Topic: What is the difference between coaching and counseling?

Happy Labor Day,

Since today is a holiday and the last weekend of the official summer season, I thought I’d keep the topic light this week. Since I began offering coaching services, I’ve had quite a number of people write and ask me the difference between coaching and counseling. Instead of responding individually, I thought I’d answer this question in this week’s blog.

And, this week my newsletter will be sent out. If you have not signed up to receive it, go to my home page at and sign up. The topic is on holy listening. Do you know how to listen for God?

Question: What is the difference between coaching and counseling? I have been in counseling before but I see you are now doing coaching too? Is it the same thing? Does my medical insurance cover it?

Answer: Coaching is a relatively new profession, it began in the 80’s but is really growing as more and more people recognize its value. It is not covered by one’s medical insurance but sometimes covered by employers, especially with career coaching, performance coaching and/or executive coaching.

Perhaps most of us are familiar with a sports coach. The coach helps a player gain the skills to enhance his or her performance. The coach also provides encouragement, accountability and structure so that the athlete develops to his or her fullest potential.

In the same way, personal coaches or relationship coaches work with people who want to enhance their current life but lack specific skills necessary to make the progress they desire. They may also feel stuck doing it all alone and want accountability and structure to reach the results they want. A person hires a coach when they need more clarity, greater confidence, better direction, and accountability to reach their desired goals.

Coaches are action oriented. They come along side someone who has specific goals and help them get there. They aren’t necessarily dealing with someone’s past issues or something that is “wrong” but rather they focus on what impedes someone’s progress forward. Most coaches are not counselors but have been trained in the process of coming along side someone and being able to help move them toward a desired result.

There are many different kinds of coaches, life coaches, relationship coaches, business coaches, weight management coaches, clutter coaches, parenting coaches, marketing coaches, etc. Depending on your goals, you would choose a coach that would best help you get where you want to go.

Many counselors see the value of incorporating coaching into their practice, (as they may already do some of this with their counseling clients) however coaching is distinct from counseling. Counseling is usually sought when someone is experiencing emotional pain and struggling with problems in living that they have not been able to solve, get over or get through. Counseling’s focus is primarily healing of past hurts, understanding of present and past problems and resolving any trauma or relationship wounds. There is often an identified mental health diagnosis such as depression or anxiety disorder, especially when insurance coverage is used.

Counseling focus on feelings, coaching focuses on action. Counseling often focuses on the question of why this happened, or why am I feeling this way? Coaches don’t usually look for why, but instead look for how to move forward and what to do next.

Hiring a coach has nothing to do with having deep psychological problems or dysfunctions, but everything to do with wanting to become all that God has called you to be.

Sometimes when there is an overlap, a coach that is also a counselor can help someone through a short bump in the road, but if the client becomes emotionally unstable, overwhelmed, depressed, or unable to function, he/she is referred to a counselor. That doesn’t mean the coaching can’t continue, but the coach doesn’t do the counseling.

On a personal note, the reason I began coaching is that I receive many inquiries from people all over the world who are looking for specific help to become the best possible person they can. Or, they're ready to making some significant changes and need structure and accountability, or they want help moving their relationships forward or rebuilding their life after relationship loss.

If you’d like more information on my three (3) and six (6) month coaching programs please e-mail me at and I’ll send you the information.

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