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Counselling & Life Coaching

Coaching vs Counselling

What is Counselling/Therapy?

Counselling deals with your current mental state but also works on personal growth, relationships, and positive life choices. The CPA states: "Counselling psychology is a broad specialization within professional psychology concerned with using psychological principles to enhance and promote the positive growth, well-being, and mental health of individuals, families, groups, and the broader community." Counsellor and therapist are often interchangeable terms in this field. While psychologist is a special designation for those who've undergone specific training. Psychologist's have a Masters or Doctorate and generally, but not exclusively, work with more difficult clients and mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, paranoia, and psychosis.

What is Life Coaching?

Coaching is a process of working through goals and challenges as defined by the client. Coaching is all about moving toward a specific goal working through challenges that may impede that process. As a certified life coach, I use TEAM-CBT in my coaching practice. In one-on-one sessions we work together, creating solutions to life problems or goals in a peer-like relationship. Coaching is not meant to assess or treat specific mental illnesses/disorders or work through past events. While life coaching is not the same as therapy, there is an amazing healing that can take place when working on the present. Fractal theory states life has infinite patterns that are broken into small segments. Deal with one tiny part of the pattern and you can change the whole picture.

Similarities Between Counselling & Coaching

Both counselling and life coaching use many techniques that overlap. Some counsellors work more like coaches, while others use more traditional forms of therapy. Interestingly, how a session looks will vary from life coach to life coach, but it varies even more from therapists to therapist. Both are supportive roles intended to help a client find clarity and move forward. Since I do work online and am solution focused my life coaching and counselling approaches, in terms of the methods I use and the issues I work with, are almost indistinguishable. This is NOT the case for every counsellor and coach, it is unique to my training and circumstances.

Both coaching and counselling work with a client:

  • on personal growth
  • dealing with life challenges
  • building better relationships
  • dealing with current painful emotions
  • moving past trauma and working through grief
  • work through road blocks to success
  • moving on past a loss or unhealthy relationship (after it has already ended)

Differences Between Counselling & Life Coaching

When you search the internet for the difference between coaching and counselling you'll often see it stated, usually by coaches, that counselling focuses on the past and coaching on the future, and other arbitrary lists of differences. But counselling is about moving a person forward, and there are many therapists that focus on current issues. It is the role of the relationship and legal matters where coaching and counselling diverge.

In general counselling gets into deeper issues. There are certain tools and techniques used by therapists that should not be used by coaches. Counsellors are trained to work with those dealing with mental illness and/or those who are not functioning or barely functioning, whereas coaches should only accept individuals who are generally emotionally well adjusted and functioning in most areas of their lives but are dealing with specific challenges.

However, the biggest difference between them in terms of how I practice, is the relationship of client and practitioner. Life coaching is a flexible, unregulated relationship (SDA's see here). Counseling is a professional, clinical relationship and we can only meet during sessions with no social media or other contact.

Which one should I choose?

It can be confusing since there are many similarities between coaching and counselling. They both can be very effective. Some help on which way to go:

  • If you your emotions are very intense or are you are having trouble functioning at some level, coaching may not be right for you. If you are struggling with severe depression, active suicidal thoughts, extreme OCD, dangerous eating disorder, or severe mental illness/disorder, in person counselling or psychotherapy is a better option. If during intake I feel you need more than the scope of my practice I'll let you know and help you with referrals for appropriate help.
  • I do book my counselling through the Feeling Good Institute Canada who specialize in TEAM-CBT therapists.
  • Book a free 15 minute session to discuss it further.

*NOTE: Information above varies in different countries. At this time coaching is not regulated in ANY country that I am currently aware of. BUT this article/page is by no means legal or medical advice.