There has been an overlap between counseling and coaching as many trained professional counselors have started to offer coaching services. Because the similarities between coaching and counseling are so close, it is understandable why counselors are using coaching methods to complement their practice.

The International Coaching Federation defines the practice as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

In contrast, the American Association of Counseling has defined counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.”

Essentially, both are partner relationships with clients and patients to help them build better futures. While there are some differences between coaching and counselling, the practices can actually be complementary. That means, if you already specialize in counselling, adding some coaching techniques and training can enhance your practice.

Statistics from the Institute of Coaching state that 80 percent of those who work with a coach report an increase in their self-confidence while 70 percent indicate their work performance improved.

Counselors who have been trained in coaching methods can often provide their patients or clients with the best of both worlds. Because both coaching and counseling approaches can change depending largely on the desires and personality of the client, having some knowledge of both practices can help you better meet the growing need in the professional world.

Differences between coaching and counselling

Some of the differences between coaching and counselling are not major distinctions between the two practices. A deeper examination shows that coaching and counselling can be used in conjunction to enhance your practice.

Here are some differences that coaches and counselors:

  1. The future and the past. Coaches will often say they work with their clients to better their future. Their focus is on helping their client overcome bad habits or behaviors that inhibit their professional performance. In a similar way, counselors work with patients to help them overcome past issues. The goal for patients in counseling is to give them a better way forward. To release them from emotional or mental chains that prevent them from being their best. Therefore, while coaches and counselors may say they have different goals for their clients in reality they are working to make life better for people. They do that by helping and advising individuals about how to overcome bad habits or behaviors or thoughts that keep them from achieving all they can achieve.
  2. Conscious and unconscious. Counselors often focus on pulling out past issues or challenges that patients have pushed into their subconscious. Coaches, on the other hand, try to teach clients different approaches to thinking through their problems.
  3. Time-limited or open-ended. Coaches are usually working within deadlines to help shape their clients’ future. They see their work as time-limited in contrast to counselors who are more relaxed about deadlines for their patients. With counseling, patients understand it is a more open-ended process that can go on for weeks, months and sometimes even years. It depends on what is unraveled in the process. Yet, because coaches often work with businesses, they are expected to produce results quickly and efficiently.
  4. Emergency or non-emergency. Helping patients work through mental distress is one of the key differences between counseling and coaching. If a patient needs to work through grief or psychological trauma, counseling is the best way for them to do this. Coaches work with clients who do not have psychological trauma or distress that they need to overcome. Rather, they work with individuals who are ready and able cognitively to pursue the goals they define for themselves. While counseling patients can help them reach that point, if they have experienced trauma or psychological distress coaching is not going to be as effective.

Similarities between coaching and counseling

Coaching and counseling often use similar methods to help clients and patients move towards the same outcome: success for their future.

There is often a creative element in coaching where the client is encouraged to break old habits and ways of thinking and garner a new perspective on their professional life or business. In counseling, the patient is usually encouraged to use creative activities to help them draw out the emotional issues that have been hindering their success in life.

Ways to use coaching to enhance your counseling practice

Professional counselors often already have a professional background and training that helps them understand the coaching approach. Yet, there may be a few areas that don’t overlap and a counselor may benefit from some formal training in the following areas:

  • Basic coaching
  • Coaching ethics
  • Individual coaching
  • Business coaching
  • Vetting of coaching clients
  • Defining the coaching process
  • Coaching and technology
  • Coaching resources for clients
  • Using coaching practice standards
  • Increasing awareness of coaching
  • Peer coaching

Counselors who already have some experience behind them will find that their coaching compliments their practices and that their patients benefit, including:

Goal-setting: Coaches use goal setting as one of the key methods for helping their clients establish healthy behaviors and habits. At the beginning of their work, a coach and client will sit down and clarify a few goals that the client would like to achieve. Then they further define some steps that the client can take to reach them. In counseling, this approach can be ideal depending on the patient. Sometimes defining what they want from their future can help focus a patient. Breaking down their goal into smaller, achievable steps is a good way to help them increase their confidence.

Solution-focus: Unlike the people-focus in counseling, coaches are focused on finding solutions in a short amount of time for their clients. Deep emotions do not usually surface or are discussed in a coaching setting. Rather, the relationship usually revolves around a particular topic, goal or objective. Coaching a client can also be like teaching as you will be introducing new skills or ways of approaching a situation or goal.

Using coaching in your counseling practice

Train to become an accredited coach to be able to professionally support your clients and patients. If you are going to implement some coaching methods in your counseling practice there are a few things you should do to ensure that your patients or clients understand your approach. These include:

  • The informed consent should clearly indicate that you will be providing coaching services
  • Explain to your clients what coaching services are designed to do. This includes letting them know that coaching can help them define and achieve their goals.
  • Ensure clients and patients understand that coaching is not meant to replace counseling.
  • Assess your patient before recommending coaching services. Some individuals will benefit more from counseling and are not ready for coaching and you should determine their need before making the decision.
  • Coaching should not be used with patients who have psychological distress or are trying to overcome trauma.
  • Coaching and counseling services should be provided separately rather than at the same time. If the patient wants coaching services from you, perhaps recommend another counselor that they can see concurrently.
  • Communicate clearly to clients that you are there as a guide to help them define for themselves the goals they want to achieve.
  • Coaching services are for those that are able to define and achieve their own goals and objectives.
  • Do not present yourself as a professional who will be dealing with any underlying problems or mental conditions.
  • Let the client know that you are partners in the journey and that you will support and encourage them to help them reach their goals.


The similarities between coaching and counseling services mean offering both services can be a positive approach for a professional. Many counselors have already started to move into the coaching world, which can help them meet the total needs of more clients. While there are some differences and boundaries that need to be communicated to clients who want a counselor to act as a coach, offering both services can enhance your abilities as a professional.

If you already have a counseling practice professionally accredited coach training can help compliment your services, help your marketing to reach more clients and help you to provide more to your clients.

If you are interested to find out more about our Accredited, Professional Coach Training or experience a FREE consultation call here –

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