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How is Coaching Different from other Helping Professions?

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Coaching begins with the premise that the client is a whole person capable of achieving their goals. The emphasis is on growing toward the future.

Coaching vs Therapy, Consulting, Mentoring, Counseling, Spiritual Direction

Coaching Versus Therapy

Therapy is ‘archeological’ in nature in that it delves into the client’s past to discern meaning for interpreting the present. The therapist is the expert. Coaching begins with the present and helps the client clarify challenges. The client is the expert who develops action steps. Unless there is forward movement or signs of progress, it’s not coaching.

Coaching Versus Consulting

Distinguishing between coaching and consulting involves asking two questions:

Who is the recognized expert?

In consulting, the recognized expert is the consultant. The consultant diagnoses problems and prescribes a set of solutions. In coaching, there are two experts. The client is the expert of their life and the situations they face, and the coach is the expert of asking powerful questions leading to impactful change. Innate curiosity allows a coach to empower the client to generate their own solutions.

Who is responsible for the outcome?

In consulting, the consultant is responsible for the desired outcome. By following the consultant’s advice, the client expects to achieve their goals. In coaching, the client takes responsibility for the outcome by generating action steps and implementing them. The coach bears responsibility for the framework of the coaching process, not the outcome.

Coaching Versus Mentoring

Mentoring is a process of guiding another along a path that the mentor has already traveled. The mentor shares experiences and learnings from the mentor’s own journey with the hope that these insights will accelerate the learning curve of the one being mentored. Coaches and their clients may share similar experiences, but it is not the coach’s experience that is of greatest value. Rather, the client’s experiences are most important.

Coaching Versus Counseling

Counseling, like therapy, emphasizes the past to bring healing in the present. Coaching is like being an "architect" helping clients build a bridge to their preferred future.

Coaching Versus Spiritual Direction

Spiritual directors assist persons with attending to the presence and call of God in all of life. Coaching recognizes God’s presence is imbedded within the coaching process.

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