Coaching, Counselling and Consulting. What is the difference?

Coaching is the phrase “de jour”. Everyone is suddenly a coach these days. Many people I know who used to call themselves “consultants” or “counsellors” are now calling themselves “coaches” and the feedback from people that have been on some “coaching” course, these courses seem to be just counselling courses with a different name.

Why? Because coaching is HOT right now, it is the big thing of the moment, I am sure something will come and takes its place at some point in the future, but right now, for some reason coaching is where it is at. So you are getting a lot of people jumping on the “coaching” bandwagon to try and make a buck.

And who can blame them?

The problem is with everyone running round calling themselves coaches now, there is a confusion about what a coach actually does.

So, I thought in this post, I very briefly go through the 3 fields; “coaching”, “counselling” and “consulting” and describe what makes each of them what they are.

I once heard that you consult with an organisation and coach an individual. Which is not a bad way of looking at things. They are both focus on the same thing: outputs. However, the way you go about consulting is very different to how you go about coaching.

With consulting (in it’s purest sense) a consultant goes into an organisation, looks around, does an assessment and makes recommendations, the organisation then can either choose to, or not to follow up on those recommendations

Counselling and coaching, on the surface, can seem very similar, the structure of a counselling and coaching sessions are almost the same (hence, I think, why a lot of coaching training just seems to try and wedge counselling ideas into the coaching “box”).

The difference between coaching and counselling is the area of focus. Counselling focuses much more on peoples feelings and is often remedial in it’s approach (helping people undo negative emotional associations).

Counselling is often unfairly maligned by the “self development” field. Mostly by people who don’t understand it. I know some very good counsellors who have got very good results.

And finally: Coaching
I have left the definition of coaching last so hopefully you can see how it differs from both consultancy and counselling.

Coaching is a one to one process (although I have seen it done in small groups) that focuses on peoples behaviour and the output of that behaviour.

Contrary to some people’s opinion (and marketing literature), there is no one “right way”, or single process to coaching (although there are recognised and effective techniques that are generally used), it should be treated as a function, and that function is to be an extra bit of the clients brain, to help them get clear about what they want and the criteria for that, so that the client can make clearer and better choices. How you do that is really up to you, coaching is a discipline and an art, not a science!

Categories: NLP

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