Great question! While the answer isn't black and white, there are several differences that may help point you in the right direction. If you are potentially experiencing a mental health disorder IE depression, anxiety, PTSD... a licensed mental health therapist is in order, as they are highly educated and trained to diagnose and treat. Therapists have varying degrees and certifications, and their area of focus and designations are a good thing to pay attention to when researching. In general, therapists support clients in their past memories/experiences and assist in working through traumatic or confusing times that have impacted them greatly. There is no question, therapists do incredible work!
A life coach may hold various certifications, however there is far less governance around this profession. Often times, a life coaches' personal and professional experience will lend a hand to their platform as well as the framework they learned while achieving some form of coaching certification. A life coach is most appropriate when a client's mental health is stable yet they are looking for support around future goals. Whether it's overcoming unexpected life events, looking to advance professionally or physically, or to simply contemplate and determine various paths ahead in a structured, reflective and accountable manner. Working with a certified life coach gives clients an opportunity to stretch, grow, achieve by investing in themselves using a non-biased, trained, third party who will inspire honest and reflective dialogue while leading them down a methodical and supportive path to live their best life!