Mental Health Professionals, Life Coaches, Who To Go To?


Mental Health Professionals, Life Coaches, Who To Go To?

In the end, it is great to be inspired by the lived experiences of survivors, stories of overcoming great challenges, and to be motivated by the successes of others. However,  when it comes to your mental health and everything that is connected to it, one must seek the proper professionals who are regulated, liable, and have accountability.


In the end, it is great to be inspired by the lived experiences of survivors, stories of overcoming great challenges, and to be motivated by the successes of others. However,  when it comes to your mental health and everything that is connected to it, one must seek the proper professionals who are regulated, liable, and have accountability.

This article was co-authored by Berak Hussain, Registered Psychotherapist (The Muslim Counsellor) & Krista Arnold, Registered Child and Youth Worker

The pandemic of 2020 has resulted in major life-altering changes – from the way we interact with each other, the fears and anxieties created from catching the virus, the prohibition of travel and lockdowns, economic impacts such unemployment and soaring debt, and the loss of lives and physical impacts of the COVID-19 virus – our lives have drastically changed.

There has also, in addition to all of this, been an increase in demand for mental health services for the exponential rise of mental illnesses and disorders related to anxiety, isolation, depression, and the lack of human interactions. 

During this time, as we saw the fall of many companies, we also saw the rise of a plethora of online/home businesses. One such trending business was the sudden and aggressive self-promotions of pseudo-qualified and or unqualified self-labeled “professionals”, offering advice on how to live your life, transform your life, or spiritually revive your life. We have seen this in the concerning titles such as “life coaches”, “transformational coaches”, “mindset coaches”, “purpose coach”, “motivational coach”, “relationship advisor”.“spiritual coaches” etc . So, the question is – why is this concerning?

As a registered psychotherapist and part of the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario (CRPO), we have had to undergo rigorous qualification requirements in order to be able to legally practice therapy in our province. It became legally mandated for anyone to become registered in such a body in order to even use such a title much less practice therapy. 

These qualifications included years of related undergraduate and graduate studies, supervised clinical practicums, and continued supervision – with a peer or with an external supervisor. In addition, there are the yearly requirements of continued educational and professional development as well as professional insurance liability, and annual fees to maintain our title and legal privilege to practice therapy. Mental health professionals are bound by codified ethics, where unethical behaviour can result in unlicensing and severe reprimand.

“Life Coaches” and the like, however, are not regulated by a college or body where they can be monitored, audited, or where the public is protected from them like the mental health profession or even other professionals such as medical doctors or lawyers. It is as though one day after experiencing a midlife crisis, and going through challenges and working through them, they suddenly decided that they want to and can help others.

Some take a 6-week online course that suddenly certifies them with the titles described above, and boom they start to give advice to others on how to overcome challenges – not excluding mental health advice! Some of them have even gone to the extent to create courses on how to transform your life, take content from different backgrounds (use of other professional’s intellectual property), as well as content that has no research base, packaged up in questionable social media promotions including selling merchandise, all for the price of again questionable costs.

The Tony Robbins and Jay Shettys have done wonders banking millions of such programs including selling “how to be a life coach” type of programs, to the point where you see Muslims are getting on the same bandwagon, aspiring to be the next guru and offering similar programs.

The mental health profession is a field – it is analogous to planting seeds and harvesting the bounty; coping skills, understanding, and healing are planted and nourished. They’re treasured and the value of their growth is as relevant as their harvest.

Life coaching and co is an industry based on production not reduction, the commodification of pain and of the soul, unhealthy coping strategies, and trauma where they profit from others’ suffering. It’s completely at odds with healing.

As professional mental health support workers work within a field, not an industry, these professionals are actively trying to work themselves out of a job (meaning they are trying to reduce and to potentially eliminate the root causes of trauma and mental health issues permanently, not cultivating future client/patients).

In this field, they are known as “clients” or “patients”. Client and patient are at times used interchangeably even though they can have different meanings of intent. One could be using a service and the latter to be under medical care for treatment (here and here). Depending on what the intention or nature of the workplace behind the service is to the person seeking the support, one could be used over the other. Depending on what the intention or nature of the workplace behind the service is to the person seeking the support, one could be used over the other.  

When having case consults with other mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, and social workers, similar discussions around this topic showed that it is not just a passing thought, that this coaching industry is an actual concern.

If a friend or “life coach” and a regulated professional give the same advice for a problem, circumstance, or for someone’s emotional state, and the advice of the friend or life coach is taken where the outcome is disastrous or even deadly, there is no accountability or protection for this person. With the regulated professional there is a regulatory legal board that one can complain to and that has mandated processes to investigate, reprimand, and protect the public with accountability.

Where would you even begin with a life coach? How would you legally follow up? It is a million-dollar industry that seeks to serve the egos of self-adoring fame seekers and especially in the social media world we live in where anyone can use the platform to self promote “the next best thing for a better life”.

There are therapists or other health professionals who now use the words “life coach” when introducing their work to “soften up” potential help seekers because of the known taboos, stigma, and misconceptions around mental health. Don’t forget they are trained professionals and using these titles to make it perhaps easier for people to approach them rather than with the potentially intimidating mental health titles. It’s also seen as a status label by some cultures to have a “life coach” as a status of success and again avoidance of being associated with mental health stigma. This is also connected to the terms “client” and “patient” where the same stigmas could be allies where one is service-based and one is medically based.

