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  • Writer's pictureEmma Donovan

What is the Difference Between Guidance and Therapy?

Discover the similarities and differences, and gain clarity on which path might be best for you.

People seek individualized help for a variety of reasons. Many terms such as therapy, guidance, mentoring, or coaching are used to differentiate between different kinds of help. I have personally noticed a lot of overlap in the types of work people offer in these different relationships, and a variety of perspectives on what consitutes what. This can result in confusion.

I am offering this blog post as a way to help you differentiate between "therapy" and "guidance," as I practice and define the two in my work.

My Background and Training

Before defining these terms, I will introduce a little about myself, my path, and my training. I have bachelors degrees in Religious Studies and Global Studies. I became a certified yoga instructor at the age of 22. One of my yoga teaching jobs was at a college. I taught the students for 2 hours at a time, teaching about an hour of yoga asanas (postures) and another hour of mindfulness, meditation, and emotional intelligence. I quickly noticed how much I liked teaching about the inner world, and began a master's degree in Professional Counseling.

After completing my master's program in 2017, I followed an intuitive hunch, packed a backpack, and bought a one-way plane ticket to Southeast Asia. I wanted to learn more about Eastern culture and spirituality first-hand, and about the mind-body connection, which I knew experientially from yoga was important, but which was not touched upon in my Western graduate program.

I found my dream job offering therapy and teaching personal growth workshops in northern Thailand at a mindfulness-based healing and retreat center. I stayed there for almost 2 years, and my understanding of the mind-body connection, mindfulness, and spirituality deepened. I then went on to complete a certification as a TRE provider in Thailand, finished 3 levels of IFS training in Spain, completed Advanced Studies in Applied Shamanism, earned a certificate in Depth Hypnosis, and spent time with the shamans in Ecuador.

After moving back to the USA, I created my dream private practice as a therapist offering these methods. While I love being a therapist and have every intention of continuing this work, I knew I wanted to expand my impact to help even more people than I could doing individual therapy. I knew that the tools I learned are useful not just for people struggling with their mental health, but for everyone.

The Purpose of The Inner Work Hub

I don't believe you need to feel "sick" to focus on getting "well." After all, we exercise and eat well to take care of our physical health. Emotional, spiritual, and mental health are just as important, but most of us don't have an established path to care for these aspects of ourselves. Unfortunately, emotional and mental wellness tools often aren't sought out until people are having a serious problem.

I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from understanding their inner world, connecting more deeply to their own internal guidance, accessing their core self, and becoming more aligned and integrated individuals. I believe this is something the world deeply needs right now.

That is why The Inner Work Hub was born. I used my experiences and trainings to create a path of personal and spiritual growth for people who are self-motivated, curious, and want to do inner work, but don't necessarily need clinical therapy. I used my training as a yoga teacher and my experience leading personal growth workshops and meditations to create online meditations and a virtual personal growth course. I also opened my virtual doors for 1:1 inner work guidance sessions.

As an inner work guide, I use the skills I learned in my level 3 IFS training, Applied Shamanism training, TRE training, and Depth Hypnosis training to help people on their individualized path. People who are not clinical therapists are able to complete these trainings. Therefore, I feel confident offering these skills both inside and outside of the therapeutic context.

Now that you understand my personal path and training, I can now talk about the differences between guidance and therapy.

Defining Inner Work Guidance

Inner Work Guidance is a term I coined to describe the nature of my individualized work through The Inner Work Hub. This is because I did not feel that the work I do here resonates with the pre-existing terms of "therapy" or "coaching". I chose the word "guidance" to differentiate it from therapy, which is designed to help people with mental health struggles, and from coaching, which typically has an orientation towards business or achievement. Inner Work Guidance is different from both.

IWG uses IFS, Depth Hypnosis, and Applied Shamanism for people who may not necessarily need clinical therapy, but are looking to explore their inner worlds for personal insight, consciousness expansion, self-understanding, self-love, personality integration, and alignment. With Inner Work Guidance, I am not here to diagnose or treat you. I am also not here to help you "achieve" something such as weight loss or starting a business like a coach. I am here to facilitate an inner process for you that helps you identify and get to know your core self and internal guidance system, and identify the parts of you that need acknowledged and helped.

