Updated June 23, 2017
How are Psychiatrists, Phsychologists, Psychotherapists, Counselors, and Life/Personal Coaches Different?
Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, certified counselors, and life coaches/personal coaches, all undertake extensive formal training. They differ, however, in the extent and focus of their training.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors with a medical degree as your family physician has. They follow their initial training in medicine with more specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems. Psychiatrists may prescribe medication during treatment. Medical insurance often covers their fees. Unfortunately, long waiting lists may make getting an appointment with a psychiatrist difficult. In most jurisdictions, psychiatrists are both licensed and regulated. In Ontario, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario regulates psychiatry and the psychiatrists who practice it.
Psychologists usually have completed a bachelor’s degree and then continued on to graduate school. They receive extensive training in the study of human development, learning, and behavior. They may specialize in a variety of areas: assessment, diagnosis, and the treatment of mental illness, emotional disorders, and behavioral problems. Often, they may have training in the uses of medication to treat mental illness. However, regulations prohibit them from prescribing medications. Helping people understand the nature of difficulties they may be dealing with, to develop insight and skills to minimize and manage the impact of those problems, and to coordinate with other health service providers, including physicians are primary responsibilities of psychologists who can diagnose mental health problems, e.g., often using resources such as the DSM.
Psychologists receive special training in the development, research, and administration of specialized psychological tests used to assess elements of intelligence or achievement, personality characteristics, mental and emotional disorders, and/or the effects of brain injury. Private funding is an important source of psychologists’ fees, when clients have private coverage. Clients may also pay directly or be covered by private payment, extended medical plans, employee assistance programs, or through government agencies or other special programs.
In Ontario, the College of Psychologists of Ontario, licenses and regulates psychologists and their practices.
Psychotherapists in Ontario are regulated by the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CPRO / OPAO). The College states that:
The regulations developed under the Psychotherapy Act, 2007, and Professional Practice Standards provide the framework for regulating Members of the College. Regulations and standards are enforceable in law. Most professional practice standards are unwritten; they are the standards that are commonly understood and accepted by members of the profession. Ultimately, a Member may be judged by a panel of his/her peers, if a complaint is made against a Member with regard to maintaining professional standards.
In Ontario, psychotherapists are regulated by the Psychotherapy Act, 2007. The term “Psychotherapist” broadly refers to a person authorized by legislation to provide psychotherapy under the regulations of an appropriate college. On what the activity of psychotherapy includes, there is wide opinion. Perhaps that is because psychotherapy takes in the unique experiences of a wide variety of people and their unique experiences. The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines psychotherapy as “the treatment of mental or emotional disorder or of related bodily ills by psychological means."
Most practitioners view psychotherapy as an interactive process. Psychotherapists employ a variety of methods and techniques chosen for their potential to help clients achieve a fuller, more satisfying and rewarding life. Psychotherapy does not rely on, nor can psychotherapists prescribe, medication. Instead, psychotherapists helps clients toward sustained personal growth by helping them improve the areas of their lives that they wish to change.
The practice of psychotherapy involves analysis, artful psychodynamic communication between therapist and client, in private and confidential individual or group sessions. Individual psychotherapist will employ their knowledge and specific collection of skills to help clients with the clients’ specific needs. Psychotherapist should have specific training in each of the approaches they employ in their work with clients.
At present, July 2, 2016, the CRPO / OPAO has not declared their definition of psychotherapy. However, the College does regulate its practice in Ontario. According to the College of
Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario:
In the course of engaging in the practice of psychotherapy, a member is authorized, subject to the terms, conditions, and limitations imposed on his or her certificate of registration, to treat, by means of psychotherapy technique delivered through a therapeutic relationship, an individual’s serious disorder of thought, cognition, mood, emotional regulation, perception or memory that may seriously impair the individual’s judgment, insight, behavior, communication or social functioning. See Psychotherapy Act, 2007, section 4. See also http://www.crpo.ca/home/info-for-applicants/definitions/.
Counseling and Psychotherapy differ in how they address at least five themes. Unlike psychotherapy, counseling:
- Focuses on individuals who possess relatively adequate functioning, as opposed to individuals who experience serious disturbances.
- Attention is on assets and strengths rather than on deficit.
- Emphasis is on interventions that are relatively brief and educational in nature, including prevent rather than an emphasis on long-term relationship-oriented psychotherapy.
- Has a blended focus on understanding individuals in their environments rather than considering only the person or only the environment.
- Addresses problems faced by virtually everyone across the life span: problems of development, decision making, adjustment, and transition.
According to Specialty Guidelines for the Delivery of Services by Clinical Psychologists, the goals of clinical psychology services are to “understand, predict, and alleviate intellectual, emotional, psychological, and behavioral disability and discomfort: (American Psychological Association, 1981, p. 642). Thus clinical psychology focuses on individual’s pathology or disturbance and uses remedial techniques to remove or alleviate dysfunction.
Life Coaching differs from the above. Dean Amory, in his book Life Coaching: Definition and Coaching Models, writes:
Life Coaching or Personal Coaching always starts with the "Here and Now" and looks forward. It focuses on the dreams and aspirations of the coachee - what their goals are, what they want - and then assists them to make things happen.
