You may be asking yourself which is right for me, counseling or coaching? Or maybe you aren’t even sure what the difference is between the two. Counseling and coaching are similar in many ways. Both helping relationships are focused on assisting the client to meet their individual needs and goals by teaching new skills to change the thought patterns that cause self-destructive behaviors. Counselors and coaches may employ some of the same techniques to usher in change by creating goals and monitoring outcomes.

Ultimately, both professions have value, and the work can look fairly similar between therapy and coaching. But once the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness is involved, that work becomes therapy. Of course, there is overlap many counselors focus attention on building client strengths and resources, and many coaches will aim to reduce and resolve the problems that stand in the way of clients achieving their goals.


According to a recent article I read published by Simple Practice: “A counselor is someone who has specifically studied counseling, which has somewhat different origins. Counseling (again, as it is used in the mental health world) grew out of the child guidance movement, and from research focused on human development. As a separately licensed profession, mental health counseling is relatively young, with most state licensure laws taking effect just within the past 30 years. Mental health counselors may have training in areas like career counseling that more traditional therapists may not be trained in. Mental health counselors are generally licensed at the master’s degree level, though some also have doctorates. Some psychologists have degrees specifically in Counseling Psychology and may refer to themselves as counselors.” 

So how does counseling stand out within the field of mental health and wellness? Counseling is a process that is conducted by professionals aimed at helping their clients overcome mental and social problems. As professionals the beginning of counseling is often focused on diagnosis. Counselors will work with their client in creating a treatment plan aimed at making changes in one’s behavior, perspective, and interpersonal interactions. Counseling often focuses on unresolved issues from the past of an individual in an attempt to understand the cause of the problems being felt by individuals today.

  • Counseling helps in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression, in individuals or couples, by recognizing and replacing distorted thinking patterns and developing better coping strategies to manage life’s circumstances.
  • Counseling can help to resolve mental conflicts and frustrations that may be interfering with achieving the careers, relationships, and stability we are desiring.


The most basic difference is in what these professions do with their client’s in the room. Counselors assess, diagnose, and treat mental illness. Counselors often focus their work on identifying and reducing symptoms. 

Coaches motivate and encourage clients to achieve their specific goals. Because coaches are not licensed professionals, they are not going to be focused on diagnosing or identifying and reducing symptoms. Instead coaches will focus on assisting a mentally well client work towards achievement and performance. Coaching is future oriented. The primary goal of coaching comes down to the goals of the client and what they need to improve upon their current skill level.

  • Coaches can focus on a large variety of topics and goals depending on where the client is looking for growth.
  • Coaching can be productive in a one-on-one training or a large number of people all attending with the same goals in mind. (Think seminars and classes versus individual sessions).

Important differences to know before you go to your first session.

States heavily regulate counseling. Counselors typically must be licensed or working under supervision of a fully licensed counselor to practice. Licensure in Texas and other states requires a graduate degree along with significant amounts of documented internship hours. Clients who believe that their counselor has behaved unprofessionally can file a complaint with the counselor’s state licensing board, which has the power to investigate and discipline licensees. 

Coaching, on the other hand, is largely unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a “coach” and open a coaching business, regardless of training or experience. While coaching is a legitimate field with a growing research base and a code of ethics, adherence to that code of ethics is entirely voluntary. When making the choice to work with a coach, do your research and find out their experience before you book a session. Most coaches will in good faith offer a free consultation for these very reasons (a good sign when search for a coach).

When it comes to advertising and marketing their services, some counselor will offer coaching services to reach a larger clientel base and allow for work with clients in other states. Where some clients are reluctant to attend cousneling due to stigma associated with mental illness, they are willing to meet with a coach. Some coaches will advertise services that sounds very similar to counseling. After reading this break down I hope that you are empowered to make the next best decision for your growth and wellness.

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