Choosing between coaching and counselling

Choosing between coaching and counselling

The difference between coaching and counselling

There are many different types and models of therapy including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, psychodynamic and humanistic. In addition, an alternative to all types of therapy is coaching.

Similarities between coaching and counselling include:

  • Both help you identify goals and consider blockers to these goals
  • Both aim to help you to build the life that you want
  • Ideally both use a non-judgmental and supportive approach that builds trust and a positive relationship
  • Either can help with a variety of difficulties including emotional, relationship, health and work based problems
  • All coaches and counsellors are individuals and will practice their skills and professionals slightly differently; both professional types will adjust their practice to suit you

Some differences between coaching and counselling include:

  • Coaches may actively challenge clients more frequently or more assertively many counsellors will lean more towards support than challenge
  • Coaching will usually focus entirely on the present, whereas counsellors may focus on past events as well as the present (note that different therapeutic models approach this differently, for example, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy tends to be relatively present-focused compared to other models of therapy)
  • Coaching can be more focused on actions and doing, whereas counselling can be more exploratory and thinking based
  • Coaching may set and track goals more actively, whereas counselling may help you look at broader life problems
  • Coaches may set between-session tasks, or homework, more frequently than counsellors
  • On a seesaw of change and acceptance, coaching sits firmly at the change end whereas many counselling models focus on acceptance over, or as well as, change
  • Counsellors have generally received more training in mental health problems and human development. Coaches may have other skills such as training in sports or carer coaching
  • Many counsellors will be more supervised and regulated than most coaches


Deciding if coaching or counselling is for you

If you are considering whether counselling or coaching would be better for you then you may find it helpful to consider the following questions:

  • Do I want to focus exclusively on the present and not consider the impact of the past?
  • Have I already identified clear goals, which are ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bounded)?
  • Do I feel ok that the person I work with likely will not be regulated or supervised by a more experienced professional?
  • Are my goals quite practical, for example, related to health, fitness, sleep, diet or building my career?
  • Will I feel ok when the professional who I work with challenges me and pushes me into doing things that I don’t really want to do? Do I have the current resources and resilience to cope with this style?
  • Am I ok with doing homework between sessions?

If you have answered yes to all of the above questions then coaching may be preferable to you over counselling. If you have answered no to most or all of the above questions then counselling is likely to be a better approach for you. If you would like to discuss the difference between counselling and coaching further then call Dr Julie Hannan now on 07530 854530.