|© Copyright 2009-2011, Michael F. Mascolo Ph.D
Michael F. Mascolo, Ph.D.
|Life and Relationship Coaching
Life coaches assist people in developing new skills in some area of their lives. Life coaching is about
developing new skills in psychologically healthy individuals who wish to improve their lives in some way.
Life coaching is different from psychotherapy. It is sometimes difficult to understand the difference, so
perhaps an example might help. Let’s suppose that Mary is a woman who experienced emotional abuse
as a child. As a result, Mary is unable to form stable, healthy relationships. She keeps pushing her
partners away, either by being too domineering or too needy. Mary enters psychotherapy. Many
different things go on in psychotherapy. For example, Mary and her therapist may explore Mary’s
emotional difficulties, including her feelings about herself, her partners and those people who
maltreated her in the past. They may find ways of helping Mary cope with her thoughts and feelings in
an attempt to help her enter into healthy relationships.
Life coaching is different. Life coaching is not about addressing psychological dysfunction or internal
emotional difficulties. Instead, it is about promoting new skills. Someone like Mary probably needs
psychotherapy, not life coaching. However, imagine Beth – Mary’s cousin – who also has difficulties in
her relationship, has not been maltreated in the past, and does not have emotional difficulties. She
wants to improve her relationship skills. This is where a life coach can help. A life coach can help Beth
learn new skills for managing conflict, for understanding other people, for asserting herself in socially
sensitive ways, for dealing with difficult people, and the like.