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

When you’re looking for emotional support in your life, it can be overwhelming to dig through the different types out there. Do you need psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or life coaching? Which one would you even want? Here’s a break-down of the similarities and differences between some support you may see online as you shop around for professionals:


Psychotherapy can be experienced individually (one-on-one) or in group sessions. The typical frequency is once per week, although some clients can definitely attend more frequently or less depending on what is wanted and discussed between you and your therapist. It can be brief (3-6 sessions) or long term work (6+ months).  Many times people will come in to address one particular issue and as they review their life and circumstances, the focus may shift to something different. The emphasis may be to work on relationship patterns, communication skills, emotional coping skills or to discuss a recent distressing event or difficult interactions with a co-worker. Psychotherapy can be broad in that it works to support those with serious mental illness, as well as those people 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.


Many licensed professionals provide counseling and this term is also often interchangeable with psychotherapy and therapy. Counseling 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, career counselors, etc.


Psychoanalysis is a modern method (with a long-standing history) used to help a person understand the well-established patterns. 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 3-5 sessions per week. The frequency is intended to help the patient dive deeper by sustaining an therapeutic intensity, which shifts the focus from the external life (i.e. situations, conversations with others) to the internal life of a person (i.e. feelings, beliefs, thoughts we don’t typically share with others).


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. There’s direction given, tasks assigned and accountability expected with the intention to work toward very specific goals.


As a Florida licensed clinical psychologist, I provide psychotherapy. If exploring psychotherapy interests you, give me a call and we can talk more about it. You might also want to check-out my related blog posts on 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

150 S. Pine Island Road Suite 300
Plantation, FL 33324

7300 Biscayne Blvd Suite 200
Miami, FL 33138