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Coaching vs Counselling

The difference between Coaching and Counselling arises frequently. I have attempted to explain and distinguish the differences between coaching and counselling:



Traditional Therapy or Counselling


Primary Life Focus

The focus is on the person’s past. Deals with healing emotional pain or conflict within an individual or in a relationship between two people.Some forms of therapy e.g., Brief Solution Focused and CBT focus on the future.

Focuses on a person’s present, in order to help them create actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s personal and work life and act towards the future. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability. A highly experienced coach will know when to look at the past because it informs the present, as well as in order to help distinguish limiting belief systems.

Subject Focus

Based on feelings and emotions.

Action and outcomes. Actively un-taps clients potential


Medical or clinical diagnosis of pathology or relationship conflicts.

Learning and developmental, focusing on attainable goals and possibilities.

Nature of Issue

Identifiable dysfunction.

A generally functional client desiring a better situation

Treatment of the Past

Understand and resolve the past.

Understanding the past in the context in which future goals are set.

Questions Asked


HOW? WHAT? WHEN? and WHY, a form of seeking insight, is emphasized less than action

Client Goals

Help patients resolve old pain and improve emotional states

Helps clients learn new skills and tools to build a more satisfying successful future; focuses on goals

Accountability for Goals

The goals of therapy are for the person to be accountable for their feelings and emotions and change can be identified internally but not usually measurable unless using a CBT.

Coaching goals, like business goals, usually have to do with one’s external world and behaviour and is measurable.


Therapist / Client relationship
The therapist offers perspectives and helps the clients discover their own answers.

Co-creative equal partnership
The coach offers perspectives and helps the clients discover their own answers.


The Therapist diagnoses, then provides professional expertise and guidelines to provide a path to healing

The Coach stands with the clients and helps him or her identify the challenges, then partners to turn challenges into victories, holding client accountable to reach desired goals.

Training or Educational Background

Therapists require extensive expertise in the subject matter of the therapy: marital counselling, childhood abuse, etc. A therapist can use coaching skills to support the client.

Coaches, deal in process, do not require subject matter expertise. Coach with work, training and education background enhances and utilises their experience towards greater understanding and knowledge of the clients issues. Coach can utilise counselling and diagnoses to enhance the client towards unlocking past limitations to achieving goals for e.g., bullying at school affecting being experienced at work.


Patient, nurturing, evocative, indirect, parenting, cathartic.

The same, excepting, parenting, but also catalytic, challenging, direct, straight talk, accountability

Rate of Change

Progress is often slow and painful because the issues are often subconscious and fundamental.

Growth and progress are rapid and usually enjoyable.

Responsibility for Outcomes

The therapist is responsible for both the process and the outcome.

The coach is responsible for the process; the client for the results.


Limited, if any, personal disclosure by the therapist

Personal disclosure by the coach used when relevant as an aid to communicating.


Often covered by health insurance; or through an Employee Assistant programme.  Otherwise self funding or a relative.

Not covered by health insurance.  Employers may pay for coaching of individuals or groups.






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