Personal coaching is not about healing wounds from the past (counseling), nor about transferring knowledge (teaching, instructing), nor about assisting people to find their way and become successful in a new study- or work related environment (tutoring). It is very similar to mentoring, but also different, because it is more structured and formal and aims to determine and achieve specific goals within a set period.
A personal coach will however make interventions across the borders listed above. For instance: besides from focusing on changes in attitude, convictions, performance and behavior in order to achieve future oriented goals, the coach may also focus on such areas as developing personal skills, raising self awareness, stimulating critical thinking, coping with change or enhancing communication.
Personal coaching borrows from models and techniques used for counseling and mentoring that contribute to the quality of the personal coaching process without requiring a psychological, psychiatric, or psychotherapy approach, Life coaching can be an excellent guide to creating the life a cline, like you perhaps, really loves.
Life coaching helps you, “ Take control of your life so others don’t!”™
As with all persons with whom you seek assistance of any kind, you need to employ your “due diligence”. Often, but not always, personal referral by someone you know well, who has used the service you are seeking, is the better source of information and assurance. You should also check the practitioner’s or other services provider's licenses and/or other credentials with their trade or professional organizations which they should list on their Web sites.
 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/psychotherapy. Last viewed August 29, 2016.
 Dean Amory, pseudonym for Edgard (Eddy) Adriaens was, born in 1953 in Aalst, Flanders (Belgium).
He has authored several books about coaching, communication, interpersonal relationships, dating, and other personal skills. His works are carefully crafted compilations of research into the most important aspects of the subjects treated therein.
Do I need a life coach or therapist?
Everyone meets challenges in life. While you may have been able to cope with the challenges you’ve encountered, it’s always a good idea to seek extra support when you need it. A life coach, or therapist -- depending upon your needs -- can help you realize and overcome your negative habits and behavioral patterns so that you can better realize your full potential. People who get a life coaching or therapy help are the ones who are willing to do the work needed to live a more fulfilled life. Wouldn't you like to live the life you love?
How can a life coach help me?
A life coach or therapist -- depending upon your needs -- can help you in a variety of areas. A life coach can help you focus on your career and help you market yourself more effectively. Personally, a life coach can help you improve your relationships with other people and improve your overall well-being. Spiritually, a faith-based life coach can help you to live a life that includes the intangible elements of your beliefs. Through life coaching, you can live a more balanced and fulfilling life.
How can a therapist help me?
Challenges are a part of living. Most of them we meet successfully. Some we don’t. At one time or another everyone meets challenges that are too difficult to handle alone. Then we need help. Everyone has been there at some time in their life. I have, too. We all have met obstacles we could not overcome without extra support or assistance. Therapy is for those who are sufficiently self-aware that they recognize they need a helping hand. Such self-awareness is a commendable quality. If you are such a person, I can give you the support and the tools you need to overcome your difficult situation, to change harmful patterns of behavior, and to meet and come to terms with whatever challenges that confront you. You are not alone!
What happens during a session?
Each session is different and depend on the goals and needs of the client. At first, we’ll discuss what you want to accomplish through working together. Then, together we will lay out a plan on how to achieve your goals. Occasionally, I’ll also give you assignments to help you direct your progress. We’ll work together to discover what obstacles are in your way and figure out how to overcome them. With each session, we’ll revisit your goals and see what steps are needed to reach them.
Each session -- depening upon your specific needs and goals -- focusses on attitude change, convictions, performance and behavior changes to help you achieve your goals. Again, depending upon your specific situation -- sessions involve development of personal skills, self awareness, critical thinking, communication skills, and coping with change.
Life Coaching vs. Therapy
Life Coaching differs from therapy. In Life Coaching the focus is not on overcoming your psychological issues. That process is better left for a trained therapist or counsellor. The purpose of Life Coaching is to help you identify your goals and achieve them. With Life Coaching, very little emphasis is placed on the past. Instead, our focus is on creating the life that you want now and in the future.
Perhaps the best description of Life Coaching was written by Dean Amory in Personal Coaching: Definition and Coaching Models. Dean Amory is indeed the "Dean" of life coaching. He wrote:
"Life Coaching or Personal Coaching always starts with the "Here and Now" and looks forward. It focuses on the dreams and aspirations of the coachee - what their goals are, what they want, - and then assists them to make things happen."
Personal Coaching, then, is not about healing past wounds. That's therapy. Neither is coaching about assisting people to find their way and become successful in a new study or work-related environment. That's tutoring. Coaching is very similar to mentoring, but also different. Life Coaching is more structured than mentoring and is more formal. Life Coaching aims to determine and achieve the client's specific goals within a set period. Life Coaching aims to help you get to where you want to be and live a life you love!
Will our conversations remain confidential?
While the law does not grant the privilege of confidentiality to life coaches, what we discuss will not be shared with others without a court order. Life coaching is a confidential process and must remain so in order for it to be successful.
NEED HELP? Click Here.