Coaching vs. Psychotherapy

Please watch the video and read this section before you apply. 
CAVEAT: I do not provide Psychotherapy.

Most people are confused about the difference between psychotherapy and a professional coaching program. As you now know, I’ve done both, so naturally the differences are more apparent to me. 

I still get calls from people looking for a therapist, mostly from California, since I was there for more than 20 years. So I have explained this many times. I hope it helps. 

There are two models for help with relationships: The Medical Model and the Personal Development Model. Insurance and HSA operate on the medical model. Insurance and HSA do not pay for personal development. 

The Medical Model

  • Psychotherapy is based on the medical model. 
  • One person is the patient (the one who meets criteria for a clinical diagnosis) so therapy could possibly be covered by insurance. 
  • Then your work as a couple would be coded as "family therapy" and can be done “with or without the patient present.” 
  • The focus would be on relieving the patient’s symptoms and healing the past. Anyway, that’s how sessions must be documented.


Psychotherapy is like taking a train headed to New York. There will be multiple stops along the way, and you could get off the train at any stop. Honestly, sometimes therapy is the better option for some couples. You are the only one who can decide that. 

The Personal Development Model

  • Professional Coaching is based on a personal development model. 
  • You are considered equal partners with different perspectives who develop a skill set together. 
  • The full Coaching Program includes 12 weeks of Evaluation, Education, Experimentation (skill-building), and Encouragement. 
  • The focus is on building a future that meets the needs of both people. 


Coaching is like investing in buying your own airplane and getting 12 weeks of instruction with a skilled pilot. Afterwards, you have your own private plane and can take it anywhere you want to go!

Only you can decide which model is a better fit for you. 

Dr. Debi Smith, PsyD

Writer. Teacher. Coach.

I worked with men, women, couples, and families in Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties in California for 25 years before closing my Clinical Psychology Practice in August 2021. I helped launch numerous Marriage Programs at local churches, training pastors, marriage mentor couples, and mental health professionals who needed help learning to work more effectively with couples. As a mother of three sons, I developed intense interest in and a unique expertise in the Psychology of Men and Marriage. Now living in Central Texas, I am dedicated to teaching and coaching around the world. My Education & Teaching Experience: In case you’re interested in the details … I earned my Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology at MidAmerica Nazarene University, and my Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) at Biola University. I also taught courses at both universities, as well as at Azusa Pacific University from 2002 to 2010.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace a professional evaluation or treatment for emotional and relational concerns. If you are experiencing severe distress or believe you may be a victim of domestic violence, please contact a licensed mental health professional for assistance. If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.