I’m going to come right out and say it…

Business, health and life coaches are not licensed mental health professionals.

They should not and must not offer mental health solutions.

Yesterday I came across some people that have hired a “life/business/health coach” and it has crossed dangerously into “licensed therapist” territory. Normally I’m a “not my monkey, not my circus” kind of gal when it comes to other people’s coach or coaching business. Not today Satan… not today…

Let me be very clear: No coach should be having you confront your parent about a childhood trauma, making accusations about your spouse based only on your side of a story, or suggesting that you ease up on your mental health meds so that you have more “clarity” on your business. (HELLO?! Recommending you take less medication just so you can focus more on your business?! Talk. About. DANGEROUS.)

So, what can a licensed professional therapist do that a coach CANNOT? Diagnose and treat.

An excerpt from a paper published in the American Psychological Association website states “discerning and treating pathology and relieving symptoms through behavioral, cognitive, or analytic intervention is the domain of the psychotherapist.

The paper goes on to define “the coach’s orientation is perspective, focusing on goals, untapped potential, and critical success factors in a whole person who seeks to maximize his or her fulfillment in life and work.

Yes, I know. Lots and lots of medical-speak because being a licensed therapist IS medical.

Friends, a true coach is your cheerleader, someone that has ‘been there and done that’ before, can offer you alternative points of view and then let YOU choose what path makes the most sense, and can offer positive and productive tools and skills to reach your goals.

When bringing up the topic on Facebook, a lot of smart friends commented, including excellent business coaches like my friend and mentor Marcus. When I was first exploring the education needed to take my self from a “sometimes” coach to a professional coach with a solid framework and guidelines, Marcus is the person I turned to. He is also the one that taught me the lines not to be crossed between therapist and coach. Other friends that commented are licensed therapists and actually noted that they too have frustrations with clients not understanding the difference.

If the practitioners don’t understand the lines and laws not to be crossed (let’s be real here: it is ILLEGAL in the United States to practice medicine without a license,) how are our clients to know the boundaries?

We first learn and then we teach others.

Showing up online and deciding you are now a “coach” is BS. You need more than experience and personal results to coach others. If you are a professional coach, you need to know the boundaries. Otherwise not only are you doing a disservice to your clients and setting yourself up for failure, you are potentially putting them in danger.

One of the comments on that Facebook thread stated: “I thought that the term “Coach” is synonym with Unemployed.”

I’m sure people that have no need for a coach or have only been exposed to charlatans in the past would feel that way. If you are encountering coaches that have not “walked the walk,” might I suggest you also walk the walk… in the opposite direction. My answer on Facebook was fairly brief but I think needs expansion.

I’ve met business coaches who couldn’t pay their bills. I’ve met life coaches whose personal life is a trainwreck. I’ve met health coaches who eat like garbage and don’t exercise.

I also know coaches that make $30,000+ a month, every month because of their experience, abilities, and results they get their clients.

Do your research. Ask questions. Make sure not just personalities, but expected outcomes and the framework a coach practices, match you.

For example, some coaches are very pragmatic and offer calculated paths of work and exploration. Other coaches are very spiritual and offer a framework designed around specific religious teachings. Others incorporate “woo-woo” ideas like energy and meditation into their practice.

If you are looking for pragmatic corporate business guidance and go to a woo-woo life coach, you will both be disappointed.

What it comes down to is that if you need a coach, get a coach, but do not expect a therapist.

If you need a therapist, get a therapist, but do not expect them to be able to coach you.


The catalyst for the conversation started on Facebook but it is important enough to talk about in a deeper manner. Here I can compile thought and comments from friends and professionals as well as additional ideas from me that didn’t quite make it to Facebook. Having a published article allows me to add to the content when needed and send the link to people that may benefit from it.