Nova The #TherapyCat – June 2024 Edition

Nova is back at it after a bit of the break this spring. She is experiencing a bit of increased naughtiness with her aggression. Her owners think it is trauma and growing up related, but Nova has remained silent on the issue. She says that she is working on her issues in therapy. Maybe she will share her insights here. Nevertheless, Nova’s parents are lovingly teaching her and supporting her in all of her efforts to be an emotionally healthy cat. Welcome to Nova The #TherapyCat – June 2024 Edition. Here are some of her latest reflections.

Reader, it might be a bit hard to tell from this picture, but my cat parents took this picture of me balancing on top of the second-floor banister. I love the view from up here. I honestly think it is kind of intimidating to the humans around here because they can’t balance like me. You gotta face your fears sometimes – BE BRAVE – and get above things for a whole new perspective.

Pretty cute, right? I took this photo a little bit after getting in trouble for attacking my cat mom’s feet. Smiling can go a long way to reconnect when there has been a disconnection. I am trying to say all the “I’m Sorrys” I can with my eyes. Do you think it is working? I do recommend that if you hurt someone you love, take ownership of your mistakes. Don’t just try and act silly like me in hopes that will be what fixes it.

I’m hiding. I have learned that we often hide when we feel ashamed. I do feel bad when I upset my cat parents. I am working on taking ownership of my misplaced aggression. I am also trying to be vulnerable with my feelings rather than hiding behind my ankle attacks.

I do get sad sometimes. I know that you probably remember that I lost my mother when I was very young. This was an early attachment injury. But I also experienced a traumatic attack from a dog in my first home. This trauma has complicated my recovery. I sometimes get a bit aggressive because I think I need to protect myself even though, in my new home, I know I am safe. My cat dad is actually an expert in attachment. If you want his human help you can find out more on his website here.

Sitting and thinking under the lamplight on top of the piano is a perfect space. It feels safe for me here, and when I am safe, I can think clearly. Meditation and reflection are great mindfulness activities that help us process all the emotions of the day.

Suicide Crisis – An Update

Since the early 1990’s suicide rates in the US have steadily increased. This increase has created a suicide crisis. Rates in 2022 were 3% higher than in 2021, and 2023 data looks to add to that increase. This is a crisis that receives little attention. As a mental health provider, I want to inform my networks about the issues around suicide in the hopes that we, as a larger community, can prevent needless deaths. Below is a graph of the suicide rate per 100,000 population from 2001 – 2021.

Suicide rate per 100,000 population in the US

This highest year was 2018 with a rate of 14.79 per 100,000 population. There was a small decline in 2019 and 2020 during the pandemic. But rates rose again in 2022, and 2023 seem to be on par with 2021, quite possibly trending higher. Currently, unofficial data for 2022 shows a 2.79% increase over 2021, making it the highest year yet (possibly 14.93 per 1000,000 population). 2023 data is incomplete and hard to predict since some months have not been reported.

A first question many ask, is what might be contributing to increase rates of suicide. A Colorado University study has analyzed that data and found two recent developments that are likely contributing to the suicide increase.

  1. Increased access to powerful opioids has contributed to a rise of suicide among women.
  2. The decrease in the federal safety net has led to increased financial stress for all adults.

Easy access to a particular lethal method can make suicide much easier to accomplish. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Talking to Strangers illustrated how suicide rates plummetted in the United Kingdom in the 1960s as the country switched from “town gas” to natural gas. Town Gas had a much higher concentration of carbon monoxide and lethal limits were reached much more quickly than natural gas. This information has bearing on our conversations about guns, and now the opioid crisis. Easy access to lethal methods is a danger. It is important to consider the methods available to those suffering from suicidal ideation. As a therapist, I often ask about weapons in the home, and now medications in the home. And as a larger community, we need to be talking about gun restrictions because these regulations will save lives by limiting access.

We know that men are more often more likely to kill themselves with an attempt because they often choose more violent methods such as guns or hanging. Suicide attempts by women are on the rise, and especially by younger generations. Though women choose less violent methods, the very powerful effects of medication can have deadly results, thus raising their overall rate of actual suicides. Opioids were involved in more than 80,000 overdose deaths in 2021, which was 10 times the number of opioid overdose deaths in 1999. Our communal value of human life should lead us to support all efforts to eradicate the flow of deadly opioids into our communities.

