserve it.

Looking for more ways to practice self-care during the pandemic? Check out this blog!

Written by: Jamie Alger, LPC-Intern Supervised By Lora Ferguson, LPC-S

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