What is the Difference Between Coaching and Counselling?

coaching and counselling

The main difference between coaching and counselling is that coaching is more goal focused action oriented, whereas counselling is more process oriented and exploratory. Most people are familiar with counselling if not from personal experience than at least peripherally.

Coaching on the other hand is a new and quickly growing field that is radically transforming the wellness and personal growth industry. What is the difference between coaching and counselling?

coaching vs counselling

Shorter tem Longer Term
Faster paced focused on actions
and making decisions
Slower paced focused on
processing and insight
Helps you to set and achieve
goals to make concrete changes.
Helps you express your thoughts
and feelings
You are the expert and the
coach is there to motivate
and empower you
Counsellor roles is as mental health
expert giving evidence-based
Coach voices their own
thoughts and opinions
Counsellor primarily listens
and lets you talk
Focuses more on the present
and future
Focuses more on the past

Difference Between Coaches and Counsellors 

Most counsellors have a masters degree in counselling psychology or social work and are regulated by a professional body. Coaches on the other hand may take rigorous training courses but this is not required and the profession is not regulated by any governing body. 

The advantage for clients is that you can access a coach anywhere in the world who specializes in your specific issue. The downside is that because coaching is unregulated, if you are harmed by the coaching process you cannot complain to anybody, you would have to take the issue to court yourself. 

Counsellors have the advantage of more years of education (usually), supervised practicums, and being registered with a governing body which provides more security for clients accessing services. The downside is that counsellors can only practice where they are registered which limits the clients who can access them to the ones in the region(s) they are registered in. 

Some practitioners offer both coaching and counselling which gives them more flexibility to work with a variety of issues and clients in different locations. In my practice I employ a hybrid of counselling and coaching that switches back and forth between these two modalities based on my clients specific goals and needs. 

when is counselling appropriate?

Counselling is appropriate when you are struggling with your mental health and need to find a path forward. Counselling can help with all sorts of issues and problems but typically focuses on mental health diagnoses. Common problems people go to see counsellors for are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • OCD
  • Relationship problems
  • ADHD
  • Family conflict
  • Grief
  • Trauma
  • Addictions

An analogy that could describe counselling is if your car broke down. You can’t move forward without specialized help of a tow truck and a knowledgable mechanic. When your mental health is starting break down it is a good time to get some professional help before the wheels fall off.

When is Coaching Appropriate

Coaching is appropriate when you’ve identified area’s of your life that you want to increase your performance in. Coaching is very broad and deals with a range of issues that have some overlap with counselling. Some common areas that people may seek coaching are:

  • Executive/Business
  • Mindset
  • Sleep
  • Career
  • Wellness
  • Self-confidence
  • Dating

The car analog remains useful. When your car is working fine you may want to go off-road, or go faster. If so you’ll need to get some after market adjustments. In the same way a coach comes alongside you to help give you the tune-up and boost to get the next level of performance.

How do I decide whether to see a counsellor or coach?

This is a personal decision and will be based on how well your specific needs and challenges align with the counsellor or coach. Most helping professionals have a free discovery call where you can gauge goodness of fit. Do your research, ask friends, and try a couple consults. In the end go with the person that feels like the best fit for you.

Counselling with a Coaching Edge

In my practice I employ a hybrid method that utilizes both counselling and coaching. This approach is based on a model developed by clinical social worker and master coach Lynn Grodzki which she has called “Therapy with a Coaching Edge”. If we work together I will decide along with you whether a coaching or counselling approach is best suited to you and your situation.

We can switch back and forth between these two approaches depending on your specific needs and wants in each session. My tendency is to lean more towards a coaching approach. If you are interested in learning more about me and my approach you can click here.

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