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Life Coaching Certification For Therapists: How To Become A Life Coach

August 12, 2023


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Life coaching is a modern career path that some people choose when they want to offer mentorship and support to others. In some cases, therapists who have gone to school for a license in practicing psychotherapy may also want to offer coaching. Before starting on this career journey, it can be important to know what a lifestyle coach does, how to become one, and how to choose the right certification course. In this article, we’ll outline each of these areas and discuss other considerations that you may want to keep in mind.

What Is A Life Coach? 

A life coach is a professional who offers mentoring, advice, tutoring, and support to clients in the realm of wellness and lifestyle. You do not need a degree to be a life coach, distinguishing this career path from a therapist, who must go to school for years and achieve licensure to practice evidence-based therapeutic modalities. 

Life coaches are not therapists, so they cannot offer therapy, mental health advice, diagnosis, or other mental health services if they are not licensed to practice therapy in their state. However, they may offer several types of advice, including but not limited to the following: 

  • Wellness tips 
  • Career guidance
  • Relationship recommendations 
  • Lifestyle mentoring 
  • Non-medical exercise, diet, and sleep tips 
  • Goal brainstorming and outlining 

Can Therapists Become Life Coaches? 

Therapists can become life coaches in some cases. Life coaching is not a field limited to a specific license or type of schooling. However, unless an individual offers coaching as a freelancer, an organization or employer may ask for a certification in life coaching, which can be obtained from online and face-to-face organizations that offer official coaching classes and certification. 

Therapists may choose to offer coaching alongside counseling when they want to broaden their scope of practice or if they have not yet been licensed to practice therapy in their state. New therapists or students who have recently graduated may also benefit from coaching to gain experience supporting clients with lifestyle changes and concerns. 

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Types Of Life Coaches 

There are several types of life coaches. Although all life coaches may offer advice in any of these areas, some choose to specialize in a particular area due to life or career experience. If you’re a licensed therapist, you might also choose to offer coaching in an area of health you have extensively studied or treated in the past. 

  • Relationship Coaching: Relationship coaches offer clients advice in maintaining, building, and finding secure relationships with others, whether platonic, familial, or romantic. They may educate clients on what makes a healthy relationship and help them develop interpersonal skills, such as active listening, coping with breakups, or working through conflict. A relationship coach may offer worksheets and activities couples can try together. However, unlike a relationship therapist, relationship coaches don’t practice specific couples therapy modalities, like emotionally focused therapy (EFT). Instead, they may offer more general and short-term guidance. 
  • Wellness Coaching: Wellness coaches help clients make healthy lifestyle choices in the realms of eating, sleeping, exercising, and self-care. Although they cannot offer medical advice, these professionals can guide clients in basic health. For example, they may help their client form an exercise routine, develop a nutrition plan, set up a list of goals, or brainstorm self-care strategies. 
  • Career Coaching: Career coaches help executives, freelancers, employees, and other career professionals meet their current and future career goals. They may also offer advice in finding a career that fits one’s strengths. However, unlike a licensed career counselor, career coaches do not offer mental health testing, official career testing, or analysis. Instead, they may talk to their client to discover the client’s goals and insights and use those to devise a plan of action. In this case, a career coach is more like a mentor. 

How To Become A Life Coach 

You don’t have to take any particular steps to become a life coach, as this field is not regulated. However, some counselors and professionals start by taking a life coach certification course or coach training program. To find a life coach certification program, perform an online search near you and evaluate the reviews from past clients. Some courses may claim to offer an accredited coach training program to make you a “master-certified life coach.” However, the information they provide may be something you already know or don’t need to begin your career in coaching.

Some organizations, like the Health Coach Institute, International Coach Federation, and Certified Life Coach Institute, may offer dependable courses. However, you may want to talk to previous students to learn more about what you might learn in these courses and whether they may help you find a job after becoming a certified life coach. 

Is It Better To Be A Professional Life Coach Or A Counselor? 

Counselors can offer therapy and life coaching at the same time. Both career paths offer a significant salary, and life coaching doesn’t require a degree or licensure. However, because life coaching is not therapy, life coaches who aren’t licensed therapists must be careful not to offer therapy, mental health advice, medical guidance, or other forms of treatment. 

