What Makes Coaching Different From Therapy and Mentorship

Career Discovery, Career Enrichment
09/11/19 - Gabby Vicas

Everyone has moments in their life where they need to lean on someone for guidance. Whether you are going through a career change, working on your mental health, or figuring out what you want to do in your life, there are several options to consider when seeking guidance. Coaching, Therapy, and Mentorship are three big areas that people turn to when they are seeking direction.

Here at Ama La Vida, we love helping people through coaching. We have clients come to us from all different backgrounds and different goals. In my role here at Ama La Vida, I am answering questions of potential and current clients. A common question that I often hear is how is coaching different than therapy or mentorship? Understandably, these get mixed up frequently, so let’s take a look at the differences between Life Coaching vs. Therapy vs. Mentorship. 

A chart contrasting the key differences between mentorship, coaching and therapy, as laid out in the article below.

Coaching vs. Therapy

Although similar, there are a few major differences between the two. 

Time Orientation – Past vs Future

Therapy tends to focus on the past while coaching has more of a future orientation. Typically, if you are trying to understand and heal from a traumatic event in your past, therapy is a great way to cope with this. Coaching does not usually dive deep into your past and is more of a reflection on your current self. 

Medical Diagnoses

Sometimes therapy leads to a diagnosis of some sort which is something only a clinician is qualified for and can help you through. However, if you are looking to develop a plan to meet goals or new habits, coaching would be a great place to start. Keep in mind that coaching is not regulated, and in order to get the best experience you should consider your options and do thorough research. Almost anyone can call themselves a coach, but you have to make sure that they live up to the standards you are looking for. For example, our coaches are certified through a program that is accredited by the international coach federation. This ensures that they are meeting the highest standards and ensure the outcomes that our clients expect and more. 

Amount of Time to See Results

Therapy can take years to see results while coaching takes less time because it is action-step oriented. Although results might come faster in coaching, it is still a long-term relationship between the coach and coachee as with therapy. It is an ongoing process of creating goals, reaching them, and creating more while having someone there to keep you accountable and talk to when you feel stuck. 

Once you have done your research and it is time to make a decision, take a step back and decide if you need therapy or coaching. Sometimes you might need both. Many of our clients have combined the two and it has proven to be very effective.

Questions to ask:

  • Are there deep or negative emotions I’m experiencing that I need to talk through? – Therapy
  • Is there a future version of me that I want to strive towards? – Coaching
  • Do I feel stuck in my past? – Therapy
  • Am I looking to make a proactive change in my life? -Coaching 
  • Am I looking for a structure to build on and guide me to my goals? – Coaching
  • Do I feel like I’m not myself lately? – Therapy

Coaching vs. Mentorship

Another question we often get asked is what is the difference between coaching and a mentor (or mentorship)? 

Defining Goals 

Both mentorship and coaching help you reach your future goals, and both focus on self-improvement. However, a major differentiation between the two is that coaching takes it one step further and helps you define your goals while mentorship comes into play when you have decided what your goals are. If you aren’t sure what direction you want to go in, coaching may be a great place to begin. 


Mentorship is also less structured than coaching and depending on your learning style that may or may not be a good thing. Most times, a mentor is someone who is your superior, meaning they have been in your shoes before and are willing to show you the ropes. While your coach might share a similar story to what you are going through, that is not always the case.


When you work with a mentor, they are there to give you advice and possibly give you straightforward suggestions. Coaching is not the same in regard to this because it is focused more on guiding you to make your own decisions and conclusions. Put simply, your coach is there to guide you and help you decide what your future goals are, then implement a plan to get there. Your mentor is there to help you reach a specific goal you have already decided you want to reach. 

Questions to ask:

  • Do I know what my future goals are? – Coaching
  • Do I want to talk to someone who has been in my shoes before? – Mentor
  • Do I need structure in order for me to accomplish my goals? – Coaching 
  • Do I want someone who can guide me towards one particular direction? – Mentor

You now know the differences between Life Coaching vs. Therapy vs. MentorshipThey are all useful tools; it is just a matter of where you are in your life and what are the circumstances you are needing guidance on. You might need more than one at the same time, or you might need to focus on just one for your current situation. Be truthful with yourself when deciding which you might need, but when you decide, follow through. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. 

woman doing eCoaching content on laptop sitting on her living room floor

Looking into coaching but don’t know what kind of coaching you need? Set up a consultation with an Ama La Vida team member here!

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