When you are navigating personal or professional difficulties, it can be hard to know whether to choose coaching or counselling to provide the right support. In this blog post, we highlight some of the differences, so you can decide for yourself which is the best approach for you.
Ask any coaching practitioner what the differences between coaching and counselling are and they will probably struggle to give you a clearly defined answer.
The lines between coaching and counselling are indeed blurred, and there can be significant overlap between the two. For example, both professions are similar in that they offer a safe, non-judgmental and confidential space for you to talk about your challenges or concerns. They both also rely on skilled listening, questioning and reflective practice as tools of their respective trades.
However, despite these similarities, there are also important differences.
Firstly, coaching and counselling have different aims - while counselling approaches help you deal with troublesome feelings, thoughts or experiences, coaching is more concerned with helping you develop your own strengths, skills and coping resources so you can navigate both current and future difficulties well. Whilst this can make coaching hugely empowering, in reality, you need to feel ready to move forward from your challenges for coaching to be effective - so if you are still trying to make sense of or come to terms with distressing or traumatic events, counselling may be a better fit for you.
Similarly, coaching is forward-facing - whilst this is also true of some counselling approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy, other forms (for example, psychoanalysis) predominantly explore what's happened to you in the past in order to help you resolve current issues. By contrast, coaching focuses on what is going on in your life currently and where you would like to be. Therefore, whilst past events won't be ignored within the coaching environment, they aren't the primary focus and will normally only be considered if they are stopping you from getting to where you want to go.
Additionally, coaching is directed by you - in counselling, the practitioner is often perceived as the expert, working from certain therapeutical or theoretical frameworks to help you resolve your issues. By contrast, coaching views you as the expert in your own life and therefore it doesn't tell you what to do, prescribe advice or push you in any particular direction. Instead, it works with you on your level - shaping sessions to your unique needs and circumstances, whilst also helping you find solutions and ways of effectively navigating your circumstances that are right for you.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly), coaching cannot treat mental health disorders - whilst it can boost your psychological well-being and help combat stress, coaches are not usually trained to provide therapeutic support for conditions such as anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore if you are experiencing severe or ongoing mental health issues or emotional distress, it is important that you initially speak to your G.P. or a counselling/mental health professional.
To sum up, whether you choose coaching or counselling depends ultimately on where you are in dealing with your challenges, as well as which approach you feel will best suit you and your needs. However, there are many different approaches to both counselling and coaching and whilst the above information provides guidelines, it is still important to do your research and make sure that whoever you choose is the best fit for you.
If you would still like any further advice or information about whether you should choose counselling or coaching to support you in challenging times, please don't hesitate to get in touch and we'll be more than happy to help.