If you offer both life coaching and counseling services, it may be helpful to have a certification in coaching, too. You might change your rates for coaching to make them more accessible to clients without insurance, as well. Since coaching doesn’t require as much training and procedures as counseling, it may not be valued at the same rate as counseling. 

According to Indeed, in 2023, average life coaches make about $40,000 per year. In contrast, therapists make about $64,000 annually. Therapist salaries can vary, however, as some counselors make less, and people with a doctorate may make significantly more.

Whether counseling or life coaching is right for you can also depend on your preferences and interests. If you prefer supporting individuals with complex mental health challenges, you might benefit more from being a therapist. If you want to offer short-term action-based solutions to clients and act as a mentor as people move through life, you might try life coaching. 

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How To Choose A Certification Course 

There are many courses offering life coach training. Some life coach certification programs may offer “certification.” Still, the certificate may not be valid or useable if you decide to work for a company that doesn’t accept non-accredited institutions. For this reason, it may be valuable to choose an accredited program.

Some life coaching certification programs are accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). These programs may be focused more on executive and career coaching. However, several companies offer life coaching accreditation as well. Look for a program with positive reviews, international accreditation, and actionable results. 

If you know any life coaches personally, ask them how they achieved their certification. You can also ask for recommendations for courses from other therapists. As this career is unregulated, you don’t have to take a certification course to be a life coach. 

Some counselors may offer coaching on the side of their practice, as their knowledge as therapists may already be enough to try coaching. In these cases, coaching might be offered as a more cost-effective plan for clients living abroad or in other states, as counselors cannot treat out-of-state or international clients. 

How Does Coaching Differ From Therapy? 

If you’re considering becoming a coach, looking further into how coaching can differ from offering therapy may be helpful. 

  • Coaching focuses on the present: Instead of providing support based on a client’s past or diagnosis, coaches use their present goals and challenges to formulate an immediate plan alongside them. Clients often come to coaches with a unique goal or idea they want to discuss. Coaches work with that idea and may not bring up other topics unless the client is interested in bringing them into the conversation. Instead of using a treatment plan or modality, coaches use specific mentoring and motivation strategies. 
  • Coaching is focused on lifestyle habits, not necessarily mental health: Although therapists are licensed to offer mental health advice, if you’re offering coaching to a client, the services you offer as a coach are different. Coaches do not discuss diagnoses, mental wellness, or therapeutic modalities. In addition, treatment goals may not be made. Instead, you may focus on the client’s lifestyle, self-care routine, and personal habits. The client leads the conversation, and you can act as a mentor in supporting their goals.
  • Life coaching is not regulated: Because neither the government nor any one entity regulates life coaching, lifestyle coaches can offer any advice or method of coaching and don’t have to follow a treatment plan or modality. 

Although they cannot offer therapy or medical advice as part of coaching services without a license, coaches may converse more openly with clients, share details about their lives, and form a professional friendship. In addition, privacy laws like HIPAA do not apply, as coaches are not medical professionals. However, because these laws do not apply, they cannot accept insurance for coaching. 

Alternative Options For Clients And Therapists

Some clients might consider life coaching when they struggle to afford traditional face-to-face therapy. However, online therapy through platforms like BetterHelp has arisen as another alternative. 

Online therapy tends to be more cost-effective than in-person therapy, with rates comparable to life coaching. Some individuals may prefer to meet with a licensed therapist rather than a coach if the two options are equally priced. Online therapy platforms may also offer additional benefits like journaling prompts, group sessions, and worksheets. Providers on web-based platforms might enjoy the ease with which they can set their schedules and connect with their clients, which may be a valuable alternative to being a coach. 

As therapy is often governed by larger entities like the government, many studies have been conducted on its effectiveness both when delivered in person and online. The findings of this research have shown that online therapy is just as, if not more, effective than face-to-face therapy in measures such as symptom reduction, affordability, ease of access, and quality of life


Life coaching is a unique, relatively new field that requires no licensure to practice. Some therapists might become life coaches to supplement their income, treat more clients worldwide, or offer services at a lower price point. If you’re interested in becoming a life coach, there are a few certification programs to consider. However, you don’t need certification to get started. Though coaching differs greatly from therapy, clients, therapists, and coaches may still find benefits from either.