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Coaching vs. Counselling

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 02/05/2015

As a coach, you will challenge your client. You will clarify what your client wants and take the time to find out what success in life means to them. You assist your client in clarifying their vision and the steps to get there, and helping them to discover a life of development and accomplishment, both personally and professionally.  

As a coach you sponsor your clients towards the ownership of skill-sets that encourage and support him or her to increase productivity, productiveness, and effectiveness. The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as:   “…partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach's responsibility is to:  

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life, while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.” [Reference: ICF FAQ]  

The Difference Between Coaching and Counselling

Coaching Counselling
Future-focused Past-focused
Solution-focused Problem-focused
Works towards outcomes Works towards emotions
Does not give advice Gives advice and recommendations
Asks the question “How can we change?” Asks the question “Why should we change?”
The client has the answers – assisted to find their own solutions The counsellor has the answers – gives diagnosis and treatment
Backtracking – using client language and tone to recap important words or phrases Paraphrasing – restatement of a statement or text using other words

While it is important to note that these professions are different in a number of ways, there is no reason to suggest that one is better than the other or that they cannot coexist. In fact, there may be certain occasions where an individual feels they need the services of one and are referred to the other for more suitable services. In addition, many coaches were once counsellors and many counsellors have knowledge of coaching practices.   What might be some other differences that you understand about these two professions?