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Taking care of your mental health is extremely important and has many short-term and long-term benefits. Both counselling and coaching can be very valuable for anyone who wants to improve their mental health and personal life, but do you know the difference between them?

In this post, Select Psychology explores the differences between coaching and counselling before looking at which would be best for you. As we are all different, one individual may benefit more from counselling, while the other will gain more from coaching. Consider your personal attributes and needs as you read so that you can decide which is best for you.

5 Differences Between Coaching And Counselling

Coaching and counselling, while similar in some ways, have five major differences. Here are the most important differences between them:


Past vs future focussed

Possibly the most important difference between these two approaches is their focus. Counselling, or psychotherapy, focuses on understanding, resolving and healing emotional trauma and pain carried through from the past. Coaching is focused on the present and future.
Coaches help you to identify goals, leverage personal strengths and take action. Therefore, the focus is very different from counselling.


Psychotherapists treat mental illness

Another very important difference between these is that therapists are trained to aid those who are dealing with mental illness, while coaches are not. While coaching may inadvertently help with aspects of mental illness, practitioners have not been trained in the critical elements of this psychological state.
For this reason, if you are dealing with anxiety, depression, self-destructive behaviour or any other mental illness issues, it is best to contact a psychotherapist.


Differing relationship

The relationship between counsellor and client differs from that of coach and client. Each may offer their professional perspectives on your position while encouraging you to reach your own conclusions, but they do this in different ways.
A counsellor will focus on helping you to notice, understand and heal from different elements of your life. They can offer advice and guidance on how to move forward, and you can discuss your path forward with them.
A coach, on the other hand, has more of a partnership with their client. Considered a ‘thinking partner’, coaches can work with you to identify challenges that you want to address. They can then hold you accountable and support you to deal with these challenges healthily so that you can hopefully achieve the goals you identified previously.

Training and accreditation

Another major difference between these two professions is the training and accreditation needed for each. Counsellors are legally required to achieve an advanced degree before attaining a license to practice. They also require specific training and expertise in the specific subject matter that they focus on, such as marital counselling or dealing with trauma.
Coaches do not have to go through such rigorous training. They are more process and development orientated and do not require extensive expertise in any specific area. That said, many coaches will have done additional training in order to offer their clients more value.

Framework and approach

In both coaching and counselling, you will talk with a trained professional. However, in therapy, you will most likely engage in unstructured sessions in which you will guide what is talked about. This does depend on the type of therapy you are engaging in but is the general framework for counselling.
Coaching, in contrast, is more structured and focused on actionable strategies and external growth. As coaches are process experts, their approach will depend on the individual.


Coaching Vs Counselling | Which Is Best For You?

Choosing between coaching and counselling will come down to your individual needs. If you need to deal with past pain and how it affects your life, relationships and mental state, then a counsellor is the right option for you.

However, if you want to work on your goals and focus on improving your future, working with a counsellor could benefit you best.


If you would like to talk to a licensed counsellor or want to know more about the types of therapies that we offer, contact us today.