*It’s important to note that the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘counselling’ are both really umbrella terms nowadays, used to cover quite an array of coaching and counselling approaches. Plus, each coach and counsellor will bring their own personality and unique way of doing things to their work with clients. The below is a general overview only.
Coaching is action orientated, vs counselling is coping orientated.
Coaches want to help you recognise what you think vs counsellors also want to help you realise how you feel.
Coaching helps you set and achieve goals vs counselling helps you recognise and solve your problems in life.
A coach has the job to challenge you frequently vs a counsellor is there to support you with empathy and understanding (although they might gently challenge you).
Coaches focus exclusively on the present and future vs some counsellors focus mostly on the present and the future, others on the past (depending on the type of therapy you choose).
A coach is focused on your potential vs a counsellor is focused on helping you be at peace with yourself and your life.
Coaches are trained in helping clients move forward in life vs counsellors are also trained in human development, sexuality, family dynamics, and mental health conditions.
Coaching training generally consists of several weekends of in-person training. This is combined with many months of online modules. Some schools instead offer week-long ‘intensives’, with students taking different levels over time. Generally, these trainings are all followed by the student working with volunteer clients then submitting case studies for review.
Coaches then must do many hours of coaching before being eligible to register with the different coaching ‘associations’, none of which are regulated at present.
A counsellor in the UK has extensive training (a minimum of 450 hours over three or more years) into human emotions and thinking, followed by being a supervised trainee.
When counsellors have enough hours of practise time they can apply to register with the very strict and long-established regulatory boards. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) demands that a counsellor has been in practise for at least three years and has completed a minimum of 450 supervised practise hours before accreditation.
Unfortunately, however, anyone can legally call themselves a coach or a counsellor in the UK. This is different than then the United States, where it is not legal to call yourself a counsellor without recognised training.
The point here is that it is important to ask your coach or counsellor just what their training was. Of course it is also true just because a coach or counsellor has the best training does not mean they are good at what they do or are the right fit for you. You might need to try a few sessions before committing long term.
A few myths about counsellors vs coaches
“Coaching focuses just on the present and the future, whereas counselling exclusively focuses on the past.” Actually, there are forms of counselling and therapy that also don’t look much at the past, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
In general, if you only want to focus on what you are dealing with right now, don’t want someone to ask you anything too personal, want help making action steps, and/or the area of life you are most concerned about is your career,coaching might be a good choice.
If you are curious about breaking patterns of thinking and acting that have been plaguing your life for some time, what to feel understood at last, would like to raise your self-esteem and understand yourself, and want to figure out what you want in life and move towards it, counselling might be a good choice.
What about a counsellor who is ALSO a coach?
Many counsellors nowadays integrate life-coaching approaches, often called ‘psychological coaching’. This includes helping you identify obstacles, set goals, change your perspective, and identify and change your core beliefs. Cognitive behavioural therapists in particular tend to integrate such tools.