Stress, and specifically economic stress, can be a major contributor to suicide. Currently, the high rates of inflation are impacting many lower-income families in a disproportionately negative way. When we look at state-by-state rates of suicide, the highest rates seem to occur in rural farming communities. The economic uncertainties of an agricultural world, access to means (usually guns), and social isolation are all contributors to higher rates. Not only can we be only the look out for our “neighbor” and their economic stresses, but we can advocate or vote for policies that lead to safety net supports being implemented to reduce economic losses for the most vulnerable in our communities.

There is HOPE, because we can all play a part in the prevention of suicide. Relationships are the key to suicide prevention. Let me give you a few ideas for what you can do.

  1. Show you care about others. Check in on your neighbors if you have not seen them for some time. Inquire about the grief’s and even economic challenges you know family and friends might be experiencing. Ask them how they are doing and be a bit persistent if they just blow off the question with a dismissive, “Fine.” Take care of those closest to you first.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Have your thought about dying, killing yourself?”, “Are you wishing you were not here or were not alive right now?”
    You might be a bit afraid to ask, but research is really clear that our best prevention is to ask this questions. If your gut tells you that you need to ask the question, then don’t be afraid. It often opens a dialogue and can help facilitate a plan to save a life.
  3. Develop a safety plan. Don’t leave anyone that is actively suicidal alone. Suicidal ideation does not necessarily mean there needs to be a rush to a psychiatric hospital or the ER. Call the National Suicide Hotline, which is available 24:7 with professionals who can help with a plan. You can contact the National Suicide Hotline by calling or texting 988. It is that simple. Maybe they have a therapist they can contact who can help them develop a safety plan. Telehealth has made mental health far more accessible.
  4. The QPR Institute has developed a well-researched intervention method for helping prevent suicide. It is a three-step model: Question—Persuade—Refer. Just like CPR can save a life, this model can prevent suicide. They offer numerous training opportunities to learn the model, including online and in-person training. If you are a decision-maker for your company or church, why don’t you pursue bringing a trainer into your organization to teach these prevention tools to everyone?
988 - Suicide Hotline - Call or Text

Nova the #TherapyCat

Nova has been a popular addition to the blogs. Her first offering was so well received that over 95% said they wanted her to write a regular contribution. So, after a restful holiday season, Nova has told me she has some new insights to share. She even said she was willing to talk about a bit of her trauma history.

Holidays are a time for giving and receiving gifts. But sometimes the best gifts are in the unexpected surprises of any celebration. Jumping in and out of a gift bag brings joy and surprise to everyone. Nova wants to encourage everyone to try and find joy in the unexpected.

After all the holiday celebrations, when all the decorations are put away and the house is cleaned, rest is important. Nova wants to remind everyone that scheduling in a good period of rest is healthy.

Nova became an orphan early in her life. She was born at a car dealership sales lot, and her mom was hit by a car only a few weeks into her life. She was quickly whisked away into an adoptive home. Nova still has periods of sadness when she thinks about her loss. But she wants to remind everyone that waves of grief are a normal part of coping with loss.

Hiding might be either good or bad. If we hide to bring surprise, that joy might be good. Of course, our impulsive leaps might scare someone and prompt an unexpected yell. This might cause the second type of hiding: covering up from shame. But if we hide out of shame, we must work on our vulnerability. Nova likes the work of Brene Brown, who suggests one of our tools for healing our shame is reaching out, “Are you owning and sharing your story? We cannot experience empathy if we are not connecting.”

Nova asks, “Do you have a safe place?” Where do you go to process your experiences and feelings? Do you have a space, like a comfy bed, or do you go to a place in your mind? Nova recommends having a safe space. Nova’s is a comfy bed by the window, which is especially nice when the warm sun moves across it in the morning.

Have a happy February!

Nova the #TherapyCat

Nova, the #TherapyCat 

Nova is the current pet resident (therapist) in our home. We have had many pets in our home through the years, but none have been more interested in the therapeutic happenings of our home than Nova. For many of you who have been in therapy sessions with Dr. DeYoung, you have sometimes witnessed her joining me for our sessions. Please know you have no worries about her breaking any confidence, and she is entirely HIPAA compliant. She has received all the necessary training and certifications to ensure the trustworthy handling of your stories. 

