Difference Between A Somatic, Trauma-Trained Practitioner & Therapist

coaching life coach therapy therapy vs coaching traditional therapy trauma informed coach what is a trauma informed coach Oct 27, 2021
Brittany Piper sitting at her work desk on a computer.

What’s a Trauma Informed Coach?

This is a great question and one I am asked often! Plainly put, I’m a Life Coach who has been trained & certified to be Trauma Informed. 

Adopting trauma informed practices is a newer standard of operating within many “helping professions.” Specialty Trauma Informed trainings and certifications are now available to teachers, nurses, police officers, corrections officers, social workers, yoga instructors, caregivers, health coaches, medical professionals, and many more. Being trauma informed simply allows professionals to recognize the prevalence of personal trauma in the histories and lives of the people they serve.


What’s the difference between a Trauma Informed Coach (TIC) & a traditional Therapist?

Therapists are the front line workers of mental health care. They operate under a medical model of care, whereas Coaches operate under a support model. Therapists work with and treat trauma. Trauma Informed Coaches, do not treat trauma. They are simply aware of all of the nuances of working with clients who have experienced trauma.

Trauma Informed Coaching is the practice of understanding the presence of past trauma in a client’s present-day experience, and how to use it as a guide for resilience and solution-forward coaching strategies. 

Often, people will need therapy, as well as a coach to support them in between sessions. Other times, clients have a baseline of working with the trauma, but need further support to make positive changes in the present. Here’s a brief list of what coaches can and cannot do.

  • Trauma Informed Coaches anchor their work in the present, not the past. They focus on the client’s current life and how trauma is affecting them today. Their aim is to utilize coaching strategies to help their client build up their strengths, healthy beliefs, and positive coping strategies rather than just extinguishing “negative” behaviors and beliefs.
  • Coaches serve as guides, mentors, and support. They may provide education about trauma and recovery, or set recovery goals, but they always operate in a client led manner.
  • Coaches do not prescribe or give advice about medication.
  • Coaches do not treat, diagnose, or assess their client’s mental health.
  • Coaches do not work outside their scope of competence - coaches do not work with clients who are at risk of self harm or harming others.

Therapy vs. TIC Continued:


Trauma Informed Coaches often focus on specific modalities and have very focused areas of training. As a coach who specializes in complex and developmental trauma, nervous system regulation (polyvagal trained), and bottom-up modalities (somatic and body-based interventions which employ brain-body connection), I spend the majority of my educational time training in those areas. (View my trainings and certifications here). In comparison, a therapist most often has a broader spectrum of disciplines they are educated in, which are usually anchored in a top-down approach (working through the scope of cognition, thoughts and the mind).


Most of the time, access to your therapist is limited to appointments. Many coaches allow access to them by email or text in between sessions for further support.


Coaches understand that just as trauma can be complex, so too can be healing. Rarely does one form of recovery work resolve the effects of trauma. Clients often need a collaboration of methods, such as talk therapy, EMDR, art therapy, life coaching, somatic experiencing, etc. With this in mind, coaches often encourage a team approach to working with clients. Furthermore, Trauma Informed Coaches are non-clinical. They do not treat or diagnose clients. Therefore, they have an ethical responsibility to refer their clients to the proper resources when the support they need is outside of the coaching wheelhouse. Read why and how coaches refer clients to other medical professionals.


What is the difference between a Trauma Informed Coach and a Life Coach or other type of coach?

My Trauma Informed Coaching Certification with Moving the Human Spirit (the only ICF accredited Trauma Informed Coaching Certification process in the world) is a commitment I’ve made to continuing my education and training in the area of Trauma Informed Coaching. This two-part Certification provides a comprehensive trauma informed education on the topics of: client regulation, brain-body connection, behavioral reaction, different types of trauma, leading causes, and their subsequent symptoms. It also provides, accountability, supervision, required completion of coaching triads with mentors, passing tests, and more, so that my clients can feel secure in the coaching work we do together. (Read more here about my training to become a Certified TIC.)


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