Life Coaches Vs. Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists and life coaches have vastly different areas of expertise.
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Psychiatry is a highly specialized branch of the medical profession that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness. A reputable life coach possesses a certification and can assist clients with anything from organizational skills to weight loss to finding their passions. Both professions are in the business of helping others.

Education of a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are medical doctors. After obtaining their undergrad degrees and passing the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, they must attend medical school, which is typically four years, to attain a Doctor of Medicine, or M.D., degree. They then must complete a four-year residency, with a focus on psychiatry for at least three of those years. From there, they can choose a specialty, like child or addiction psychiatry -- and spend the next one to two years honing their skills as fellows. Once they take and pass the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology exam, they can begin servicing those in need.

Life Coach Training

Life coaches can take a weekend course online -- and hang out their shingles on Monday. But a life coach with a dedication to those in need of direction can participate in a longer certification process that emphasizes ethical conduct and provides clear-cut standards and measures. Some would-be coaches also train as facilitators to work with larger groups rather than just one-on-one.

Psychiatrists at Work

Mental illness can include sudden-onset panic attacks, long-term feelings of hopelessness, depression and/or anxiety, as well as other disorders. Psychiatry focuses on the brain disorders that affect behavior, thought, mood, and cognition. Because a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, she can integrate biological, psychological, and social factors to make a diagnosis -- and then prescribe medication and psychotherapeutic treatments, or talk therapy, to help patients lead productive and happy lives.

Duties of a Life Coach

Life coaches with no clearly defined specialties might find themselves listening to every little seemingly significant or decidedly insignificant piece of trivia that a client wishes to divulge -- and then tries to help a client get her life on track in an appropriate direction. A skilled life coach, who has carved out a niche in anything from goal setting to career planning, focuses on a client's skills, abilities and desires to help him develop a clear-cut course to achieve his goals.


Psychiatrists can have their own practices, go into practice with other psychiatrists, work in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, general and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, or for local governments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for psychiatrists in May 2011 was $174,170. As of 2013, life coaches aren’t included in BLS data as this is a relatively new field. A successful life coach is typically also an entrepreneur who can market his skills to acquire clients and build his business. According to an August 2006 article, the key to six-figure success in life coaching is finding a specialty and being proactive in developing your business.

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