Nova is relatively young. As of this writing, she is only 18 months old, but she is a fast learner and has developed quite a few therapeutic insights that might be a bit wiser than her years. She asked if she could offer some occasional tidbits of wisdom about mental health on this blog, and I agreed to give her a shot. She is on a bit of a “short leash” (cats don’t like leashes), so if this first effort goes well, we might let her come back with a few more things to say.

So here she is, Nova, the #TherapyCat.


​Here is Nova observing her world from a perch high above. Nova says you sometimes need to rise above the chaos to see things more clearly. She also recommends waiting patiently in this new space before reacting. We all need time outs. 


Nova is a firm believer in getting her rest. There is nothing wrong with finding the most comfortable spot while you recharge. ​


Nova is a trauma survivor. She is not quite ready to share the details of her early life traumas; she has learned something about threats. Sometimes, when assessing a threat, it is essential to change your perspective, seek a new vantage point, and recognize from your new viewpoint that the danger is not so threatening. ​


Though Nova is an indoor cat only, she highly recommends the outdoors and getting exercise for your mental well-being. She soaks up the rays from the outdoors every chance she gets.  Nova says being in the sun and getting some Vitamin D is good for your emotional well-being.


Lastly, Nova recalls the work of the renowned psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. She says play increases her experience of Flow. She encourages us to play more because it is good for our bodies and minds. 

Therapy in Bare Feet

We have developed a significant comfort level with telehealth options for our medical and mental health care. My private practice has shifted from providing in-home therapy to meeting with clients solely via encrypted and secure video. Following the pandemic, I found this method highly effective, convenient, safe, and practical for couples and families. 

Doing so much by video has changed many things. And one of those things is what we wear while conducting business by video. Since we only see each other from the chest up, this has lent itself to greater freedom in clothing options from the waist down. This may have created some rather embarrassing moments for some, but I can guarantee that I have consistently maintained a must-be-wearing “jeans” policy for all therapy sessions. But I do have a confession. I am barefoot for nearly 100% of therapy sessions. I even have a small heater for my feet in winter because cold toes can significantly distract me. 

Walking barefoot has many benefits. So many nerve endings in the bottom of the foot are stimulated when freed from shoes. Before you read any further, go outside and stand in the grass while you finish this blog. Imagine walking on the beach, splashing in the water, and enjoying the sand between your toes. When I walk outside to get the mail, my feet on the grass or pavement causes feelings to move up my entire body. If you are in the grass, notice that now. Those nerve endings activate and cause all manner of emotions. New sensations move from the bottom of our feet through our entire body. Feeling new phenomena in the grass, sand, or concrete often brings unique, heightened awareness. We might be more careful with our steps or slow down and experience the sensations deeply. The effect of the new feelings and heightened awareness is that we are more effectively attuned to our environment.

Another benefit to walking barefoot is loosening constraints. Taking your shoes off after a long day can feel so freeing. There is a bit of tension relief. Having your feet free can even be soothing. There is freedom in being barefoot. Now, I am confident the ladies understand this more than we guys do. You ladies have shoes that press and contort your feet in all manner of uncomfortable ways. We do many things for style and having the right image. We often want to “put the best foot forward” (sorry, I couldn’t help it). But all this foot dressing is also limiting. Something we need freedom from. Being barefoot frees us from the superficial coverings that bind and create discomfort.   

I never set out to do therapy in bare feet intentionally. The context of using a home office has made the choice a natural one. And the experience of doing therapy in bare feet has helped connect me with some important values for treatment. 

Heightened awareness of self and our other relationships is necessary for change in therapy. We have to learn to slow down and listen more. We tune into our feelings and reactions to understand their source better. Just as walking barefoot helps us feel new feelings and possibly feel them more deeply, participating in therapy can do the same. Feeling deep and connecting with our inside selves is a part of the therapeutic process. We call this process insight or gaining self-awareness. It requires us to observe, reflect, and draw inferences about our experiences, feelings, and emotions. When working with a couple, individual, or family, I find success in peeling past immediate problem-solving solutions and helping make insightful connections to our inner experiences and feelings. This process is not always comfortable, and it can even be painful. It is like stepping on an unexpected sharp stone when walking through the yard (or a Lego in a dark house). But it is often in these new spaces of awareness we can see, understand, and experience our problems in a way that can facilitate change. 

