The difference between Psychotherapy, Coaching, and Mentoring

Koja je razlika između mentora, kouča i psihoterapeuta?

Not only do people often confuse psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists, once coaches and mentors are added to the mix, it becomes even more confusing.

I wrote about the difference between psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists in this blog post.

Let’s clear up this dilemma, so you know whom to turn to at different times, as everyone has an area they can help you in.

In short:

Psychotherapy is a process that helps us delve deep into childhood, as our subconscious forms in the first 7 years, which we remember the least.

It’s a lengthier process, usually spanning several years (although this depends on the individual) and it helps us understand ourselves better and shed limiting beliefs.

Additionally, it helps us react less intensely, expand the space in which we are calm and resourceful, and elevate the threshold of our “trigger zone”, where the situations that “tick us off” happen.

When we’re at peace with ourselves, very few external influences can disturb us.

Coaching, unlike psychotherapy, is usually much shorter. It takes 5, 10 or 15 sessions to address an issue. This process is focused on the future and practical solutions. There is no looking back at childhood or relationships with our parents, and it doesn’t delve as deep as psychotherapy.

Coaching is a structured conversation aiming to help you:

  • Silence external noise and hear yourself clearly
  • Gain new insights and perspectives so you view things differently
  • Identify your unconscious blockers and limiting beliefs
  • Explore various possibilities and alternatives
  • Define your standards and priorities
  • Craft the path to your desired destination
  • Determine the first steps of your journey

A coach doesn’t need to be familiar with your field of expertise at all. Better yet, it’s a good thing if they’re not, since it helps them avoid sharing their experience and advice with you. A good coach guides you with thoughtful questions to a solution that is yours (and may even be different from theirs).

A mentor, unlike with coaching, is an expert in your field. A mentor is someone who shares knowledge, experience, and expertise in your area with you.

It is someone a few years ahead that can, having experienced what you’re about to, make your journey easier. They can provide advice and help with solving certain problems.

Mentors vary by field — entrepreneurship, public speaking, finances, etc. You can have different mentors for each of these topics.

How do you choose a coach to work with?

  • Understand their approach and expertise (life, entrepreneurship, management, productivity…)
  • Learn about their experience and select the person that aligns with your area/problem.
  • Opt for one who has successfully resolved issues you’re tackling.
  • Engage with their content. If what they say, believe in and live by resonates, they’re someone that can help you 🙂

For instance, if you’re looking for a business coach to help you with entrepreneurial problems, you should look for someone with experience being an entrepreneur. Or, if you work in a corporate setting and want to tackle corporate issues, look for someone with corporate experience — they will understand you better and be able to walk you through this process.

It’s very important that you trust them, feel comfortable talking openly and enjoy working with them. Of course, you have to try out working with someone before seeing how useful it is to you.

Different topics and situations require different coaches. The good thing is that coaching is shorter, so you can try various coaches for different topics and problems, working with different people.

Similarly to choosing a psychotherapist you can:

  • Request an info session (a call or meeting) to understand their process and ask any questions you may have.
  • Seek recommendations and gauge if you like their approach.

I wrote about choosing the right psychotherapist and which “red flags” to pay attention to in another post.

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