Coaching is not therapy, counseling, mentoring or psychology.

I like to keep it simple so to me there are three kinds of coaching: Sports, Business and Personal coaching. the difference between the latter two being workrelated or not work related. And that’s it.

Coaching is not therapy, counseling, mentoring or psychology. Although the coaching process may have roots in the field of psychology (and intervention oindiv-coachingften follows some psychological models), the actual process of coaching should not be mistaken for a therapeutic intervention. One of the most obvious differences between the two approaches is that therapy tends to focus on feelings and experiences related to past events. Whereas coaching is oriented towards goal setting and encourages the client to move forward.

A consultant usually is a specialist in a given area. They are hired to give recommendations and provide solutions. A consultant usually works with a client to solve a particular problem. Coaching uses a more holistic approach. With the client, the coach examines the situation, creates a plan of action, and works side by side to resolve the issue. The coach does not have to be an expert in the client’s business. The client is the expert. The coach does not have the answers. They have the questions that allow the client to find their own answers and clarify their own values.

A therapist typically works with a dysfunctional person to get them to become functional. A coach works with a functional person to get them to become exceptional. Therapists typically work with people who need help to become emotionally healthy. They often deal with past issues and how to overcome them. A coach works with functional people to move them to magnificent levels. Coaching does not rely on past issues for achieving growth, but rather focuses on goals towards the future. Coaching is action-oriented. The focus is on where the client is right now, where they want to be next, and how to get them there. If you are working in the past, then you are involved in therapy. Part of being a good coach is knowing when and when not to coach. If the client needs therapy then a coach has to refer them to a therapist.

While a counselor provides information and expertise, the relationship is normally hierarchical, perhaps even authoritarian. It is based in the past and focuses on fixing a problem. A coaching relationship is present and future based, action-oriented and not hierarchical in nature. The client and the coach partner to create a better future for the client.

Mentoring is a relationship which is established with someone who is an expert in their field. The mentor is usually older and more experienced than the person being mentored. The mentor bestows their knowledge and wisdom onto the student. The student looks up to the mentor and seeks guidance and advice from the mentor. A coaching relationship is a partnership whereby the coach walks side by side with the client.

 The coach supports the client in drawing on their own wisdom and following their inner guidance.

Carl Rogers said in order to truely help someone we must be able to enter their lives, help them resolve their issues and then exit their lives without them ever knowing we were there.


  1. Not sure it is quite as simple as that for me. My experience is that on occasion it is helpful to look at patterns of thinking born out of experience. Perhaps I say this as a mentor-coach with a love of Appreciative Inquiry and Psychosynthesis.
    However, I view it as axiomatic that as a professional I know enough to know when I don’t know enough and when therefore I sense the client needs to work with an expert therapist. This means Continuous Professional Development. A recent talk I attended on schizophrenia has broadened my understanding but I will never attempt therapy with a client but rather I hope now I will have new sensitivities and react professionally if I sense my client needs expert support in this area.

  2. It might of interest to to review an article published in 2001: Coaching vs. Therapy: A Perspective
    Consulting Psychology Journal: practice and Research, Vol 53, No. 4, 229-237

  3. It’s so important for clients to understand the differences so they are knowledgeable of who can best serve them. Great post!

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