Many people are somewhat confused when I say I coach men – “Oh you’re a counsellor” is the usual response I get. It is true that the relationship that counsellors and coaches have with their clients are respectful, non-judgemental and supportive and it is also true that both are there to:

  • Serve the client
  • Let them set the direction of each session
  • Use effective questioning techniques during the sessions
  • Help the client understand the issues and move on

The key difference between coaching and counselling is how it is framed. Generally counselling works to help the client come to terms with or better understand what the meaning of the issue is and where it came from whereas coaching is generally more forward facing and looks to develop action plans to move the client forward in their issue through changing behaviours or mind-set.

Focus: Counselling focuses on the “meaning” of an issue in hopes to find where it came from and what it means.

Focus: Coaching focuses on the “pattern of meaning” of an issue, where it came from and where to go from here.

Aim: In Counselling the aim of the therapeutic relationship and therapy is to help the client manage their condition (ie. Depression, Anxiety, ADHD and etc) and develop ways to cope and deal with the current situation.

Aim: In Coaching the aim of the coaching relationship is the help the client understand that they are in control of how their mind influences their actions, to break through barriers and to create a new blue print or set of values and beliefs to help the client on their journey to live the life that they want to live in.

Emphasis: Counselling emphasises on the importance of the client’s story and encourages the client to talk about their feelings, meanings and thoughts.

Emphasis: Coaching emphasises on the important aspects of the story and encourages the client to look at the experience to look for patterns of behaviours and thoughts that discourage the client from living their ideal life.

Outcome: Counselling focuses on the past and how it affects the present.

Outcome: Coaching looks at the past, sees how it affects the now and focuses on shifting the present to change the future.

In order to better understand whether it is coaching or counselling you would benefit from, try thinking about where you are now in your life / business and where you want to go.

Counselling is often times conducted for the use of revisiting one’s past and finding healing from your wounds. Many people suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Multiple Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and many other disorders. These disorders commonly result from issues in a client’s childhood or early adult life. The way that many people cope with disorders, stressors, anxiety, depression, and grief depends on the person, but many people will react in the form of eating disorders, anxiety disorders, anger, frustration, avoidance, or other coping tactics. The goal of counselling is for clients to recover from their past wounds and move towards a lifestyle of healing, finding freedom from their pain.

On the other hand, coaching is a helpful method that looks toward the future. Coaching is for people who desire to see improvement and beneficial change in their lives. Rather than healing from the past, coaching looks forward and asks the question, “How can we improve your lifestyle and meet your goals?” Coaching strives to make challenging goals and meet those goals by utilising intense accountability and motivation. Coaches often work with specific people depending upon their personal goals. Some people may seek coaching for help in the business world, for growth in relationships, or even to reach their potential from a wellness standpoint. Coaching can be conducted on countless different topics, but it always looks toward the future and the goals clients have set.

A good way to illustrate the differences is with the use of a swimming analogy:

In Counselling, the counsellor and you (the client) discuss what is stopping you from actually swimming, what kinds of swimming or water experience you may have had, how your family or relationships have affected your decision or fears to get in the pool and you may develop goals for you to be able to swim again but executed at your own pace.

In Coaching, the coach and you (the client) begin by speaking of the fears and barriers that you may have developed, explore why swimming is something you want to do and you both develop strategies, goals and new thinking systems behind swimming while the coach is swimming next to you and encouraging and motivating you as you ride your bike.

Something to bear in mind when looking for support – ask plenty of questions when you are looking for a coach or counsellor to work with. It’s a crazy situation but neither coaching nor counselling is regulated in the UK! What does this mean – well it means that anyone can call themselves a coach without having undertaken any formal coaching training. It is SO important as a client that you know you’re working with someone who is fully qualified and registered with an appropriate industry body.

There have been times and I have no doubt that there will continue to be times that I’ve spoken with men around their issues and actually, it’s a counselling issue and as such have referred them onto the appropriate support. Your coach or counsellor MUST be strong enough to identify where their professional boundaries are and recognise when they should be referring clients for specialist support.

I hope that I’ve helped clear up any mis-understanding that people may have when talking about counselling vs coaching? If you’re still a bit confused – why don’t you pick up the phone and give me a call on 07545501021 where I’d be happy to talk with you.