What’s the difference between coaching and counselling – my clients often ask. Coaching and counselling can feel similar on paper; however, the two services I provide are different. Let’s have a look at the main differences between coaching and counselling.
Working with past experiences or future orientated?
When we come to counselling, we can expect to work with our past experiences because those shape how we perceive the world, relate to and communicate with people and generally react to the world today.
When we seek coaching support, we usually have an obstacle in our life and want to plan for future challenges too.
Helping through validation or challenge?
During counselling sessions, you will most likely (and hopefully) experience respect and healthy validation of who you are and how your emotional experiences make sense based on your journey so far.
In coaching sessions, you will challenge your thinking patterns and habits and behaviours. This will help you gain new insights, perspectives and ultimately make more informed choices.
Focussed on healing or developing further?
Clients usually come to counselling when they feel emotionally unwell, have mental health problems or feel generally overwhelmed. Therapists focus on providing a safe space and time for healing and recovery.
On the other hand, coaching is more about personal growth. It is traditionally associated with working with resilient clients who wish to improve their skills, develop new habits, and make better choices.
Inward focussed or outward focussed work?
A good counsellor supports their client’s deeper mental and emotional processes, while coaching is often associated with external behaviours and habits.
Regulated or not regulated profession?
In the UK, you need to have at least three years (400 hours) of counselling studies and 100 to 150 hours of practice to open your private practice. Coaching is vastly unregulated, so it is incredibly important to seek a trained and accredited coach.
- Counselling: grief, anxiety, depression, past or recent traumatic experience, racism and other forms of oppression, in the area of technology this could be for example being exposed to upsetting content online;
- Coaching: difficult work situations, career choices, improving your life balance and habits, in the area of technology for instance managing transitions from and to online work in a healthy and productive way.
Now that I listed all those differences – here is the truth: both services can contain all the above-mentioned aspects, and some counsellors still practice without a professional accreditation.
The boundaries between both types of support are very fluid, so please remember that the above differences are hugely simplified. You might need to explore your plans and dreams during your therapy or speak about workplace communication. Equally, during coaching, you might want to explore your past relationships if those affect your current choices and challenges. So before you decide which route to take – talk to a few counsellors and coaches to see what type of support they provide and see if it matches your personal preferences and needs.