The Similarities Between Therapy and Inner Work Guidance

My therapeutic and Inner Work Guidance work have many similarities. Both offer deep inner work that is designed to help you feel better and more aligned than you currently do. In both relationships, I use one or a combination of IFS, Depth Hypnosis, Applied Shamanism, TRE, and mindfulness. I work with you in an individualized container that is catered to your intentions and goals. I take the time to learn more about you, both your personal history and the various parts of yourself. I do not pathologize you. I help you connect to the curious, calm center of who you are (your core self) and help you access inner wisdom. I don't give you advice or tell you what to do or believe. I guide you towards your own answers.

The Differences Between Therapy and Inner Work Guidance

People who seek therapy with me may be seeking personal and spiritual growth work and/or clinical treatment. It is entirely up to them what they want to focus on, and we can move back and forth between personal growth and clinical treatment as needed. My therapy clients all live in the USA in the states of Missouri and Illinois, because this is where I have therapy licenses.

Here is a list of things that are offered in therapy but are not offered with inner work guidance.

  • Therapy clients may be seeking 1:1 help because they don't feel functional and stable in their lives, and want to "get back to normal"

  • They may want a trained clinician helping them, and want clinical treatment

  • They may need trauma-informed care that helps them feel safe in their bodies again

  • They may not feel comfortable accessing their inner world on their own, and need help in order for this process to feel safe

  • They may be on medication, or may think they need it, and want to talk about whether this option is right for them

  • They might feel "bad," and wonder if they meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. For their own peace of mind, they would like to pursue a diagnostic process with a therapist

  • They may be seeking medical insurance reimbursement for their sessions

Guidance, on the other hand, does NOT focus on these things. Here is a list of common things that people seek guidance for.

  • Guidance clients feel "okay," "meh," "so-so," or "good" in their lives. They feel functionally stable, but know they could feel even better

  • They want to use IWG as a way to care for their mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness in a preventative way

  • They may have pre-existing personal or spiritual practices, such as yoga, meditation, journaling, breathwork, etcetera

  • They are not afraid to access their inner world, and may do so on their own, but they want individualized help from a trained professional to help them navigate it (because inner worlds are complex and everyone needs help sometimes!)

  • They know they have a "core self" and personal wisdom, and want help accessing it

  • They may not want to use the clinical system and are seeking "alternative" wellness instead

  • They would be confident in seeking help from someone who is trained in IFS, DH, AS, and TRE who is not otherwise a therapist

It is important to note that therapy can do everything inner work guidance can do (for example, you can be seeking help with a diagnosis and also want to grow spiritually with therapy), but inner work guidance cannot do everything therapy can do.

Why Is There a Distinction?

You may be wondering, "why the distinction?" There are several reasons.

  1. Not everyone needs clinical treatment. Everyone deserves to have a path to grow, even if they don't need therapy, and I have recognized a gap in this area. I want to serve these people.

  2. Different tools are needed at different times. Someone suffering from serious mental health issues needs gentle, paced, trauma-informed care and may not be ready to practice independently just yet. (My therapy clients who feel capable of practicing independently are welcome to use the tools I make though, too). Those who feel functionally stable generally have the ability to learn and practice on their own, and I want to be able to empower them to access the tools they want and need.

  3. Educational tools expand access and reach. I want to use the tools I have to empower people globally to grow. The best way to do that, that I know of, is through virtual courses and meditations that people can access at any time.

  4. Education and guidance are complementary. For those who are ready to practice independently, going back-and-forth between educational tools (such as courses and meditations) and guidance (individualized help) can help you grow a lot faster.

  5. State laws limit who I can work with therapeutically. As it currently stands, I am limited in who I can work with as a therapist. I can only serve clients who live in MO and IL. This may eventually change, but for now, I need to honor my licenses. However, since you don't have to be a mental health professional to train in IFS, DH, TRE, and AS, I feel confident offering these tools outside of my counseling license for non-mental-health needs.

I hope I answered any questions you may have. If you still have questions, please feel free to reach out to me. If you are ready to apply for inner work guidance, you can do so on this page. If you happen to live in MO or IL and think therapy is a better fit, contact me here. If you know you need therapy but live elsewhere, you can find an IFS therapist in your state or country here.

Thanks for reading!


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