Just like removing our shoes loosens constraints, we must do similar things in therapy. We must push our boundaries, nudge outside our comfort zones, and challenge our conventional thinking. When we experience problems in life, they are often supported by assumptions, beliefs, and values that can bind us. We may feel compelled to live behind a mask or project a particular identity.  Change is at the center of therapy. Change means many things, including seeing, thinking, feeling, and behaving differently. To experience change, we have to get unstuck; successful therapy helps us to do that. Hopefully, working together in therapy creates a type of freedom. In this space, we can test, challenge, and change those constraints in our lives that have us trapped or stuck.

Therapy in bare feet is a good idea. I encourage you to do the same. Take your shoes off and walk in the grass. Feel new things. Feel them more deeply. Find the freedom to explore new feelings, test your assumptions, and challenge yourself to growth and change. Show your therapist your bare feet on the screen or take your shoes off in their office. Tell them you want to do therapy in your bare feet. I don’t think they will mind.

Mental Health and Gun Violence

In May 2023, there was another horrific act of evil in Allen, TX, when a gunman opened fire in a crowded mall parking lot. This was nearly one year after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. In Allen, eight were killed, including three young children; in Uvalde, 19 children, and two teachers were killed. Two evil men committed these acts of violence. The result has been too many destroyed lives.

Following these events, Texas Governor Abbott spoke to the communities involved and said similar things in both cases. Here are his words:
In Uvalde, Governor Abbott said the shooter had “a mental health challenge.” “Anybody who shoots somebody else has a mental health challenge…We as a state, we as a society, need to do a better job with mental health.”
In Frisco, he echoed a similar refrain. “What Texas is doing in a big-time way, we are working to address that anger and violence but going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it…People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”

The governor has it entirely backward. His words conflate evil with mental illness. This sends all the wrong messages. Mental illness is not evil. Mental illness is not the primary cause of violence. Numerous complex systemic factors contribute to violent acts, and to singularly blame mental illness and blindly ignore all the other potential contributors to violence is dismissive, neglectful, and irresponsible.

This makes the governor’s response backward because I believe the rise in gun violence contributes to a surge in mental health challenges. It is not the other way around. This is because mental illness has been with us since the dawn of time. It ebbs and flows with the impacts of life stresses and traumas. We know that mass events like famines, pandemics, wars, and other tragedies can have far-reaching implications for the mental health of nations. In other words, our mental health suffers as external stresses pile up. And these impacts can last for years. Gun violence is no exception, and it is one of those stresses. 

With the advent of the Information Age in the later 1900s, we have increasingly faster access to information. We have gone from the 24-hour news cycle of newspapers to instant news at any second we want to access. This has led to living in a culture of fear. With a world of information in our hands, we have no time to process or digest all the information that floods our minds. As a result, our mental health suffers.

And with the threat of constant gun violence in our faces, our fear escalates. We avoid public spaces, including what should be one of our safest public spaces–church. So isolation increases along with our fear. And to think our children have remained unaffected is naive. Our children are intensely aware of the dangers in their world and schools. As I wrote in the May 2023 blog, “Teenage Mental Health Crisis,” regular lockdown drills in our schools are practiced trauma.
We should make mental health resources available and eliminate stigma from seeking mental health support. We need to increase mental health support to help us cope with the threats of violence in our neighborhoods. But, more importantly, we need to restore a sense of order and peace in our communities.

Here are a few suggestions for accomplishing some of those goals.

