Coaching and Counseling: 6 Ways in Which They Differ

coaching and counseling

To become certified as a holistic coach is to take an important step toward changing lives—and the world. If you’re passionate about helping your clients create positive change and transformation in their lives, then you may have considered coaching as well as counseling.

Although coaches and counselors both help their clients, the two professions are actually very different. In this article, we outline six key differences between coaching and counseling, to help you determine whether becoming a holistic coach—helping your clients reach their potential while bringing all elements of their lives into balance—is something you’re interested in.

  1. Coaching views clients as already whole, whereas counseling looks to resolve a past pain or traumatic event.

Holistic coaches consider their clients whole and possessing exactly what they need to make the changes they want to make. Coaching, then, is a process by which the coach supports the client to make these changes.

On the other hand, counselors view their clients as “damaged” or “hurt,” and their job is to assist their clients in healing, psychologically, from whatever event caused the damage or pain.

2. Coaching is future-focused, whereas counseling often focuses on the past.

People generally hire coaches to get the framework and support they need to create a new future. Coaching is about a client starting from where she is, receiving support as she does the inner work necessary to take the action steps that create the transformation she’s seeking.

On the other hand, people generally hire counselors to heal from something that happened in the past. They’re often seeking tools to handle emotional issues that stem from past trauma.

  1. Coaching empowers the client to look within for the answers and solutions to her own problems, whereas counseling offers outside coping mechanisms, guidance and direction.

Because, as a methodology, coaching views clients as already having the answers they seek, it therefore empowers them to dig deep and find those answers. Coaches typically ask questions in order to encourage clients to create their own solutions.

On the other hand, counselors often give advice and direction to their clients. They may guide the conversation and offer specific activities, tools, or exercises to help their clients heal.

  1. Coaching focuses actions and measurable results, whereas counseling focuses on the conscious and subconscious mind.

Coaches typically support their clients in developing and meeting specific benchmarks or mini-goals as they work toward a bigger goal or vision.

On the other hand, counselors guide their clients in “inner” work, helping them to understand the different levels of their mind. Change is not necessarily the goal, here.

  1. Coaches and their clients typically pre-determine how long they’ll work together, and that length of time is usually short-term, whereas the counselor-client relationship is often ongoing.

In most cases, coaches offer their services over a set period of time—typically six months to a year. The goal of this relationship is for the coach to support the client in reaching a specific goal.

On the other hand, people often seek counseling for an indefinite amount of time, and even after the initial appointments, clients may return to a counselor when emotional issues arise.

  1. Coaches don’t diagnose mental health conditions; counselors and other mental health professionals do.

The job of a life coach is to help his or her clients identify patterns (in their thinking and behavior) and to then guide their clients in changing those patterns so they can create the transformation they seek.

On the other hand, counselors and other mental health professionals look for the cause of patterns in their clients’ thinking and behavior, and sometimes diagnose their clients with conditions that explain these patterns.

In conclusion … 

Both coaching and counseling are powerful modalities for helping clients to change their lives. If you’re interested in supporting clients in taking action to create measurable results as they move toward a specific goal or vision, then coaching may be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you like the idea of helping people heal from past hurt or trauma, you may consider counseling.

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