Comparing Professional Coaching and Therapy

Professional Coaching is very different from therapy and any other helping profession. To promote your understanding of professional coaching here are some similarities and differences between coaching, therapy and other helping professions. Please note that these are generalities and are not meant to definitively cover every iteration and variation of coaching or therapy.

Let’s start by looking at the similarities between coaching and therapy. Though this is not intended to be a complete list (because such a thing isn’t possible), these are the basics.

Similarities between the role of a coach and that of a therapist include:

– An ongoing, confidential, one-to-one, fee-for-service, relationship

– Working with clients who want to change

– Assuming change only occurs over time

– Use of verbal dialogue as the primary service activity

– Regularly scheduled sessions

General Differences Between Coaching and Therapy

THERAPY assumes the client needs healing; COACHING assumes the client is whole.

THERAPY has its roots in medicine and psychiatry; COACHING has its roots in sports, business, and the personal growth movement.

THERAPY works with people to achieve self-understanding and emotional healing; COACHING works to move people to a higher level of functioning.

THERAPY focuses on feelings and past events; COACHING focuses on actions and the future.

THERAPY explores the root of problems; COACHING focuses on solving problems.

THERAPY works to bring the unconscious into consciousness; COACHING works with the conscious mind.

THERAPY works for internal resolution of pain and to let go of old patterns; COACHING works for external solutions to overcome barriers, learn new skills and implement effective choices.

Comparing Five Types of Helping Professionals

1. THERAPISTS are licensed clinical professionals trained to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders, such as Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors, etc. They often bill medical insurance for their services. They take an expert role with the client in assessing the problem and prescribing solutions or interventions.

2. COUNSELORS provide guidance to help a person resolve social or personal problems in a specific area such as addictions, wellness, weight loss, etc. They take an expert role with the client in assessing the problem and prescribing solutions or interventions.

3. EDUCATORS teach or instruct a person or group for some particular purpose or occupation, such as a Family Life Educator, Adult Education teacher, and other various experts that teach classes. They are experts in their subject area and teach a specific curriculum that is expected to provide their students with the information needed to accomplish a personal or professional goal.

4. CONSULTANTS are specialists who give expert advice or information to solve problems or optimize functioning to individuals or organizations. They are an expert who is expected to have the answers and solutions their clients need.

5. COACHES help their clients identify and achieve their goals, assuming the client is the expert on what they need and what would work for them. Coaches often specialize (Executive Coach, Relationship Coach, etc), however they do not prescribe solutions or give advice.

As you can see from the above five types of helping professionals, coaches are the only type that does not assume the role of expert. Giving advice isn’t effective because knowing the answer or solution doesn’t change anything. We usually know what we need to do, the hard part is doing it. Change isn’t easy. Coaches assume the best answers come from within the client and that their job is to empower the client to determine what they want to do and support them into action to accomplish their goal.

Coaching is a highly effective way to help others to achieve their most important life, relationship, and business goals. Coaching is a natural fit for therapists who wish to expand their practice to work with more functional, private pay clients, as well as non-therapists who want to be of service to others but not as a licensed clinician.