In the end, it is great to be inspired by the lived experiences of survivors, stories of overcoming great challenges, and to be motivated by the successes of others. However, when it comes to your mental health and everything that is connected to it, one must seek the proper professionals who are regulated, liable, and have accountability. Therapists like any other professional can also misdiagnose or provide the wrong treatment at times, however, again there is accountability.

Please mindfully be aware and research who you choose to share some of the most private and intimate details of your life, and to whom you entrust to receive the most helpful, professional, and proper care and treatment.

To finish, we will leave you with this to reflect upon: If you break a leg do you go to someone who has a First Aid certificate for treatment or to a professionally trained, regulated, ethically accounted medical doctor?


1. Mental Health in Canada: Covid-19 and Beyond (CAMH Policy Advice)

2. College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario 

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  • Such fantastic topic to discuss. I thank you for for raising this because there is clearly an absolute need to clarify what coaching is all about.

    What’s concerning for me is that the author is choosing to tarnish the entire industry with the same brush rather than stating that she refers to a few that aren’t qualified or have the relevant experience (as with any profession including Mental Health ). She speak on behalf of people who might hugely appreciate and benefit from coaching services. It’s Not for anyone else but the person receiving the services to decide whether they’re making a difference tin their lives or not. I highly recommend speaking to people with first hand experience of having a coach in their life.

    Yes you would go to a doctor for a broken leg and you’d choose the best one but after the main operation / treatment, without physiotherapy, you would never be able to properly walk again if they didn’t help you step by step rebuild and re-use your muscles. Coaching is the same. Psychotherapy is to treat mental health illnesses, but coaching is to have a plan of action to move forward with life and not stay stuck in the trauma.

    We, as coaches won’t deal with the actual mental health issues like schizophrenia, bipolar, psychosis etc as the patient would need medication as well as talking therapy to heal, anyone who knows anything about the coaching profession knows this but I think every single person, including the mental health professionals could do with a coach.

    Life coaches are like personal trainers at the gym but for everything in your life: Life coaches give you the capabilities, keep you consistent, challenge you, get you to do ‘one more lap’ ‘5 more minutes on the treadmill’, ‘one more set’, They challenge you because they know challenge equals change and ultimately growth. They keep you committed to showing up every single day; emotionally, mentally and physically in any area of your life. This to me, is absolutely priceless as it completely changed my life and it changes the lives of thousands of people who are seeking support from life coaches around the globe.

    Articles like this one give me even more of a push to continue my work as a life coach because it shows the lack of awareness in our communities even among “professionals” of how helpful it can be. This needs to be addressed properly and as a matter of urgency.

    If the likes of Serena Williams, Bill Clinton, Hugh Jackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Oprah Winfrey, Von Miller, Danny Bonaduce and many many other celebrities can use life coaches and not only highly recommend them but credit their success to their coaches then surely we need to look into this profession properly and see how it can help us rise and become a better version of ourselves.

    A life coach is someone who is trained to help you see clearly where you are today,
    then find ways to move forward towards your goals. It is, as a good friend of mine
    and a life coach herself puts it, for everyday people with everyday problems, they are a sounding board to help you discover what
    it is you want to do. They help you see a way forward, understand your options, helps you see your potential and creates a plan with you to move towards the
    solution of the problems you are facing. helping you identify obstacles, set goals,
    change your perspective, and identify and change your core beliefs. CBT in particular tend to integrate such tools as well as NLP.

    What I love about coaching is that it is action oriented, with the focus on the client’s current life and plans for the future.

    Coaching is about assisting the client
    in clarifying his/her present values and beliefs, intentions, needs, abilities, strategies, goals and purposes. Clients are in charge of their destinations and they are asked to find solutions from within themselves but through a hand holding process: this can be an empowering experience. Though life coaching may use the past as a point of reference to move into tomorrow, using it as a stepping stone, it is not counselling or psychotherapy for which you need a specific training as mentioned above for specific mental health disorders.

    Coaching Helps You Take Action and Counselling Enables You to Cope!

    One has to know the difference rather than dismiss and entire billions of dollars industry which is blooming and on the rise even more. Just need to educate ourselves when we’re unaware of facts, also not feel insecure, threatened and worried about losing the place of mental health professionals within the community – that’s all.

  • Salaam,
    While I do agree with everything that was said here, I have few comments. I am speaking from the perspective of someone who has a degree in psychology and has completed masters course work in marriage and family counseling although no degree due to not being able complete internship. So I understand the field pretty well and understand the years it takes to become professional.

    The way that the article was written made feel that all life coaches are bad. That being a life coach is a hoax and cannot be trusted. I disagree with this and depends on the credentials of the person claiming to be a life coach. I think a life coach can be someone that can help get the person the help they need , and be kind of a transitional guide into sending them to the proper resource for help. What I am saying is if the life coach title is used correctly, they can be a really great asset to the mental health field. Not only can can they help guide the client to the help they are looking for , but they can work as an advocate or someone who convince a person who feeling hesitant to see a mental health professional. If a life coach as proper qualifications in the field of psychology/counseling then they are able to identify some psychological issues or even help with the minor life challenges and transitions that occur in life.

    My point is, we have to look at this life coach business with a critical eye, yes, and be careful who we choose to be “life coach ” but at the same time be open and not claim all life coaches are bad. Some can be useful . It all depends.

    I totally get it. So many people claim to be a life coach and i look at their credentials and they have nothing to do with the topic they preach to know about. it really gets to me and yes we should steer away from those kinds of people. I completely wholeheartedly agree with that point.