What’s the Difference Between Counselling and Coaching?

Break Free From Obstacles Holding You Back

by Paul Jozsef

You’re feeling ‘stuck’. You may feel that it would be helpful to chat with someone about what’s going on in your life. Do you need a coach or do you need a counsellor? Though there are similarities between the two, they are not necessarily interchangeable. Coaching and counselling are both very valuable tools that can help you to become the best version of yourself. Consider how the two differ and why both are invaluable resources you cannot overlook the value of.

What Can counselling and Coaching Services Offer to You?

In both cases, individuals can obtain benefits from having a few counselling or coaching sessions. In both situations, your counsellor/coach is working with you to help you develop a healthy and positive experience of life. Generally, this can focus on any area of concern for you, such as improving your mental health, increasing your ability to be productive at work or to be a more focused and engaged within your relationships. Both counsellors and coaches understand human behaviour and how to work through what’s blocking your progress and motivate you to achieve your goals.

So, what’s the real difference? Below are a few of the key differences between these two areas. By looking at these factors, you can determine which area may be best for you.

Difference #1 – Focus

In every conversation with a professional, you are free to talk about the past, present and the future. However, this is one area with a significant difference between coaching and counselling to consider. With counselling, sessions generally are more focused on the past and how it may relate to your current experience of life. Often, we focus on understanding what happened to us years ago to understand what it is doing to us now, in the present.

This is one area where coaching is different. While it is still important to understand where you came from, you also need to consider where you are going. Coaching puts a lot of focus on the present time with a view toward creating the future you desire. By doing this, coaching allows you to move forward instead of feeling stuck in the past or with the life you have right now. With coaching, we’re articulating your aspirations and goals and planning for your future.

Difference #2 – Mental Health

Many people struggle with excessive stress and difficulties due to mental health issues. Some of these are due to the experiences you’ve had within your life, while others are due to genetics. In all situations, if mental health problems exist or there is an increased risk for developing them, it’s important to choose a provider capable of helping you in this area.

Counselling deals primarily with issues concerning mental health and emotional wellbeing. A trained counsellor can help you recognize the issues you are facing and help you move through them. Counselling can help you overcome common issues such as stress, anxiety, depression and grief.

Coaching typically does not focus on mental health issues. Rather, coaching focuses on setting and achieving goals in an effort to create the life you desire.

If you feel that you have anxiety or depression, you should probably seek a counsellors help. However, if you would like to work on how to be more productive and reach your goals, a coach is what you’re after.

Difference #3 – Regulation

No matter where you are right now in your life, the right person to turn to is the individual capable of providing you with the tools and resources you need to improve your future. However, in some cases, you do need to think about things like licensing, regulation and insurance.

With counselling, you should only seek out a professional that’s licensed by an official association or order. Counsellors must meet strict training and educational requirements to be admitted into said associations or orders. They are also required, under law, to protect your privacy and confidentiality. If someone is providing counselling services without these types of qualifications, it may be harmful in more ways than one.

Coaching doesn’t require this type of formal licensing and regulation. There’s no required confidentiality. However, this doesn’t mean anyone can be a coach. Coaches are often individuals with extensive experience in their chosen field. When hiring a coach, look for a professional that has ample experience and has the resources to back up their claims. What are their qualifications? Do they hold any type of practicing license? Do they provide confidentiality? Are they insured?

Difference #4 – Session Structure

Another key way counselling and coaching are different is the structure of sessions.

During coaching, there is generally a ‘goal’ for each session. The actual session is likely to be very structured, following a set pattern each time. Sessions will usually start with the tracking and discussion of the progress of your goals thus far. Coaches will work with you to identify the topic for the session and then work through it. There will also be a set of agreed-upon tasks or goals for the next session. This formal structure allows for the measurement of goals and objectives.

During a counselling session, it is generally less goal-oriented and more focused on managing whatever ‘comes up’ during the session. If a topic arises, that’s what is covered. Counsellors may even ask you to talk about whatever you would like to during the session, with less focus on a specific task and more on how you may be feeling or what you’re thinking about in the moment.

Difference #5 – Stigma

It is very important to address this. In all situations, getting help should never be viewed as a negative. However, there is often a stigma in seeking help through counselling and therapy. However, it is the opposite. It takes wisdom and strength to admit there is a problem that you may be unable to ‘fix’ without the help of a professional. counselling is a very valuable tool for anyone, some people are reluctant to utilize it because of the negative connotation associated with it.

Coaching, however, doesn’t carry the same stigma. If for any reason, you feel that you cannot seek out counselling, but you know you could benefit from guidance and support, one option may be to consider seeing a coach. Coaching can be a very important investment for you if you are unsure of what type of future you have or if you are unable to create a clear plan for life.

Which one is right for you?

Generally speaking, counselling is an important resource to those who may be facing challenges from their past and need a bit of help dealing with the day-to-day requirements of life. On the other hand, coaching is an excellent way to put your focus and energy into the future so that you can create the type of life that’s right for you. For many reasons, coaching can be a very valuable tool for you and your future goals because it offers you a clear path forward. Consider which area is most relevant for you at the moment and seek the help you deserve.

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