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  • Writer's pictureTraci Dority-Shanklin

Mental Health: Behavioral Coaching Versus Therapy

“Not everyone needs therapy.” These important words were uttered by Dr. Stephanie Straeter on my podcast last week. Stephanie Straeter, the clinical director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at HMC HealthWorks, and Dr. Janis DiMonaco, the founder of HMC HealthWorks, joined me on the podcast to talk about the impact of the pandemic on mental health, behavioral therapy, and the differences between wellness coaching and therapy.

Typically, a therapist offers observation and diagnosis of pathology. They are licensed by a state where they log clinical hours overseen by another professional and vetted by a board. For example, a therapist may address past trauma, treat an addiction, aid a personality or learning disorder, or help resolve family issues.

A behavioral coach has more in common with that former football or field hockey coach you had back in high school or college. The best coach helped you identify your goal, devise a strategy to achieve it, and then offered encouragement and motivation so you’d stick with the game plan. You wouldn’t dream of asking that coach to diagnose your problem.

If you’re feeling hopeless, depressed, or suicidal, or if you’re dealing with trauma, see a therapist. However, if you find yourself stress eating, or picking up smoking for the umpteenth time, or perhaps you’re losing your patience more often with the kids or the spouse, then you may benefit from a behavioral or wellness coach.

In this clip from Mental Health “Help” Care in the Age of Covid, Dr. Stephanie Straeter gives a high-level description of what coaching is and why it may be a viable option for some:

To listen to the full podcast of Mental Health “Help” Care in the Age of Covid, click HERE

Not All Coaching is Created Equal

Coaching should never be used in place of therapy. When I was preparing for the podcast and this blog, I read that coaching could be thought of as a “a stepping stone to or away from therapy.” Coaching is short term while therapy deals with the underlying motivations and compulsions of why we do the things that we do. After you achieve your goals, you no longer need a coach.

In my research, I was also surprised to learn that life coaching is largely an unregulated field where anyone can hang a sign on their door and declare themselves a coach.

That’s why I really appreciated the care that HMC HealthWorks took in training and certifying their behavioral and wellness coaches. They’re either certified by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching or they’re working on those credentials.

Whether you’re a member of a multiemployer health and welfare plan or just interested in finding out more about their certified Wellness coaches and programs, please visit the HMC HealthWorks website:

If you decide you want a coach and HMC HealthWorks isn’t the answer for you, please make sure that whoever the coach you choose is certified.

To listen to the full podcast of Mental Health “Help” Care in the Age of Covid with Traci Dority-Shanklin, click HERE

Join the conversation. Be informed. Be inspired. Be part of the change!


The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches:

Wellness School of Coaching:

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