Understand the Differences Between Coaches, Counselors, Therapists, and Pastors
The following are generalized depictions of each role and are not meant to depict all individuals with these titles. Consider this a starting point to help you understand differences in the types of help you can expect.
Life Coach: A life coach is someone who helps you move forward in life. They help you identify obstacles, including unhealthy beliefs that may keep you from making progress towards a goal. Through guided questions, they help you understand your values so you make choices that move you forward.
Counselor: The term counsel technically means advice, but not all counselors advise. Quality counselors are likely to ask directed questions that bring awareness to areas in need of healing and change, much like a coach does. They offer support by providing a safe space to share your story and process hard things. In addition, they will work with you to help you find healing for past hurts, identifying destructive belief patterns, and implementing new ways of thinking and living.
What separates a professional counselor from a life coach is the training that equips them to deal with past hurts interfering with today’s ability to live well.
Therapist: The term therapist typically refers to someone who is licensed and trained to provide a specific type of therapy. An occupational therapist helps people with skillsets for an occupation. A physical therapist helps people recover physically from an injury or illness.
When it comes to counseling for personal, emotional, and mental health issues, it’s common to see therapist terms like LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), and LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist). Professional counselors are often referred to as therapists.
If they are, they usually indicate their areas of specialty on their websites, such as Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Gottman therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, (EMDR), etc.
A quality therapist considers the interplay between mental, physical, and emotional health. They may or may not include spiritual health or Christian faith.
Pastor: Like the term counselor, the label pastor means many things to different people. A common understanding of the term is to shepherd (guide, direct, care for) a church family and preach God’s Word. However, there are many different ways a pastor serves across numerous church structures. For example, a church may have several pastors. One does most of the teaching and preaching. Others fulfill other roles such as marriage ministry, singles ministry, youth ministry, etc.
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