  1. Set limits on the amount of information you consume. None of us needs a constant feed of news from our phones or televisions. We also need to limit how much we scroll on social media. We know that higher levels of information input only increase our anxiety and distract us from what is most important right in front of us — our family, friends, and neighbors, which leads me to my second suggestion.
  2. Focus on those closest to you. Spend conversation and face-to-face contact with your immediate family and friends. Notice their needs and work to meet those needs. Provide service and support. None of us can solve the world’s big problems, but we can do something about the people right before us. Love those close to you.
  3. Please do what you can to stop supporting our violent subculture. Examine your life and world. Do you do things or say things that explicitly or implicitly support violence? Do you use violent language when you talk about topics? When talking about political adversaries or those you disagree with, you use fighting-oriented language, like “going to battle” or “we are at war.” Do you need to advertise guns on your bumper stickers, flags, or living room wall if you own guns? Do you play violent video games? Maybe we could all curb our connections to these words, images, or activities. 
  4. We need to stop responding to gun violence as if it is a zero-sum game. If we keep responding like the goal is to beat the “bad guys,” then disagreement, conflict, and violence will only increase. Our goal should be to find ways to create safer, more peaceful communities for all of us, including the “bad guys.” If we do that, they may not be bad guys anymore. The focus is then on helping the community flourish and feel safe. Church leaders have many opportunities to implement programs, messages, and collaboration in this area, leading to my last point.
  5. We must make more significant strides in unifying with those different from us. Sadly, we often won’t share a meal or resources with the church down the street, let alone another community of faith. All faith communities can rally together around a message of peace and cooperation. We need to passionately pursue cooperative efforts with every faith community to find solutions for reducing violence in our streets and neighborhoods. 

Teen Mental Health Crisis

May is mental health awareness month. And to contribute to our collective awareness of mental health, I want to discuss a current crisis. I honestly don’t use those words flippantly. The mental health of our preadolescent and teenage students in our country is in severe decline. I want to share with you some statistics that show this drastic decline and challenge us to rise as a community to support our most fragile groups.

In February 2023, the CDC released a shocking report about teenage suicide in America. Suicide rates reached an all-time high in 2018, and though there was a slight decline in the next couple of years, in 2021, rates jumped again to reach an all-time high. Of particular concern is the level of hopelessness among our younger generations. Just a few statistics from that report:

  • 60% of teenage girls reported feeling persistently hopeless in 2021
  • 1 in 3 teen girls had seriously considered suicide
  • 1 in 5 teen girls had experienced sexual violence in the past year.
  • 14% reported being forced to have sex. Please stop and ponder that number. Over 1 in 10 girls reported being sexually assaulted. Remember, the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. Also, boys are the perpetrators of these assaults. What is going on with our young men that this seems to be more of normal behavior and expectation for them?
  • In a global survey of over 400,000 teens, only 22% reported being close to their family. ​


When we see statistics like that, many want to jump to conclusions about the cause. Please don’t be too quick to blame COVID or social media. Most experts in this area say COVID was a stressor that split open cracks already well formed in our society. However, some fair blame can be directed toward smartphones, screens, and social media.

Jonothan Haidt, a psychologist, has begun publishing data that strongly implicates social media with the rise of anxiety and depression in teenagers, specifically teen girls. His work is extensive, and I would point you to this website for a deeper review. But, the most significant conclusion from his work is a definitive turn in mental health among our teenagers with the introduction of the front-facing camera on smartphones (we can now take endless selfies) and the rise of Instagram. These both happened around 2012. The data is obvious, and though Dr. Haidt has faced pushback on his data analysis (this is part of science), the skeptics need more stable ground in their arguments.

So, we can put some blame on screens and social media. But from my perspective as a therapist, we continue to mishandle this problem. Our first mistake has been that we adults have drowned ourselves in social media as adults. We could have been better examples. Our kids witness us scrolling, posting, and commenting as frequently or even more than they are engaged with their social media apps. Children learn from watching their parents. No child development expert would disagree with that statement. And we need to be honest. We have been bad examples. We should work on setting better boundaries with our use of social media. I would love for such a cultural movement to abandon social media so dramatically that the billions these companies are raking in from selling us as a product dries up. It is a bit of a pipe dream, but I can dream, can’t I?

Secondly, as parents, we have attempted to manage the phone, screen time, and social media through a punishment/reward system. My bias is that punishments/rewards as a primary form of parenting are ineffective. They can have short-term value, but there are far more effective ways to parent. We need to stop taking phones or relying on router parental controls as the sole means to manage our child’s screen time. Instead, we need to be having conversations about screen time. It starts with a relationship. Why does your kid like TikTok? What videos do they enjoy on social media? Do you watch them together? Do you have a relationship with your child outside of TV and other screens? Do you go on walks or eat meals without screens? Do you play games (not video games) together? If you want to read a classic about this kind of relational parenting, read Dr. Haim Ginott’s Between Parent and Child.

