Differences between Counseling and Coaching

Counseling involves using multi-dimensional diagnostic tools in order to help determine if a client is struggling with an emotional issue and/or mental illness.  Treatment in counseling varies by modality and specialization of the provider.  The field of counseling is regulated through licensing and counselors are required to have a Masters degree or higher from an accredited college or university in order to practice.


Coaches are focused on the goals and achievements of their clients.  Coaches employ motivation techniques and problem solving strategies to help move people forward in their lives.  Coaching is task-centered in nature and is generally time limited.  While there are many places to receive excellent training as a coach, licensing is not required and the industry is not regulated.


While counseling and coaching employ many of the same communication skill sets there is a critical difference to consider. While a counselor can employ both counseling and coaching techniques with clients within a treatment environment, a coach cannot and will not treat an emotional issue.   Well trained coaches understand this distinction and understand the ethical issues surrounding this. Conversely, if a mental health counselor is specifically engaging in "life coaching", they need to be very clear with the client about the parameters of counseling vs. coaching. 


Before engaging with either a counselor or coach, it is important for the client to first assess for themselves which is the most appropriate approach.  There are many resources, it's just a matter of finding what is best for you right now.