Four Key Differences Between Coaching and Counseling
two people facing each other across a table, a clipboard on the table, coaching or counseling session

When you hear of a coach, do you think of someone out on the field training the soccer team? Do you think of a counselor as someone who only works with people facing severe mental health issues? These are very common misconceptions a lot of people have.

Coaching and counseling indeed have many overlapping areas, but they are not entirely the same. We believe the differences between coaching and counseling can be summarized in just 4 key points: Focus, Goals, Accountability & Relationship.

1. The focus of the sessions are different

Counseling focuses on your past and helps you by healing any emotional pain sustained in the past that has carried through to your present. Coaching focuses on the future,and a coach helps you set goals and make plans to achieve them.

Counseling will help you address and resolve past challenges by drawing links from the past to understand your present behaviors and change them. The aim is to help you move on from the past and reach your potential in life.

Coaching is targeted at getting rid of your current problematic behaviors and elevating your personal strengths to maximize your true potential. Through coaching, you will conceptualize your goals, and plan strategies and actions to achieve them.

2. The goals you set are different

A second difference between coaching and counseling is the goal of the program or session.

Counseling follows a clinical approach and is focused on healing by providing you with a safe and supportive space to reflect. Counseling aims to reach a deeper understanding of any patterns in your behavior and allows you to explore and understand your subconscious and unconscious mind better, ultimately improving your overall mental wellbeing.

Coaching follows a learning and development-based approach where you will strive to understand your strengths and weaknesses. The goal is to develop yourself further and take concrete steps towards a successful future.

3. Differences in what you are accountable for

While both counseling and coaching require some form of accountability, the accountability required from both is different.

For counseling, your therapist will encourage you to be accountable for your feelings and emotions. Therefore, the changes that you see will be in your thoughts, behaviors and feelings.

For coaching, it is about your actions and measurable results. You will be held accountable for the way that you choose to achieve your goals and your success will be measured through various key performance indicators and behavioral outcomes.

4. The relationship you build is different

Both a coach and counselor will be able to offer you perspectives on your life and help you develop your own solutions, but there is a difference as to how this is executed.

A counselor will help you examine your thought patterns, explore the messages that your body is sending you. They will play the role of support as you heal from patterns, thoughts and behaviors that are impacting your life.

A coach is a partner who will work with you to identify the problems that you face in your life and the goals that you wish to achieve in your personal or professional life. You may consider them more like a mentor or a guide who places positive pressure on you.

Bonus: Their Training

One last thing you should note is that coaches and counselors may have different training experience.

Counselors in private practice should have at least a Masters degree and several hundred hours of experience (experience requirements vary from country to country). They often specialize in certain styles of therapy (eg Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Acceptance & Commitment Therapy) or focus on specific topics, such as Addictions or Relationships.

Coaches have no degree requirements. Instead, they receive certifications from accredited programs and organizations such as the International Coaching Federation.

To summarize, both counseling and coaching will be able to help you, depending on what your specific needs are. We hope that this article has helped you better understand the differences between coaching and counseling and support you in making an informed decision on seeking the right support.

At MindFi, we aim to make mental wellbeing accessible to everyone who aims to become the best version of themselves! Connect with one of our coaches or counselors through the MindFi app today.

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