Let me suggest a bit more controversial source of this mental health crisis. GUNS. School shootings have significantly increased.* In the 1970s, there were approximately 60s deaths nationwide from school-related shooting incidents. We are currently on track to have over 400 school-related shooting deaths this decade. These numbers have only increased since the 1970s. Lockdown drills are common practice for all ages in public schools. Young elementary children know that lockdown drills are designed to keep them safe from an active shooter on their campus. Many express significant fears and anxiety, knowing this is a constant reality.

My wife is a public school teacher. If I had the time and space to explain the procedures, rules, and expectations they must keep in mind for these lockdown drills, it would overwhelm all of us. Teachers are evaluated in their handling of lockdown drills. During drills, people go around wiggling locked doors. Children hear what it will sound like if a gunman is walking the halls. This is practiced stress and trauma. Now look, we used to have fire drills in school. The fire alarm would go off, and we would celebrate a break from our work while we walked outside. But during those drills, we were not walking through simulated smoke, seeing fire trucks, or feeling the heat of an actual fire. But in gunman lockdown drills, children are pressed to “remain silent” so they are not heard, and then in the silence, a door is wiggled, attempted to open. For all children, this is stressful, but for a sensitive child, this repeated lived-out terror.

As I write this blog, I feel inclined to write a much longer blog about guns and mental health. That will come in July 2023. But let me say for this post that our cultural obsession with firearms harms us. The late game theorist Anatol Rapoport illustrated that conflict will always escalate in games where there must be a winner and loser (we call them zero-sum games). We are witnessing this before our very eyes. Exercising your right of gun ownership to keep an arsenal of weapons in your home only contributes to the cultural escalation of violence. Weaponry reduction and inviting whole communities into conversations for creating safe and peaceful spaces in our cities is the right direction.

Our children witness this escalation. They genuinely fear that their school is next. I fear that the school down the street is next. This is not a far-off problem we can dismiss as “their problem.” Our children see it, and their mental health is suffering.

So what do we need to do?

  1. We need to stop doubling down on solutions of the past. Stop saying this worked for me in my family or growing up. The world has fundamentally changed. It is time for new and creative solutions, even if they make us uncomfortable.
  2. Stop pointing fingers of blame. Instead, engage in dialogue with those in your community. Talk to people who look different from you, are in another generation than you, vote differently, and go to another church of faith. We are better united than divided.
  3. Connect with a young person. Love them. Please support them. Encourage them. Listen to them. Don’t worry about correcting or fixing it.
  4. If you want a Christian faith view of mental health. Check out this YouTube channel from The Hills Church. Pastor Rick Atchley is doing a multi-week series on mental health. It started a few weeks back, but all the messages are titled “Let’s Talk about Mental Health.”
  5. I did a podcast for The Hills Children and Youth Next Gen program on Mind Body connection and mental health. You can find that on this link.

Data from
*Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security, https://www.chds.us/sssc/charts-graphs/

Therapy vs. Coaching

​Professional Life Coaching is considered one of the fastest growing industries in North America. According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF) there are more than 26,000 professional coaches in North America. Revenue in the coaching industry during 2022 was approximately 1.5 billion dollars and is expected to grow to be 2.1 billion in 2030. According to Zip Recruiter the average salary for a Life Coach is $62,000 per year. The top 2% of Life coaches can make between 180K-240K per year. At current growth rates published by the ICF there are likely to be an additional 12,000 professional coaches in the next 10 years. 

In comparison there are approximately 110,000 licensed Master’s level therapist’s in the United States. Revenue in the mental health market for 2022 was 76 billion in 2021 and is expected to exceed 100 billion in 2029. The average licensed mental health counselor/therapist makes $72,000 a year. The top 2% of licensed therapist can make 135K or more.  In the next ten years there are expected to be 13,000 more licensed mental health counselor jobs added to the job market. 

