Being Bruce -: Is It Coaching or Is it Counseling?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is It Coaching or Is it Counseling?

This question often arises, sometimes stated this way, "What's the difference between coaching and counseling?" Here's a quick response: One helps you get over your pain and back on track, while the other helps you reach your potential and attain your dreams.

As someone with experience in both fields, I'd like to address this question, along with the disclaimer that I do not have a counseling practice nor am I licensed to do so in my current state of residence, North Carolina.

I was an active counselor in Connecticut, however, and for several years was on the graduate faculty of Saint Joseph College and taught courses and supervised graduate students enrolled in counseling programs for Masters and advanced degrees. I'm also a member of the Cape Fear Psychological Association, but the primary purpose of that alliance for me is knowing local counseling or mental health professionals for referral purposes.

I coach, and consult, but I do not counsel.

Phew! So with that out of the way (and sorry if it seems belabored, but in these days it's necessary), let's get briefly into the basic differences between counseling and coaching.

The graphic below (which I'm happy to provide in PDF format on request) shows my take on this dichotomy. Just as some coaches (mistakenly) think their coaching skills, training, and experience enable them to counsel folks (it doesn't), it's also the case that counselors aren't by virtue of their training and experience prepared to be good coaches. There are overlapping skills, for sure, and as the graphic below indicates, at times the goals of the client overlap the two professions, but they really are different.

If your life isn't working and you're in pain, you likely should see a counselor.

If your life isn't all that you want it to be, sounds to me like you could connect with a coach.

Some folks have both, btw, a coach and a counselor. And it's best in those cases when there can be some mutual communications (as allowed and advisable by professional standards and the law, of course).

So if all these words so far are a lot of blur, just check out the graphic below and hopefully that will answer your question.

Thanks for help with the concepts in the graphic to Ray Smith, btw, my friend and former partner in the West Hartford Counseling Service, which we started together in 1979 along with Jim Leary.