Coaching vs. Counseling

Coaching vs. Counseling: What is the difference?

  1. Coaching is future focused, goal oriented and does not require looking back into childhood issues.  People who seek coaching are stuck in one or two areas of their lives, but otherwise function well. They want to achieve success in a particular area of their lives. Counseling tends to be remedial…fixing something that was broken in the past which significantly interferes with a persons ability to live a full and satisfying life.
  2. Coaching is not reimbursable by health insurance because it is NOT a medical or mental health profession. There are no ICD-10 codes or diagnoses.
  3. Coaching is usually done virtually, i.e. via phone, email, SKYPE/videoconferencing, text or chat. This makes it convenient, as you do not have to travel, leave home or the office. All you have to have is an internet connection. Then, you can work with anyone in the world. Counseling is primarily done in person, which limits you to local providers.
  4. Coaching tends to be time limited and highly focused on specific desirable changes.  Most counseling is open-ended…taking as long as needed to fix the problem.
  5. A coach is a facilitator, not a content expert. In other words, a coach will help you through a process to get you unstuck, but they won’t tell you what to do and how to do it.

How are coaching and counseling similar?

  1. Both require excellent listening, rapport building, problem-solving skils, and the ability to form and maintain a trusting, confidential working relationship.
  2. Both are collaborative relationships.
  3. Both help you find your own solutions to your problems, while providing or suggesting resources for you to consider.
  4. Both result in greater self-confident, self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware

At the present moment, coaching is not a regulated profession, therefore it does not require a state license to practice. There is no supervisory board, training requirements, or grievance process. Anyone can call themselves a coach and charge others for their services.

What you are paying for is the coach’s time and facilitation skills. The coach cannot guarantee of any outcome.  YOU are the critical factor in whether or not you successfully reach your goals. Your coach is only a tool/catalyst and resource to help you get unstuck and speed up the process.

However, graduates of reputable coach training programs must abide by a code of ethics to maintain their certification.  I abide by the Ethical Code of the International Federation of Coaches.  I completed a foundations and business coach training course from MentorCoach in 1999. At that time, MentorCoach was the premier coach training program to train mental health professionals to become excellent coaches.  It has since broadened its student base to other professions.  I had the notable distinction to be the first student of that program to have a PAID coaching group going during our training.

You are wise to request a complimentary introductory call with any prospective coach to see if your needs fit with their expertise.  That is the time to inquire as to how you might collaborate to reach your desired outcome.  If you decided to work together, obtain a letter of agreement between you and your coach prior to starting. That way you are on the same page as far as desire outcome, fees, availability, cancellation policies and between session contact.


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