Tip Sheet – Coaching Explained ~ the Difference between Coaching and Counselling – 5 Tips for You

Defining Coaching and Counselling:

Coaching is defined aspartnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today‘s uncertain and complex environment. https://coachfederation.org/about It is an outcomes-based, short-term structured partnership where a coachee defines their goal to move from their present state to a new desired way of being, seeing or behaving.


Career coaching focuses on work and career, and a coach helps you define and achieve career goals or deal with career issues that emerge at each stage of life transition.

Life coaching is the process of helping people identify and achieve personal goals through developing skills and attitudes that lead to self-empowerment.

Counselling is defined ashelping people with physical, emotional and mental health issues improve their sense of well‐being, alleviate feelings of distress and resolve crises. Counsellors provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of more severe psychological symptoms. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling

Similarities briefly ~

Coaching and Counselling both put the client at the centre of their work and utilize similar helping skills such as building rapport, active listening, questioning and encouraging. However, they have differences that will be elaborated through 5 Tips to Guide You in choosing one over the other depending on need.

5 Key Differences Between Coaching and Counselling ~

  1. PURPOSE – both are meant to enable clients to achieve their full potential, but their view of you and “how” they enable you to thrive is different ~

coaching leaping image     Counselling image

COACHING: is not about “fixing” you, as there is a belief that you are whole, you are able to work towards your desired goal – moving from “good to great”. The aim is to help you in your development, to learn new skills and tools to independently achieve your personal and professional goals.

COUNSELLING: is about first healing wounds from the past, what is broken within you, as both you and the counsellor believe that you have no capacity to resolve old pain and heal yourself to a new emotional state without expert help. So the counsellor first has to help you resolve and heal the past before you can move forward independently.

  1. CONTEXT – where is the focus of the work from my present state – the past versus the future ~

The Difference Between Coaching and Counselling (2)

COACHING: primarily focuses on the future moving from the present to create an action plan to get to a desired new state. In coaching the past is discussed briefly in the context of discovering what is blocking the client from making progress, such as self-limiting beliefs, not healing emotional pain.

COUNSELLING: primarily focuses on the past to make sense of the present and a starting point of healing you so that you eventually move forward. In counselling, the past is dissected thoroughly to understand deep seated traumas and experiences as part of resolving emotional and mental health problems.

  1. PROCESS – both helping professions are goal-driven and use a structured plan of action, but how that is done is different ~


47682344-partnership--business-success-concept    Counselling:counselling steps image

COACHING: the coachee owns the process, does self-assessment of current reality, sets their own goals for a future state, defines the actions to be taken and is viewed as able to do this on their own. The coach accompanies the coachee as an equal partner on their journey and they act as a team with mutual accountability for the goals set. The coach can catalyse the process by offering ideas and asking for permission to present these.

COUNSELLING: the client contributes to the process of goal-setting and action planning, but this is led by the counsellor. This is because the client usually is in exhaustion, unable to act on their own, so they utilize a counsellor’s expert help in addressing mental and emotional problems. They are told the actions to take to heal.

  1. ROLES – so what does the Coach and what does the Counsellor do with you and for you ~


COACH: is a thinking partner who co-creates solutions, guides, asks incisive questions, inspires, provides resources and challenges you to act. The process is more important than your story’s content because emphasis is on goals, actions, accountability and strategies to help you develop new skills and behaviours. You are in control of  the process, the space and the direction you want to take the coaching journey.

counselling hand reaching  holdingontofear_1_original-1

COUNSELLOR: as a therapeutic experts, counsellors own the process, diagnoses the client and they set the specific healing path by developing a healing plan, which defines the actions to be taken by the client. The content of your story is critical in counselling where there is an emphasis is dissecting it to heal you. This all frames the guidance and resources you get.

  1. EXPERTISE – what kind of education, training and experience do coaches or counsellors have ~

COACHES: have process and learning facilitation expertise and do not need to be subject matter experts, even if some knowledge of your context enhances the support. A professional coach is trained, certified and bound by the ethics, boundaries of practice and confidentiality principles of the body they sign on to. Coaching is more casual and can happen indoors, outdoors, at a coffee shop…as long as confidentiality is observed.

COUNSELLORS: are highly trained individuals who spend many years learning about human behaviours and experiences and practicing under supervision. Their industry is heavily regulated with minimum qualification to be licensed being a Masters in Psychology, Counselling, and/or other behavioural sciences, require fieldwork, and partaking in licensure exams. They are subject matter experts who keep strict ethical guidelines about handling professional boundaries and confidential client information.

FURTHER LEARNING RESOURCES ~ you can use this annotated bibliography as your reference:, and do share with others so that we spread the knowledge ~


  1. Lisa Marie Bobby, (2018), What’s the difference between counselling and coaching? https://www.growingself.com/difference-between-coaching-and-counseling/   This is a great article to start you off on the path of understanding the difference between counselling and coaching from someone who is educated and accredited in both. Lisa provides in-depth analysis based on experience and clears up some misconceptions about counselling not being positive focused.

2. South Africa College of Applied Psychology, (2015), What’s the difference between counselling and coaching? https://www.sacap.edu.za/blog/coaching/whats-difference-counselling-coaching/   This is a good and tight article that provides a comparative analysis between coaching and counselling in terms of the focus for each discipline, the foundations, client relationships, the goal and helper expertise.

3. Peter Bluckert, (2005), The similarities and differences between coaching and therapy | Industrial and Commercial Training | Vol 37, No 2, https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00197850510584241  This journal article demonstrates that the lack of clarity about coaching and therapy still exists a full decade and a half later. It is good to read about research findings from back then and compare with what is being said today. Peter notes differences in terms of issues in sessions, the intention and practicalities.

4. S. Cannio and V. Launer – Coaching Excellence – Best Practices in Business Coaching, (2011). This is a great book full of case studies of what coaching looks like. In chapter 1 it compares coaching and therapy and notably says therapy follows the trail of tears and coaching is about being your best self.

 5. Video (2m 12 sec) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFx6yKZrzco This is a great video that explains through animation the differences between coaching and other helping professions. It also outlines the coaching process and skills a coach has.

Video (6m 37sec) – Life Coaching vs Therapy vs Consulting, Life Coaching 101 (2), 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7nym__NTZ0 This video by Transformation is a one stop shop of simply explained similarities and differences between coaching and therapy, with a bonus analysis of the difference with consulting. If you want to hear more about niche coaching, this is the video for you.                                                                              

6. Video Prezi (2m 35sec) by Co-Coaching’s Buddy Rathner – The Difference Between Coaching and Counselling https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DgS3K_Sxng In this prezi video, Buddy Rathner provides a great summary of 5 core areas of difference between coaching and counselling using a visual that is easy to follow. It covers aspects of focus on the past, healing, context or environment for coaching, the roles of the helping professionals and what the intention is.


I hope you found this Coaching Explained Tip Sheet useful.

If you would like individual or group coaching support in life planning or any aspect of career planning and career management, get in touch: ennielifecoach@sercivesgalore.co.za

@EnnieChipembere –

Life and Career Coach🔥

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