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Shadow Work is Therapy, Not Coaching


As Best Life Coaches, we believe even coaches should have a coach. No one knows the true power of coaching as well as a coach does. So why not hire one of your own and practice what you preach?

Co-Founder Steph Nelb was in search of a new coach a few weeks ago and had a session with a potential coach to sense if it would be the right fit for her. What she found was an alarming NO! So why did she have such strong feelings walking out of that coaching session? Two words: shadow work.

What is shadow work?

The coach in this case had told Steph how she goes deep into shadow work in her coaching practice. Shadow work is a term coined by psychiatrist Carl Jung meant to explore the dark corners of our psyche that may have been repressed and often caused by trauma. Let us be very clear in saying that coaches are not properly trained to take clients through shadow work nor treat trauma. This is the responsibility of a licensed therapist.

How does this show up in practice?

A licensed therapist who is properly trained to help clients navigate trauma and shadow work can provide great benefit to clients interested in delving into this practice.

By building greater awareness of the self and working through these sometimes uncomfortable truths, shadow work can help you:

  • Gain self-acceptance
  • Grow self-love and confidence
  • Improve overall well-being
  • Have better relationships with others
  • Go forward in life with better clarity

It takes commitment and courage to dive deep into your past and understand the patterns that may still be appearing but this work can be really rewarding. Once a therapist has taken you through this work and you have gained the benefits above, a coach can then help you create a better future. Just remember that as it comes to recognizing old patterns popping back up, that is still something a therapist should help you with.

Should I just hire a therapist?

If your goal is to work through past traumas and dive into shadow work, then a therapist will be best suited to help you with that. However, many of our clients have noted increased benefit by working with a therapist and a coach in tandem. The therapist will help you through the past self and gain awareness around how your past affects you today. Meanwhile, a coach will help you charter a new path forward and will focus both on the present and your future.

Many of us at the Best Life Coach Collective have had both therapists and coaches, sometimes in tandem, and can personally attest to the benefits of having both in your life. In a recent podcast episode, Steph likened it to having both a personal trainer and a physical therapist. Each play a distinct role and will not cross the boundary into one another’s lane since each has specific training and focuses either on healing the body or building muscle. With just a physical therapist, you can fix your pain but you can’t build significant muscle. With a trainer, you can get fit and build muscle, but you won’t be able to treat underlying pain.

Similarly, with a psychologist alone you can heal past trauma, diagnose and treat mental illness, and recognize how this affects your present but you won’t have a structured path to achieving a better future outside of treating mental illness. With only a coach, you can build a better future but you might not be aware of underlying patterns or mental illness that are blocking your path to success. Combine both and you become an unstoppable force moving forward with purpose.

Buyers beware

Steph’s story here is a tale of choosing your coach wisely. With the right coach, you truly can make a drastic difference in your life. But there are many unqualified and untrained “coaches” out there that you must filter out in order to find a qualified one that can truly help you. If you experience a situation like Steph did, run. Run far away.

If you’re interested in learning more about the unregulated industry of life coaching, check out our podcast episode about it and hear some of the suggestions we have for finding a qualified coach.

For more help in choosing a qualified coach, visit our Find a Coach page where we have already done the vetting for you. All of the coaches in our directory have had to share proof of certification and testimonials in order to join the Best Life Coach Collective.

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