The differences between Coaching and Counselling.

“Is coaching the same thing as counselling?”

The short answer to this very common question is:  “No, it’s not”.  Okay, thank you for coming. Bye.

Want to know why? Well, that brings us to the long answer.  There are so many incredible articles written on the specific differences that I thought it worth your while to focus on those elements that are important for actually making the choice: Team Coach or Team Counsellor.  From a personal side of things, I’ve done therapy as a social worker and am currently working as a coach.  Both have been rewarding and fulfilling and both offer lovely benefits to the client.  There is no right or wrong answer, just knowing which will help you achieve your desired outcomes best.

Different natures of coaching and counselling.

Although similar,  the main differences between coaching and counselling boil down to the approach, the structure of the journey, and the issues they generally address.

Coaching vs. Counselling approaches

A coach is a professional who is trained to help reorganise your past and its influence on today, discover the present and help you make real shifts towards your ideal future. Coaches are action-orientated and also act as accountability partners.  A typical question might be: What simple step can you take to break this destructive cycle? How will you be accountable?.

A counsellor is a professional who creates a safe space for you in which to identify and solve problems, that generally stem from your past hurts and traumas. Counsellors are coping-orientated and have a clinical focus.  They help you recognise your feelings and identify ways to come to terms and deal with the events causing these feelings.  A typical question might be: “What do you think the reasons are for this destructive cycle?”

Coaching vs. Counselling focuses

There are challenges that both coaches and counsellors will address from their different approaches. However, they also deal with vastly different challenges.  One of the most important differences to note is that counsellors are accredited and certified to deal with psychological challenges and disorders, like addictions, depressions and PTSD.   Coaches deal with getting ahead of the game and personal development challenges to help you live bigger and bolder. As one author states:

“Counselling is about uncovering and then, recovering.  Coaching is about discovering and inspiring.”

Although both provide you with a helpful relationship to improve wellness and support your growth, coaching and counselling will happen at different stages in your life. In other words, when you are at different levels of functioning. Which brings us to the question:


Team Coach or Team Counsellor?

Think about a metaphor of working with your laptop or PC. Depending on the outcome you want, you might go to different experts  You might get a technician to repair a faulty part. But if your desired outcome is to boost your Instagram page  (shout-out to all you entrepreneurs!), a technician will not necessarily be the hero for the job.  You’ll rather invest in an SEO manager to boost your accounts.

In the same way, your desired outcome will determine whether you want to work with a coach or a counsellor.  Like our computer technician from the analogy above, a counsellor can help you “fix” issues that cause a state of dysfunction and a coach can help you reach a higher level of functionality or boost your performance.

Why I joined Team Coach

Following a life-long dream, I put therapy on hold and worked abroad for a year, travelling through sections of Asia (Don’t worry, beautiful Asia, I’m coming back for the other parts!). Wow, has my life changed in a year!  Apart from a strange new liking for plush toys, a radical change in food preferences, and a desire to bow whenever I see an older person,  I also learned more about human nature, what drives behaviour and how coaching works.

I realised that I much preferred exploring the solutions to exploring the issues and that, even though I liked counselling,  I love coaching. And when you do what you love, you start seeing massive shifts.  Not just for yourself but also your clients. In just a few weeks of coaching, my clients started mentioning words like “life-changing” and “completely new person”. They still come with similar issues as before, but leave with more functional solutions that work for them. This is not a subtle attempt at blowing my own horn. Rather, when you invest in what aligns with your purpose and identity, what you create or do becomes bigger, bolder and more badass.

In conclusion

This choice does not have to be an anxiety-inducing experience for you.  Any good coach will refer you to a counsellor if she is worth the title of Coach and plenty are capable of dealing with more severe issues, as well.  Anyone can benefit from coaching; this I am confident about.  (Disclaimer: The only person I cannot, in good conscience, include in this statement is an unwilling individual because you are the master of your own life)

Most coaches offer a free chemistry or meet-up session to help you clarify your desires and determine if coaching will be a good match for you.  If you’re interested in coaching, want to discuss my literary skills or in the mood for a life change,  let’s grab a coffee and chat about it!

The most important message I would like to convey, hower, is that whether you choose Team Coach or Team Counsellor, get involved in the game and play!


Was this helpful? Feel free to leave comments and tell us about your experiences with coaching (and counselling, of course).