Yalei Wang has tried both the psychologist and life coach route and has some advice for anyone considering either option.
I began seeing a psychologist when I was 16. Perhaps it was the intensity of adolescence that fuelled my already fragile personality, but ever since that age, I’ve always had a shrink. When I turned twenty, I stopped seeing a psychologist and switched to a life coach. In my years of experience having both shrinks and life coaches, I thought I’d write a guide for people who were thinking about getting one and the expectations one should have for both.
For anyone introspective and forever on a search for answers to their problems, seeing a psychologist can be an egotistically satisfying experience. If you can’t find a solution to your problems, the next best thing is to go on and on about them to someone who’ll listen. It’s all about you, your life and your feelings. I genuinely believe that everyone at least once in their life will either seek psychological help or weigh up the pros and cons of seeing one.
Psychologists deal with your issues on an analytical level. In this sense, you’re not only encouraged to openly discuss your problems, but also to try and find solutions to them analytically. Instead of them directly telling you what to do, they find ways to get you to find those solutions yourself. They ask you questions that are actually disguised statements. If you have a sharp mind, you’ll see they’re really telling you what they think.
Despite all the different psychologists I’ve seen, they all share one trait in common. They are very distancing. This is understandable, but when you are opening up your heart to what seems like a mask of indifference, you feel like they simply couldn’t care less.
The distance between you and the shrink is wide, despite the fact that you’re telling them your honest feelings about everything that’s happening. They don’t judge nor do they criticise. They stand at the opposite end of the room and state facts about yourself that you don’t realise.
I wish I had known beforehand that they are doctors and not wizened aunties with great life advice. This was my mistake and let me be the first one to inform you that if you expect them to be like that, you’ll be disappointed.
Psychologists are effective if you are independent and don’t need guidance to get your habits out of your system. In other words, if you are good at psychologically disciplining yourself. You are often given exercises at the end of most sessions that they expect you to do. You are expected to be your own boss in solving your issues. They are not your “plinths of support”, but more voices of reason in dismantling your ingrained perceptions about life.
Life coaches are psychologists without inhibition and the mask of indifference. If psychologists are English classes at school, then life coaches are definitely P.E. Life coaches are less analytical and focus more on pumping the good feels, rather than what’s wrong with you, so to speak.
You can get so swept up, you form a self-fulfilling prophecy…which in their case, means job done. Life coaches expect you to be active in your approach, just like psychologists are, but they give you more support and don’t mind getting more personal with their methods.
In my sessions with my life coach, I felt like she was the lead cheerleader of my self-esteem. There is a bigger spirituality aspect in life coaching than there is in psychology.
Life coaches are good if you need a kick up the butt as opposed to a backseat analysis of your life. I discovered that I got so swept up in my sessions with my life coach, I didn’t really come to any solid insights into the problematic nature of my way of thinking.
They are action-driven rather than thought-driven, which can be necessary when the reason why you’re seeking outside help is because you’ve been stewing inside your own mind for too long. There’s more responsibility for life coaches to be upbeat and positive, whereas this was not the case for psychologists.
Psychologists hold up a mirror for you, whereas life coaches stand behind you and push you to take the plunge. Additionally, life coaches are not in servitude to the medical board, but independent businesses with their own idea of how to live a good life and the ways to attain it.
So which approach works better?
Life coaches are definitely the more expensive option. As many life coaches are independent businesses, you can’t get reimbursed by Medicare. Psychologists, on the other hand, are under the government healthcare system so you can take advantage of the perks.
From a personal standpoint, I definitely prefer life coaches. When you’re stuck in a rut mentally, it’s much more effective to take action rather than to sit back and reflect. Action causes change and when you’re feeling negative, you need change in order to change.
If there’s one lesson that I’ve learned and that I wish I had known at the start is that the key to overcoming any sort of mental rut is implementing psychological discipline into one’s daily life and because it’s hard, we turn to professionals to help us through it. The truth of the matter is, nobody can really help you but yourself. It’s a truism and it’s a truism for a reason.