Coaching & Counselling, what’s the difference?

9th July 2019

As a dual trained coach and counsellor, I’m often asked what is the difference between the two and how do you know which is appropriate? These are great questions and I’m going to try and answer them….but it’s often not that clear cut. There are some clear differences and lots areas of overlap and similarities.

So let’s start with the similarities.

What coaching and counselling have in common

Whether I’m coaching or counselling I describe myself as a person-centred practitioner. This means that my underlying assumption with all clients is that, if I create the right conditions the individual can begin to find their own way through what is keeping them stuck or unhappy. As one of my clients put it so perfectly recently; “I can go on the internet and learn how to do stuff. What I need you to help me do is to understand WHY I am finding this so difficult!”

Both coaching and counselling require a deep commitment from the individual as the work can be tough. People need to be ready to make change, and to take a look a deeply held patterns of beliefs or thinking. Neither coaching nor counselling are advice giving. Far from it. Both are relationships in which my role is to gently challenge and encourage, without judging or directing.


Whether coaching or counselling my intention is to be the kind of unwavering support that enables people to find out more about themselves.  In both, what we’re often working on together is how the person can change themselves, rather than others, and in so doing, find creative ways to explore and challenge current perspectives so that new options are opened up.

What are the differences between coaching and counselling?

With so much in common, it is tricky to make a clear distinction between the two approaches. Here’s a few ways in which I think they’re different;

More focused on solutions and working towards agreed outcomes.
Often dealing with cognitive (our thoughts) or deep rooted emotional blockages
Clarifying the current focus and identifying plans for the future.
Dealing with experiences and events that impact the ability to healthily deal with life, work and relationships.
Usually on a fixed term basis, with an agreed end point.
Can be long term, which is more usually referred to as psychotherapy, where we’re working on things like; anxiety, depression, self-esteem, shame, trauma, family issues or relationships for example.
The purpose of coaching is almost always focused around a specific issue that the client wants to change and usually results in clear actions and next steps
The goal of counselling and psychotherapy can be to heal pain experienced in childhood and adulthood, and to support clients in building self-esteem and self-confidence.

As a coach who works at the psychological level, it can be tricky at times to know when I’m coaching and when it might more accurately be described as counselling. Equally when I’m counselling there are definitely lots of times when I draw on my coaching experience to support a client when they’re stuck.

Personally I believe that coaching and counselling are more similar than different. Both counselling and coaching;

  • Come with clear boundaries, so that both parties know what to expect
  • Are based on a relationship underpinned by trust and unconditional positive regard
  • Enable the client to explore the deeply held patterns of thinking and relating that can cause problems and blockages in the here and now
  • Is a time and space for the person to focus on themselves, a time for them and no one else
  • Are concerned with looking at things about ourselves that might be difficult or painful to acknowledge.

As a client it is important to understand the differences between coaching and counselling. Many coaches aren’t trained to work with the deep-rooted obstacles that might be holding people back, and coaches are usually taught that it’s inappropriate for them to help someone with depression, anxiety, mood disorders or other mental health issues.

As a coach, counsellor and psychotherapist I draw on ideas and from a range of psychological approaches. I don’t believe in a one size fits all approach for coaching or counselling so I tailor my approach according to the unique needs of each individual client.

If you would like to talk about any of this, or have any questions please feel free to email me on