Dear Dr. Buckingham,
I am going through a lot in my life and my mind is all over the place. At times I reflect on my miserable childhood and sometimes I focus on moving forward. I read a lot of your articles and know that you are a psychotherapist so I decided to write to you. I want to prosper in my life and not allow my past to haunt me. This sounds simple, but I struggle, daily, because I experienced a lot of trauma growing up. When I feel hopeless or helpless, I listen to self-help tapes and inspirational CDs. I also meet with a life coach and a minister in my church. My life coach is good, but I am not sure if he is qualified to help me. We discuss how I can move forward and set goals that will give me the life that I really want. The sessions help for short periods, but I feel imprisoned by my past. Please help. I want to grow personally and professionally. Should I See a Life Coach or Psychotherapist?
Issues and Goals
Dear Issues and Goals,
Based on the fact that you continue to struggle with past issues, you should definitely see a psychotherapist. Life coaches give advice based on external behavior that is present to the eye, but often do not discuss “the why” behind behavior because they are not trained or truly qualified to do so. Also, life coaching is for individuals who are somewhat healthy, but want support in making some kind of life change.
Life coaching is about starting where a person is and helping him or her move forward. This is the essence of life coaching. However, in my professional experience with interacting with thousands of people in therapy, I have learned that behind every behavior there is usually an underlying emotional or psychological issue that has not been addressed.
I strongly advise you to speak with a psychotherapist who can help you process and cope with your past. There is a possibility that you could potentially be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Most people believe that PTSD is only associated with rape and battle-scarred soldiers. This is far from the truth. Any past event or series of traumatic events, that overwhelm you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and leaves you emotionally traumatized can trigger PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD have difficulty moving forward after experiencing trauma.
To help you better understand my recommendation, keep in mind that life coaches help people move forward from their current position and psychotherapists help people deal with past issues so that they can move forward.
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Disclaimer: The ideas, opinions and recommendations contained in this post are not intended as a substitute for seeking professional counseling or guidance. Any concerns or questions that you have about relationships or any other source of potential distress should be discussed with a professional, in person. The author is not liable or responsible for any personal or relational distress, loss or damage allegedly arising from any information or recommendations in this post.