Coaching vs. Counseling

Coaching and Counseling are different approaches to helping to improve someone’s life. Both coaching and counseling sessions, include a spirit of empathy and compassion, personal development and skill training.  Both coaching and counseling require the commitment of the client to create change and awareness both in session, and beyond. In both, the facilitator, should be highly effective in communicating and especially in listening. I believe a good healthy life coach must have some sort of background in social services or psychology and coaching, as well.

What are the differences in the two? I don’t believe there is a definitive answer because it depends heavily on the working models adopted by the counselor or coach, as well as their levels of competency. However, I  can generalize to give a better understanding.

Considering, my educational background is in Mental Health Counseling and I am a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach, I’m frequently asked to differentiate between the two techniques.The simple explanation is therapy focuses on the “why” and coaching focuses on the “what now”.

One of the most obvious differences between the two approaches is that therapy tends to focus on feelings and experiences related to past events. Where coaching is oriented towards goal setting and encourages the client to move forward.

There are many differences between counseling and coaching. One of the biggest is education. Licensed Counselors have Master’s degree, followed by thousands of clinical supervised hours and are governed by a very strict behavioral health board. Counseling is based on statistics and facts. That is why in college you have to take classes such as statistics and research. In counseling, there is a label and a name for every behavior. In order to have your insurance paid, most counselors must give a clinical diagnosis within the first 45 minutes.
Coaching tends to be future-focused, change-oriented, and goal or results-driven.  Coaching is client-centered, meaning the client identifies the goals and helps build the agenda for meetings.  Coaching started in athletics and businesses and has expanded to include personal, wellness and life coaching more recently.

Counseling was originally based on a medical model and used to heal client dysfunction with medical intervention and therapeutic behavior change.  Although this is still the case for many professionals, therapy has recently developed to include more holistic views of wellbeing, and less medical focus on health.  Counseling is often thought to be more reflective than coaching.  Although, solution focused therapy can be similar to coaching in that it is goal-oriented and short in duration.

A good coach holds the notion that the client has the best answers for their own life. The coach’s job is to draw those answers out and to offer another perspective. Clients who receive coaching services are viewed as being functional and healthy, but are unsatisfied with a part of their lives and desire to change it.

Like psychotherapists, coaches will abide by a code of ethical principles. Professional coaches keep client information confidential. They avoid conflicts of interest, and will not offer advice they are not qualified to give.

Coaching requires Commitment, Creativity and Courage.  The great thing about coaching? It empowers you to find the path that’s best for you, and puts your needs, desires, and dreams first.  The challenging part?  You have to be ready to do the work!  While a coach will help you discover your values and goals, explore your options, and turn your insights into action, you will have to set aside time to reflect, plan, experiment, and persevere.  Coaching isn’t magic–but you may be surprised to discover how resourceful you are when you are challenged to focus your energies on what’s truly important to you.

If you think you can benefit from either of these and would like to find out more about working with me go to my website

With a Grateful Heart,


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