TV shows make “life coach” sound like a cool, glamorous job, but I would imagine that most life coaches are either hustlers or glorified cheerleaders. By “cheerleaders,” I mean people who are good at hyping someone up, recognizing someone’s achievements, a friendly, positive sort of associate. Very few life coaches are actually trained and certified therapists in any way. Well, SZA found that out the hard way – this poor woman thought she was talking to a therapist but nothing was getting better. Turns out, she was seeing a life coach.
Life coaching is not the same as therapy, and SZA learned that the hard way. In a new cover story interview for WSJ. Magazine’s November Innovator’s issue, the 33-year-old R&B superstar opened up about how she deals with difficult emotions, noting that she’s tried hypnotherapy, talk therapy, psychiatry and acupuncture.
One time, however, she accidentally saw a life coach thinking they were a therapist. The unofficial counselor taught her about box breathing as a method for lessening anxiety, but SZA grew frustrated as the exercise didn’t help.
“After I had box breathed myself for three months and didn’t get better, I called her in a f—ing frenzy like, ‘I’m about to commit myself to an institution today, I need help!’ I said, ‘What form of therapy do you do? DBT?’” she told the publication, referencing dialectical behavior therapy. SZA continued, “She was like, ‘I don’t have a clinical form of therapy because I’m not a licensed therapist, honey. I thought you knew that.’ It turns out she was not a board-certified therapist. She was a f—ing life coach.”
There are several major differences between the two practices — mainly that life coaching does not require a medical degree and therapy does, though many coaches still undergo training.
“Unlike psychotherapy, coaching aims to help people who are already functioning at ordinary or even higher levels work through emotional discomfort and make additional gains,” wrote Yael Schonbrun and Brad Stulberg for The Washington Post in 2022. “A coach can help you perform better physically, emotionally, professionally, socially or athletically, depending on the specialty.”
No, but really, I imagine so many people make that mistake and life coaches encourage people to make that mistake. It reminds me of Gwyneth Paltrow’s merry band of pseudoscientists. She’ll say sh-t like “Dr. Mumbojumbo claims that these stickers will heal a brain tumor” and the doctor in question has a PhD in ‘crystal therapy’. Basically, before you go into therapy, make sure you’re actually seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed therapist. Poor SZA! She’s not going to be signing up for BetterUp anytime soon.
Cover courtesy of WSJ. Magazine, additional photos courtesy of Cover Images & Avalon Red.
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