Understanding the Difference Between a Health and Life Coach

December 13, 2021

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The art of coaching can be challenging. Disciplining and educating yourself for the purpose of development of others can never be a simple task. However, without practice, there is no transformation.

We can be fully aware of and committed to the goals of our clients, but if we fail to practice the same for ourselves on a regular basis, it is like lighting a lamp and then covering it with a cloth. It is like Max De Pree says, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining who we are.”

Coaches work on several complex skills so that they can dive into the core of what’s holding someone back and devise a personalized roadmap to get them where they want to go. For example, if someone is having difficulty communicating with others, a training or counselling session may help by equipping them with a few conversation techniques, but coaching goes deeper into the matter.

The individual might not be speaking up because they’re scared of speaking their mind or speaking to people with authority. Coaching gets to the root of what is holding them back – in this case, understanding what is stopping them from communicating effectively – which will help resolve the issue in ways that addresses the root cause and not just put a band aid on it.

In this article, we will be looking at the difference between two categories of coaches – life coach vs health coach. While a life coach can help one tackle significant events in their life, a health coach enables one to maintain optimum health and fitness. Let’s find out more about health coach vs life coach as well as the specialized skills, expertise and experience they require to help their clients get closer to their goals and objectives.

Health & Wellness Coach

a. Who is a health and wellness coach?

The health coach definition according to the National Consortium for Credentialing of Health and Wellness Coaches (NCCHWC) states – “Health and wellness coaches are professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centred process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness.

Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change.

The main goal of a health and wellness coach is to craft effective behavioural prompts that will help clients make better health choices while at the same time moving them away from their undesirable lifestyle.

In other words, health coaches can help clients with a wide variety of health objectives, such as weight loss, stress reduction, management of chronic conditions, improving diet and exercise, tobacco cessation, addiction, adjusting to a life-altering health event, like a heart attack, and more.

It is important to note that every health coach can have an area of specialisation – such as de-addiction, weight loss, diabetes management, among others – to be able to cater to a particular group with a specific issue. 

Health coaches can conduct sessions in-person or online when working with clients. They generally work in gyms, health food stores, wellness centres, schools, corporations, and even doctors’ offices and hospitals.

b. What do they do?

The primary responsibility of a health and wellness coach is to clarify a client’s health goals, identify the obstacles that are holding them back, and devise a roadmap to help them overcome these obstacles strategically. By working on the physical strengths and weaknesses of the client, a health coach can help make long-lasting changes in their overall health.  

Health coaches are growing in demand across the globe, especially in India. The number of overweight and obese people in India is said to have doubled between 2005 and 2015. Among individuals aged between 15-49 years, 20.7 per cent of women and 18.6 per cent of men are overweight or obese.

With people gaining access to the internet and with the increase in usage of social media, there has been an immense rise in awareness about improving health and fitness in general. That is why many people are turning to professional coaches and instructors who can help them gain better insight into their health and wellness patterns and achieve better health and fitness standards in the long run.

c. What qualifications do they need?

To become a health and wellness coach, you will have to have an undergraduate degree at the least. If you have an educational or working background in areas such as nursing, dietary studies, paediatrics, geriatrics, behavioural therapy, it can help you understand your field better.

Another good option is to get a life coach certification. The most reputed organization is the International Coaching Federation (ICF), but there are other institutions you can consider as well. If you couple this with some experience in the fitness and nutrition field, you’ll be off to a strong start.

Life Coach

a. Who is a life coach?

Life coaching definition mentions a professional who helps their clients make progress in many aspects of their lives, including relationships, careers, and day-to-day events. That being said, life coaching can have several definitions. What two different life coaches offer can vary significantly.

But essentially everything that a life coach does can be put into one definition: helping people map the gap between where they are in life and where they hope to be in life. 

Professional coaches never impose their thoughts, views, or solutions on their coachee but rather help them self-reflect, gain clarity about their set of beliefs, question their limiting beliefs and help them consciously choose what they want in the future.  

Asking insightful life coaching questions is an art…

…an art that you can learn easily with the help of our guide!

b. What do they do?

The primary responsibility of a life coach includes clarifying a client’s goals, identifying the obstacles that are holding them back, and overcoming these obstacles strategically. By working on their key strengths and weakness, life coaches can help their clients make long-lasting changes in their life.  

In fact, many successful public figures like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hugh Jackman and Bill Gates work extensively with life coaches.  Regardless of what the client does or what industry they are part of, a life coach’s goal is to empower them to develop, grow, thrive, become more efficient & effective to handle life’s challenges, and experience greater satisfaction in life.

c. What qualifications do they need?

We recommend looking into enrolling into a certification program from an accredited organization like the International Coaching Federation (ICF), one of the leading organizations that certify coaches. These programs will stand you in good stead as they will give your practical and professional knowledge on how to deal with various issues that a client might face during significant life events.  

P.S.: Remember that you may have no testimonials when you start your career, so it might be a good idea to offer your coaching services to a few people for free. Later, you can ask them to do a video or written testimonial to help build up your reputation and thereby get more clients.


1. What does a life coach do?

In the past few years, the life coaching industry has exploded substantially and is one of the fastest-growing industries globally. So why would anyone need a life coach? A life coach helps one get clarity and a sense of direction. When an individual feels demotivated and is unable to get results in their life, a life coach can help them find answers.

A life coach can help clients recognize the hurdles in their lives and help them figure out how to overcome them. In other words, a life coach allows their client to turn their goals and ambition into reality. They also help clients set realistic goals to have a higher rate of success.

2. How is a life coach different from a therapist?

When seeking professional help for well-being, primarily mental and emotional well-being, the default option that many people look for is therapy. However, even a life coach can be helpful in some cases. But there are critical differences between those two approaches.

The significant difference between therapy and life coaching is the focus: life coaches help you set and achieve new goals while therapists focus on mental and emotional well-being. 

Also, therapists are trained professionals who work within the healthcare industry and require licenses to do their job. However, while certification is available for life coaches, they are not equipped to diagnose and treat mental health conditions. 

Another key difference is that therapy is an opportunity to look at what’s going on inside – emotionally, psychologically, or interpersonally. During therapy sessions, you look at your past experiences, patterns, traumas and beliefs. Coaches, however, will not be looking to address your past but instead work on your present and future.

About Simply.Coach

Simply.Coach is an enterprise-grade coaching software designed to be used by individual coaches and coaching businesses. Trusted by ICF-accredited and EMCC-credentialed coaches worldwide, Simply.Coach is on a mission to elevate the experience and process of coaching with technology-led tools and solutions.  

About the author

Mary has worked as an editor, writer, copywriter, team manager, social media strategist, SEO writer & content creator over the past 9 years. She currently freelances with various organizations including DBS Bank based in Mumbai. If she wasn’t a writer, Mary believes she would’ve been a photographer by profession!

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