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The Role of Psychotherapy vs Coaching in Addressing Birth Trauma: Exploring Key Differences

birth trauma

I get asked a lot what are the differences between therapy and coaching, specifically in regards to healing from birth trauma. At first glance, they seem pretty similar. 


But, upon a deeper look, you'll see that while they have similarities, there are also important differences. 


Before I get into what they both are and when they should be applied, let's discuss the definitions. 

Coaching is a relatively new field that is designed to help a person establish and take attainable steps towards completing a goal, whether it be fitness, health, life, spiritually related. While there is currently no regulatory body for coaching, there are certification boards that one can take in order to ensure they are following the rigorous standards of care and ethics for coaches. 


For example, I completed my coaching training through the Integrative Women's Health Institute, a program that is accredited through the National Board of Health and Wellness Practitioners (in conjunction with the American Medical Association). I haven't sat for my boards yet, but plan to in the fall after completing the requirements.  

Therapy (psychotherapy) is a field that many are familiar with. The goal of therapy is to help a person identify and change troubling thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. They are able to assist with mental health diagnoses. A therapist has to complete their bachelor's degree, master's degree, internship, and then the option to sit for the licensing board.  

So, how do you know if you need a coach or a therapist? That depends on your current situation and your goals. 


For example, if you are struggling with intrusive thoughts, you should consult a therapist to help you determine why you're having these thoughts and help you to determine ways to eliminate or lessen them. 


If you are wanting to incorporate a more nutritious diet into your life, but have struggled with motivation and consistency, a coach can help you determine first steps and see you through the entire process until it becomes a sustainable lifestyle change.  

For my work with birth trauma clients, the line is not quite as clear. I have screening questions I ask potential clients to ensure that they are not needing additional mental health support. While I can work with those who are suffering from PTSD, PPD, or PPA, they need to also be seeing a therapist. I can assist them in building up their resiliency through education, reflections, and other exercises, while the therapist can help them overcome the physiological effects of trauma. 


If you're questioning if you need a therapist or a coach, ask yourself, are you looking for help with moving forward or are you needing help unpacking the past/work through mental health illnesses.  


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