What is the Difference between Coaching and Counseling

Even today, people relate counseling to ‘mental illness’ and coaching to ‘athletics’. While these are merely a part of the whole; both professions involve working with individuals to overcome obstacles and reach goals. As confusing and overlapping as this can be; so is the choice among either.

Coaching is a relatively new profession and because it implements skills drawn from counseling, the difference between the two may require reasonable understanding.

So, let’s say you want to learn to drive a bike. If you hired a:

Counselor: He would delve into your past to discover what kind of experiences you have had with automobiles. Then, motivate you to shed your fears and learn driving.

Coach: He would sit behind you, encourage and support you, and hold you accountable to your goals until you felt comfortable enough to do it by yourself.

The testimonial rounds up the basic difference between Coaching and Counseling. That said, the focal difference between coaching and counseling lies in the individual’s need. People seek:

  • Counseling when something is wrong.
  • Coaching when they sense something is not quite right – The distinction lies in the degree

A facile distinction by few websites or books would read as- “A counselor typically works with a dysfunctional person to get them to functional. A coach works with a functional person to transform them to exceptional.”

However, while coaching helps the client identify where they are now, where they want to be and how to get there; and then keeps them on track until they achieve their goals; for others, counseling might be the better choice. Especially for those suffering anxieties, depression or other emotional conflicts. It entails talking confidentially to a trained professional about your difficulties, past or present, in a secure, non-judgmental, private and supportive environment.

A breakdown with complex understanding between the two concept follows:


Coaching is more future-oriented and proactive. The emphasis is on action and accountability. A coach would prod his/her clients onwards and periodically check up on their progress.

Counseling is often remedial in nature. It is therapeutic and retrospective as a counselor often revisits the client’s past and identifies potential rocky spots that negatively affect the client’s personal or professional life.

Qualifications and training

Due to the complex issues dealt with, counseling usually requires four to five years of training. On the other hand, you can train to become a coach within 3-9 months.

Questions answered

Whereas counseling answers the question- WHY; coaching seeks to answer HOW? WHAT? Asking WHY, a form of seeking insight, usually directed towards empowering the coachee to embark onto a journey from a present state until he reaches his defined goal.


The counselor shares a doctor-patient relation with his/her client. But the coach is a coequal partner with his/her client. In the sense that, themselves being experts; coaches are the people who help to explore, determine, and actualize personal as well as professional commitments. Coaches offer perspectives and help clients discover their own answers.

Functional path

Counselors guide you to the path of healing while the coaches steer you through the process. The coach stands with you; helps identify the challenges and then partners to turn those hurdles into victories.


In the case of counselors, personal disclosure is limited or almost negligible. Personal disclosure is used by the coach when relevant- as an aid to communication.

Rate of change

Counseling is looking back to bring the client to the present. Progress is, thus, often slow and painful as the issues are often subconscious. Growth and progress in coaching are rapid and usually more pleasing.

In a nutshell, counseling deals with the past event a person cannot overcome himself. So before a person is able to move onto the future, he will find support with a counselor. Whereas coaching kicks in when people are ready to move forward and feel they need a coach to have them challenged in defining and realizing their goals.

At CTA, we make your quest become a professional coach turn into reality. Our coaching courses meet the highest standards of International Coach Federation (ICF) for becoming a certified life coach, career coach, executive coach and a business coach. We provide globally acclaimed classroom workshops, online coach training, corporate coaching programs and mentor coaching. Join CTA and coach to TRANSFORM!


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