The Difference Between Counselling and Coaching

Are you wondering whether to meet a counsellor or a coach?

At first glance counselling and coaching appear similar because the professionals involved use similar skills such as active listening, empathy, harmony, establishing rapport, building trust and the use of powerful, probing questioning.

There are some very real differences however, in the approach, purpose, goals, focus, and the methods used.

If you are feeling really bad struggling with self-doubt, anxiety, depression, negative core beliefs, trauma, unfinished business with the past, intense emotions, painful relationships, or addictive behaviours and really have no idea how to help yourself feel better, then it makes sense to meet a counsellor. What you need at this stage is compassionate support from a professional qualified counsellor who will create a safe space for you to delve into the past and begin to heal and grow.  In counselling, the progress is generally slow and painful because the issues are often subconscious and fundamental. For those who have the courage to push through the pain the rewards are deeply enriching and fulfilling.

The growth is often introspective and subtle and happens more on the inside than on the outside.

On the other hand, if you generally feel fine and have a solid sense of your inner psyche and resilience, but you are at a crossroad in your life, are restless for a change or just want to improve your current circumstances and create success, then meeting a coach will definitely be more useful for you. If you’re truly ready for coaching you probably don’t need as much insight, emotional support, or healing. You just need to get clarity, make a plan, and take action. The underlying belief is that the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to “partner with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coach Federation, ICF).

Coaches use constructive skills to help you get from point A to point B by tapping on your strengths and eliciting solutions from you.

The Coaching Process

Coaching involves a more specific, narrower focus than counselling and generally works in the following manner with clients:

  1. Define vision – establish the desired results/outcomes.
  2. Identify changes – pinpoint the behaviors that will lead to those outcomes.
  3. Determine strengths and obstacles – understand the influences on that individual’s behavior.
  4. Develop strategy  create a plan to start and sustain desired behaviors.
  5. Monitor progress – track and celebrate successes.

In coaching, the growth is rapid and the progress is usually enjoyable for both the coach and the coachee.  The very specific and tangible goals and focus on action and outcome make it easy to attain a sense of achievement which is very satisfying and empowering.

Coaches work with people who are striving to improve their circumstances in order to enrich their future. They help clients learn new skills and tools to build a more satisfying successful future. The  focus is very clearly on maximizing strengths that will  lead to a healthier, happier and more fulfilled life. Coaches consistently help clients zero in on the future.

In contrast, counsellors work with people who are in pain and need support for healing from deep seated hurts and damaged emotional states. The focus here is on the past and the aim is to deal with unresolved issues that cripple a person and disturb their normal functioning. One of the major goals in counselling is to move people from a state of dysfunction to one of being functional and healthy.

Coaching is not appropriate for clients who have serious mental/emotional problems such as substance abuse, major depression and personality disorders. Coaches will refer clients to a counsellor if a significant psychological problem is discovered during the coaching process.

You can engage in coaching for many different issues ranging from dealing with financial or job concerns to issues with partners or unruly children, family issues, preparation for anxiety-filled events, excessive stress, weight loss, exercise and diet, health issues, procrastination, public speaking, and basically anything where you want to make a significant change.

Take some time to think to determine what’s best for you!

If you feel like you need to grow on the inside, gain insight into yourself, and simply feel better before you’re ready to make changes in your day-to-day, start with counselling.

If you know that you want an accountability partner who can help you get clarity, make an action plan, help you zero in on what you really want from life, why you want it and how to get there, then start with coaching.

When you’ve decided, consider talking to a counsellor or a life coach at TalkItOver.

Talk It Over

About Patricia D'Souza

Patricia D’Souza has a Masters in Clinical Psychology with over 25 years of experience in dealing with a wide variety of people issues such as, marital and family relationships, parenting, adoption, mental illness, grief counseling, substance abuse addictions, sexual harassment issues, workaholism and the like. Her therapeutic style is eclectic in nature keeping in mind the Holistic interaction of physical, psychological and spiritual factors involved in healing and wellness. Patricia is also a Certified Wellness Coach (ASA) and able to provide Coaching for various Life Skills issues including Health and Wellness. Her passions include strengthening relationship ties and facilitating people to reach their full potential. She lives with her husband and sons in Bangalore with whom she shares an indefatigable love for travel.