The Coaching Difference

 Coaching vs. Other Methods 

Counseling and Psychotherapy

In general, the goal of therapy is to help people who are experiencing significant dysfunction to heal and return to normal functioning. While coaching will help you explore and understand how your past has influenced who you are, coaching is not focused solely on the past. Coaching is about helping people who are (mostly) at normal functioning to move forward to optimal functioning.

Some types of therapy are mostly past-focused, but it is important to realize that a shift has occurred in the field of counseling. Many counseling interventions help clients move from the past to normal functioning, and on to optimal functioning. Solution-Focused Therapy and Motivational Interviewing are two such counseling techniques. These are used by coaches and counselors alike, and I use both with my coaching clients. So, while coaching and counseling have significant differences, they also have some things in-common.

Therapists (many, but not all) also determine diagnoses using established criteria (e.g. DSM-5 and ICD-10-CM). In contrast, coaches do not diagnose mental disorders or disease.

Both counselors and coaches, however, do assess. Assessment is a crucial part of both counseling and coaching. For example, there are many informal and formal assessments which are helpful in the coaching process, such as assessments of personality, attitude, values, lifestyle, and career interests.

Mentoring and Consulting

Mentors and consultants are experts with an agenda, who provide training and advice. In contrast, while coaches may be experts in their field, use specific skills and techniques, and may provide education, coaches do not give advice, and the direction for work is drawn from the client. In coaching, clients are viewed as experts on their lives. With specialized guidance, clients are empowered to actualize their potential.

Sports Coaching

The word coach, for many people, calls up the image of a sports coach. Sports coaching is focused on winning while others lose. In contrast, life and career coaching are about everyone winning; there are no losers, and all experiences are opportunities for growth and change.


Friends and family members often have the best intentions, however, sometimes those closest to us are either quick to give advice or are afraid to say what they think. Coaches, in contrast, do not give advice and will tell you the truth. The coaching relationship, therefore, is non-judgmental yet truthful. Coaches hold clients accountable for taking steps to reach their goals. Though coaching is not a friendship, per se, the coaching relationship shares many qualities of a good friendship including trust, respect, honesty, and openness.