What’s the Difference? Psychotherapy, Counseling, Psychoanalysis, Coaching

Hey, we all need a space where we can sort things out, make new choices and create meaningful change. When you’re looking for support in your life, it can be overwhelming to dig through the different types of services out there. Do you need psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or life coaching? Given the choice, which one would you even want? Here’s a break-down of the differences between support you may see online as you shop around for professionals:


Psychotherapy can be experienced individually or in group. Often the frequency is once per week, although some clients attend more frequently or less. It can be brief (3-6 sessions) or longer term work (6+ months). Many times people will come in to address one particular issue and as they review their life, the focus may shift to something different. The emphasis may be genuine relationships, emotional awareness or distressing thoughts. Others need help with a traumatic event. Psychotherapy can be broad by working to support people with serious mental illness, as well as those who are grappling with the common stressors of life.

The term psychotherapy is also often interchangeable with the term “therapy.” In the United States, the government regulates who can legally advertise themselves as providing psychotherapy. It is a protected term meant for licensed professionals and each state is responsible for that licensing.


Counseling is a term often interchangeable with psychotherapy and therapy. It can be in group format or one-on-one. This type of support tends to focus on a very particular problem and is likely more short-term than psychotherapy. Counseling can also refer to a supportive service provided by people who are not licensed in mental health, such as pastors, grief counselors, or career counselors.


Psychoanalysis is a modern method (with a long-standing history) used to help a person understand the well-established patterns in their life. It explores the ways that a person thinks and feels about themselves, the world and their relationships. People who decide to go into psychoanalysis commit to attending 2-5 sessions per week. This frequency is intended to shift the session focus from the external life (i.e. situations, conversations with others) more toward the internal life of a person (i.e. feelings, beliefs, thoughts we don’t typically share with others). Those professionals who provide psychoanalysis are called psychoanalysts and they have gone through years of specialized training and supervision beyond graduate school to take the deep dive into this form of treatment. Psychoanalytic candidates are those who are currently in that training process and can also provide psychoanalysis.


Coaching often refers to the well-known term “life coaching.” However, there can be a variety of types of coaching, such as “business coaching” or “health coaching.” Coaching is not licensed or regulated by the government. Although there are various training programs to learn skills and get a certification, there is no education requirement to call oneself a life coach. When you think of what coaching does, think of a sports coach. It’s giving directions, assigning tasks and expecting accountability with the intention to work toward very specific goals.


As a Florida licensed clinical psychologist, I provide psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. If exploring either of these interests you, give me a call and we can talk more about it. You might want to check-out my related blog posts: What No One Tells You About Therapy (but should!) and How To Tell If Therapy Is Right For You.




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Karin Lawson

2312 Wilton Drive, Suite 22
Wilton Manors, FL 33305