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Do I need a Life Coach or Counselor

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therapy or life coach
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Dr. Nick Sotelo shares his knowledge and experience as both a counselor and a life coach so you can choose which may be right for you at this season in your life. 
I had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Nick on his podcast The Upgraded Life and I highly recommend subscribing for high quality mindset content! 
Here’s what Dr. Sotelo has to say on the topic of Counseling vs Life Coaching: 
 Need Help? How to choose between a counselor and a coach. 

There are certainly times in your life when the demands and dreams in front of you prove to be more than you can manage on your own. If you’re like most people you’ll turn to your family and friends for ideas and help. If that doesn’t work, you’ll probably turn to the Google or even social media to get answers and find relief. 
The numbers tell us that half of all problems resolve on their own without intervention and that most people turn to some sort of self-help when they face a problem. 
What about the times when you do all the self-help and have tried all of the advice given to you from well meaning people, yet you still find yourself in the same situation? 
If you need more help you may look for a coach or a counselor. Surely you’ll have people in your network that have been helped by a counselor, you may even know someone who has worked with a life coach. 
From a high level view the work of counselors and coaches can look very similar. 
What does a coach do? 
What does a counselor do?
How do you know when you need a coach or when you need a counselor?
There are some key distinctions between these two types of professionals.
 Some of those differences include: 
  • A counselor should be required to have master’s degree –
    • A coach may not have ANY formal education
  • A counselor is governed professional and ethically by a governmental board 
    • A coach may not be regulated by a governing board
  • A counselor may be able to bill insurance for their services –
    • Coaching services are seldom if ever are reimbursable by insurance
  • A counselor is trained to assess and treat mental health disorders
    • A coach ethically should not be treating people suffering from a diagnosed mental health disorder
A Metaphor – The house you live in
The house you live in needs to serve certain functions in order to keep you safe and comfortable. The roof needs to hold water out, your sinks and faucets need to deliver hot and cold water when the knobs are turned, the furnace needs to blow warm air when turned on. If any of those things stop working you need to fix them as soon as possible, with the least amount of disruption, and at a cost that is reasonable and affordable. Letting repairs like this go will compound the negative impact exponentially the longer they are neglected. 
Consider this same house in top working order. Every works as designed, and in its current status would be regarded as sufficient and not in need of any assessing or fixing, it would pass a home inspection with flying colors. Yet, you the home owner look at it and want more. You want to add a room for a variety of reasons such as guest room, an art studio, a workout room. You want the house to be bigger, better, and to allow you to do things that you currently can’t do with it. 
There’s nothing wrong with house, but its just not for you anymore in its current configuration. 
The Mental Health Counselor – The house in need of critical repair is akin to what a mental health counselor does. There is something in a person’s life that isn’t working well enough to meet the demands they face in their everyday life, and counselor is trained to help you get critical areas of your life back to a level of adequate functioning. 
The Life Coach – The house the owner feels needs an addition represents the work that a life coach does. A coaching client likely isn’t going to meet criteria for a mental health disorder, yet they still have a need for change, growth, and expansion. The work required will still be difficult and at times scary, but its done according to a plan for a desired outcome. 
What you can expect from a Counselor and a Coach
The Mental Health Counselor 
  • Will diagnose you with a mental health disorder as required by the profession
  • Likely will use a formal assessment to determine your symptoms, symptom severity, and determine your diagnosis
  • Develops a treatment plan that is focused on addressing your symptoms
  • Maintains a file that will have details about your diagnosis and treatment progress
    • Is regularly required to provide information to insurance companies and legal courts
  • Safeguards client confidentially as directed by professional ethics and applicable laws
  • Will charge you per session with a fee that reflects the socioeconomic factors in your town or city
  • Limited between session contact – phone calls, text messages, emails are typically limited to matters of scheduling
  • Training and experience can and does vary from one clinician to the next. 
  • Clients experience symptoms that keep them from keeping up with their responsibilities with their  career/job, relationships, or school for examples.
The Life Coach
  • Uses an initial assessment process to determine the type and degree of change the client desires
  • Determines if the client’s needs align well with the coaches experience, skills, and capabilities
  • Provides a contract for services that is based on the client reaching the expressed goals 
  • Maintains client confidentiality according to professional ethics and applicable laws
  • Charges a fee based on clients goals and necessary activity by the coach for the client to be successful 
  • Contacts the client as often as needed to ensure progress is realized
  • May or may not have a certification for coaching
  • Clients are wanting expand their current capacity in order to do more with their lives
In any given area you can certainly find many people operating as coaches or counselors. As you make your choice to work with a coach or a counselor be sure to ask for references. There is a fear that coaches are unregulated and therefore not qualified to help people. Licensed or not, certified or not, what matters most is a coach’s (or counselor’s) proven track record. A great coach will have references and testimonies ready to show you if asked. An outstanding counselor should be able to at least give several professional references as client testimonies in counseling are discouraged ethically. 
Great work speaks for itself, and both the coach and the counselor need to maintain a great professional reputation in order keep within good standing in their respective professions. 
The bottom line – If your struggles have you avoiding your responsibilities and turning to things like drinking and gambling, then you should seek the help of a Mental Health Counselor. If you dread getting up in the morning because the thought of doing your life as is one more day is unbearable, then again you need help from a Mental Health Counselor. 
If you maintain your life in a way that by most accounts things are going well for you, yet you still aren’t satisfied, then getting help from a Coach is likely your best option. If you have a dream for more in your life but are scared and uncertain about how to take the next steps, a reputable coach can help you. A coach is going to push you, and stretch you do things you haven’t done before. A coach is going to hold you accountable to do the work necessary to reach your goals. 
Author: Nick Sotelo, PhD – Life Coach – The Upgraded Life
Dr. Sotelo has been a professional helper for over 20 years. His journey has helper has included earning a BA in Psychology, a MA in Marriage and Family Therapy, and a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. He’s licensed as Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Oregon and provides clinical supervision to clinicians in state government and private practice. 
In 2018 Dr. Sotelo embraced the field of Life Coaching after being deeply impacted by his own personal coaching experience and diving into the work of Brendon Bruchard, Tony Robbins, Richard Brooke, and Dani Johnson. 
Dr. Sotelo is a life coach that helps people stuck in their careers or small business grow and expand beyond their expectations. 
You can see more of Dr. Sotelo and what he has to offer at:
Podcast – The Upgraded Life
Email – nick@nicksotelo.com
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