Do I Need a Counselor or a Coach?

While both counseling and life coaching involve the change process and a course of life improvement, there are significant differences.

  • Counseling/Therapy deals primarily with emotional healing and relief from psychological pain. It also enriches lives and involves goals; however, it is primarily a prevention and intervention process. Counseling deals with mental health issues, which are or may become unhealthy. 

    To be eligible for possible health insurance reimbursement through in-network or out-of-network insurance benefits, the provider must diagnose you with a mental disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and submit that diagnosis along with your bill to your insurance. You must be diagnosed by the therapist in order to qualify for coverage. This diagnosis/treatment becomes a part of your health records when you use your insurance benefits. You may, of course, retain more privacy and pay out-of-pocket for your therapy service needs. It is important for you to know that when you utilize your mental health benefits for counseling/therapy, that diagnosis is on your medical record. You are moving from a diagnosed "mental illness" into "mental wellness" through the process of therapy/counseling.
  • Coaching as a type of service is primarily an educational and enrichment service through which a person progresses from "mental wellness" into "mental excellence". However, the Coaching process is also a therapeutic method frequently practiced by licensed mental health professionals.

    Coaching is an out-of-pocket expense (or in other cases, a bonus provided by an employer).  As an individual choosing a coach, you are in control and can choose whom to consult for what reasons and how often. There is increased privacy and confidentiality with no health record of "mental illness" or diagnosis. The field of coaching does not deal with emotional healing or relief from psychological pain.

    If you are having difficulty deciding which—counselor or coach---you may find that you could use both services. 

How can therapy help me?

A number of benefits are available from participating in therapy. Therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as depression, anxiety, relationship troubles, unresolved childhood issues, grief, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset for managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:


  • Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
  • Developing skills for improving your relationships
  • Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
  • Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
  • Improving communications and listening skills
  • Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
  • Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
  • Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence

Do I really need therapy?  I can usually handle my problems.  


Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you've faced, there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you're at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face. 

Why do people go to therapy and how do I know if it is right for me?

People have many different motivations for coming to psychotherapy.   Some may be going through a major life transition (unemployment, divorce, new job, etc.), or are not handling stressful circumstances well.  Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts and creative blocks.  Therapy can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods.  Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective with their goals in life.   In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the challenges in their lives and ready to make changes in their lives. 


What is therapy like?

Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual.  In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, your personal history relevant to your issue, and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous therapy session.  Depending on your specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or your desire for more personal development.  Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with your therapist (usually weekly).

It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process.  The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in session back into your life.  Therefore, beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, your therapist may suggest some things you can do outside of therapy to support your process - such as reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, noting particular behaviors or taking action on your goals. People seeking psychotherapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives and take responsibility for their lives.   

What about medication vs. psychotherapy?  

It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of our distress and the behavior patterns that curb our progress. You can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness.  Working with your medical doctor you can determine what's best for you, and in some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action. 

Do you take Out-of-Network Health Insurance Benefits?

YES. Dr. Patt accepts most out-of-network plans but effective January 2015, she has begun transitioning to a private-pay/out-of-network/package rates business model. After all contract have been successfully terminated, she will no longer be in-network with any plan.

Many providers have adopted a business model that does not include contracts  (See #7) to provide mental health services though health insurance companies . The reasons are varied but center around the reality that it is difficult to maintain a satisfying and profitable service-oriented business when the overhead escalates while the incoming revenue does not. Insurance payments/fees paid to mental health providers generally are on a standardized, non-negotiable schedule with no cost-of-living allowances (COLA) to offset rising overhead. Additionally, contracted providers are spending more time and incurring higher staff costs filing and collecting insurance payments.

To determine if you have Out-of-Network mental health coverage through your insurance carrier, the first thing you should do is call them.  Check your coverage carefully and make sure you understand their answers.  Some helpful questions you can ask them:

  • Do I have Out-of-Network benefits
  • What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
  • How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
  • Is pre-approval required? 

Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?

Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and therapist/counselor. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist's office.   Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement, and you can expect that what you discuss in session will not be shared with anyone.  This is called “Informed Consent”.  Sometimes, however, you may want your therapist to share information or give an update to someone on your healthcare team (your Physician, Naturopath, Attorney), but by law your therapist cannot release this information without obtaining your written permission.

However, state law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:

* Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.

* If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.

What else should I know about Privacy and Policy?

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