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Coaching. Counselling. What’s the difference?

16 September, 2016


“I need to tell more people about how much coaching has helped me move forward” – Client.

My client sat back in her chair at the end of our session and told me that she had no idea that she could progress so quickly in one session.  She had busted through some barriers and knew for certain that she had some concrete actions she would take with confidence.

She explained that in the past she had used counselling and psychotherapy sessions to understand better  mental health issues, and she worked on healing hurts and finding resolution to personal pain.  She came to Coaching to give her a positive way forward to make changes happen in her life right now, and she was certain these would be achievable and sustainable.  She was delighted that she came up with her own solutions by considering the questions, feedback, and exploration that coaching provided.  She commented that from her experiences, she understood there was a real difference between coaching and counselling.  “I need to tell more people about coaching and how much it differs from counselling”, she said.

So, I thought I’d better write an article to help clarify the difference between mental health therapies, and solutions focussed coaching, which is the approach I trained in and studied.

Sir John Whitmore – viewed as the founder of modern coaching – explained the difference between coaching and mental health therapies.  He noted that to some people,  counselling and psychotherapy carry the stigma of mental illness.  He went on to say that the personal coach has no such connotations.  The personal coach does not remove problems but goes two steps further.  The coach helps us turn stress, confusion, lack of clarity and problems into challenges, and enables us to overcome them by drawing out the resources within ourselves that we never knew we had.

Here are some further explanations that may help if you are looking for specific types of advice or support.

Coaching Coaching deals with present issues and is future action focused.  Coaching acknowledges that past experiences contribute to where we are today, but it is not necessary to go in depth into those emotional or experienced issues from the past.  There is an emphasis on uncovering the learning from these experiences, with an emphasis on producing results and leading to life-changing behaviour.  Coaching involves active and collaborative participation of both client and coach, and the relationship is on a more equal footing.  The coach is trained to hold processes and structure about how our brains operate to drive more effective performance.
Counselling/Therapy Counselling acknowledges the role of the mental factors in illness, health and healing and a key task of a counsellor is identifying and attending to the specific mental, emotional and spiritual sources of illness in a person.  It may occasionally be of value to a client to see a counsellor as well as their Coach, and this would be a part of the coaching conversation.
Mentoring Typically mentors have skills, capabilities and experience in particular areas that they are willing to share with others, usually more junior in an organisation.  They provide support, advice, guidance and often share their personal story.  In mentoring, there can be an unequal relationship where a senior person provides information to a less experienced person.
Training/Facilitating Training is a skill-based process for teaching, educating and leading a person through a process where he or she is enabled to perform the new skills.
Consulting Consulting involves an expert in a field giving advice and using their expertise to inform or tell the client what to do.

I hope this helps as your guide for what you need.  It is perfectly ok to tap into different types of support at the same time : it means you are super focused on moving forward in your life and having the best life you deserve.  Onwards!


Claire Porima Coaching.