Though the share of the market is much larger for mental health providers, at the individual provider level there is little difference. A Life Coach and a Therapist can make a similar income. But is the service they are providing the community the same? As a licensed professional I have grown concerned with a number of clients who have sought service with a professional life coach and as a result of a bad experience were shocked to learn of the vast differences between the two types of provider. 

I do believe that Life Coaching serves a place in our communities. As a service to individuals it can provide tools and supports that are extremely beneficial. But the consumer of Life Coaching services needs to be aware of what they are purchasing. Information is power to help the consumer make the best choices. 

Let’s look at some Key differences between Life Coaches and Therapist/Counselors. 

Education
There are significant education differences between Life Coaches and Therapists. To be a licensed Therapist/Counselor in any state in the United States you must have the minimum of a Master’s Degree from an accredited University. According to the ICF there are no minimum education requirements to be a Life Coach. It appears that an individual can work towards and complete a Life Coach credentialing process with a high school diploma or GED. 

This means a Therapist/Counselor has completed at least 6 years of college work — their four year undergraduate degree and a two years Master’s degree program. This means that therapist/counselors have far exceeded the education of many Life Coaches before ever beginning a certification/license process. Most coaching programs are approximately 60 hours of online course work as a one time class. A typical 3 hour college class meets 48 hours not counting all the outside reading and assignments. So one college class exceeds the one course for coaching certification. 

The type of education is also critical. Life coaches do not necessarily have a background in mental health. They may have a degree in finance, or interior design, but may be offering coaching for parenting or mental health issues. 

Many life coaches may have advanced degrees, but it would benefit the consumer to inquire about the actual training and education a life coach has received. 

Training/Certification
Most counselor training programs in graduate school have rigorous training components. They will require several hundred hours of client therapy services (mine required 500) as necessary for graduation. Graduate counseling students are also required to meet with a clinical supervisor and review their work with clients. This usually is dozens of hours during the two years of course work. My graduate program required 100 hours of meetings with supervisors. Once graduated a therapist cannot practice independently. They must also complete hundreds more hours of therapy (my license required 2000 hours) and dozens more hours of supervised evaluation of their work (mine required 200 hours) before being fully licensed. 

As a comparison, the most basic coaching certification requires only 100 hours of coaching experience and 10 hours meeting with a supervisor.  For the ICF to give you their highest certification you must have 200 hours of coaching education, 2500 hours of coaching experience and meet with a mentor coach for 10 hours. 

There are significant differences here, specifically in the level of supervision of a providers early work. Life coaches only need to meet with a mentor for 10 hours (per ICF website). But therapist/counselors must meet with a supervisor for over 300 hours prior to being licensed. The experiences gained from a relationship with a trusted supervisor are invaluable and the licensure process for counselors is set up to honor that important relationship.

Regulation
All mental health providers are licensed in their state of residence. This includes Psychologists, LPC, LMFT, and LMSW. In Texas, these licenses are regulated by the Behavioral Health Executive Council (BHEC) and that council functions under the state laws of Texas. All mental health providers must meet rigorous licensure requirements and ongoing continuing education as mandated by law. The public is able to file complaints with the BHEC. The BHEC has the right by law to sanction and punish licensed practitioners in Texas. Texas (and any other state) has a strict codes of ethics that guide a counselors practice and if a therapist/counselor breaks that code they can be disciplined, including losing their license to practice. This level of ethics and regulation helps keep therapist/counselors accountable to the community that they serve. 

Life coaches are not regulated by state law. The public has no recourse if a coach behaves inappropriately or unethically. There is no state board to file a complaint. The ICF does have a code of ethics for coaches, but the code is not enforceable. There is no ICF board to file a complaint against a member coach. This means there is no accountability for the coach to anyone other than to themselves. As a therapist this is my biggest concern for the community regarding Life Coaching – there is no accountability to protect the consumer and public trust. 

For the consumer seeking support services or mental health services, it is important to understand what they are getting. Most therapists are prepared to answer questions about their education, training, and licensure. It is important to ask questions of both life coaches or therapists. Certifications can seem very significant, but don’t be shy to ask a therapist or coach to explain what went into achieving a certain designation.  Therapy and Life Coaching both have important purposes and the more informed you are as a consumer, the better choices you can make regarding what services you plan to utilize.