Coaching and psychotherapy aren’t necessarily at odds with each other. A licensed professional counselor may even recommend some kind of coaching as part of your treatment, depending on your diagnosis and what he or she feels will help you progress.

However, at times, coaching doesn’t help, and that can feel defeating. There are healthy ways to process the realization that coaching did not give you the progress you’d hoped for.

Different kinds of coaching.

The first way to reflect on your experience is to decide what kind of coaching you engaged in and if it was appropriate for your needs. This isn’t always obvious, but it can help to acknowledge if the coaching did not meet your expectations.

Goal-oriented coaching supports a person who wants to achieve something specific. Maybe a client comes to life coaching because he or she wants to lose weight, get a specific degree, or change careers. The coaching they receive will be targeted to the goal they want to accomplish.

If this is the type of coaching you received, and you didn’t set out with a specific goal, that could be why you feel coaching didn’t help.

Mental or emotional wellness coaching guides a client toward a soft goal of sorts. It may be that a client wants to feel like she can think clearly or move through her day with emotional stability. While these are less specific goals, they are still focused on the present. It is important to remember that a true life coach will not diagnose any condition or illness.

Coaches also don’t prescribe medication or delve into a client’s past. They are strictly to help a person in the present get where they want to go in the future.

Why coaching didn’t fit.

If you sought a coach on the advice of a friend or after doing online research, it might just be that the coaching you found wasn’t with the right practitioner, wasn’t the right timing, or wasn’t the right kind of coaching. Beginning with a trial approach is okay to do, but only if your expectations are set accordingly.

Believing that a coach would fix your problems, help you communicate better with your spouse, or suddenly make you feel happy with your life are all broad. They are lofty wishes rather than specific measurable goals that a coach can help you progress toward.

If you’re unhappy, a great place to begin is by seeing a licensed, professional psychotherapist. By meeting with someone who has the license to diagnose and treat mental illnesses, you are working with a practitioner who has all the tools to recognize the underlying causes of your struggle.

Coaching doesn’t support this kind of treatment because it only looks at the present and the future, not at a person’s past, medical history, or other important factors. Coaches are not required to hold specific licenses, they’re not regulated, and they do not all have the same educational background.

Another reason coaching may not have worked for you is that you weren’t ready.

Many psychotherapists can become coaches, but not all coaches are skilled and degreed to be licensed in therapy or trauma-informed psychology. If you sought a coach before you were ready, it could be that a coach will help you in the future. Perhaps you first need a trained counselor to help you sort through your past or uncover the root of your emotional state.

If you realized that your goals weren’t clear, you needed to dive deeper into the past, or your goals unearthed a mental health struggle, coaching wouldn’t work – yet. A licensed counselor can help you recognize when the timing for coaching will be appropriate after you spend time processing previous hurts, grief, or mental illness that needs to be treated.

How to tell a coach it’s not a good fit.

When you hire a coach, it is often for a few sessions or even a preset amount of time. Perhaps you bought a coaching package for six sessions or you decided to pay for three months of weekly coaching.

If you realize in the second week that you’ve made a mistake, it’s okay. Talk to the coach about what you’re realizing and see what kind of policies they have around canceling early. If you plan to pursue treatment with a licensed mental health provider, it’s important to be upfront about that with the coach.

Honesty will get you closer to the pathway you’re ready for, and you can always return to coaching later.

Coaching gets a negative reputation sometimes because it’s a field with little oversight. However many trained, trauma-informed psychologists also offer coaching services to people who have been to therapy and are looking for help making progress on specific goals.

If you are looking for a coach and want to ensure you are in the right place, contact us at San Diego Christian Counseling today. If you think a licensed therapist is what you need, we can help you find one in your area.

“Directions”, Courtesy of Jamie Templeton,, CC0 License; “Working Woman”, Courtesy of Brooke Cagle,, CC0 License; “Weather vane”, Courtesy of Jordan Ladikos,, CC0 License


Articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All opinions expressed by authors and quoted sources are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, publishers or editorial boards of San Diego Christian Counseling. This website does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.
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