Coaching VS Counselling:

Coaching VS Counselling: The Differences You Should Know

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Counselling helps a person to develop coping strategies that allow them to confront and control their emotions in relation to past and present life experiences, whereas coaching is primarily concerned with taking positive action that will allow a person to achieve their personal life goals.

It’s easy to understand how people confuse coaching vs counselling so often, but in reality, they are both very different from one another. Today, we’re going to look at the main areas that set coaching vs counselling apart so that you can gain a full understanding of how they differ.


Though both coaching and counselling revolve around one-to-one discussion with an individual to get to the root source of their current feelings in relation to how they can impact their future emotions and circumstances, how they achieve this is very different.

Here are the main areas where coaching vs counselling differ.

coaching session - two persons
Coaching Session

The Past

The past very rarely features as part of a coaching session whereas it plays an enormous part in counselling sessions. This is because those who engage in counselling sessions are often trying to control and positively regulate their emotions in relation to a previous, negative life experience.

Those who engage in coaching sessions are instead often trying to advance their personal goals and are looking for a meaningful way forward. As such, it’s quite rare that a coach will focus on the past as this isn’t really conducive to future advancement. The past may be touched on, but this is only if it serves some kind of relevance in regard to creating forward movement.

Action Orientated

Coaching is usually very action orientated and coaching sessions are typically structured in such a way that they lead to progressive forward movement via meaningful steps that relate very closely to a person’s overriding goals.

Though counsellors will often suggest actions that a person can take to progress forward with their emotional state, counselling is instead more about exploring one’s emotions and expressing how they feel. This doesn’t always need to be done with a clear action plan or series of action points in mind, instead, the idea is that through the expression of one’s thoughts and feelings, this may help the person to progress emotionally.


Similarly to the action points that we see regularly feature as part of coaching sessions, personal and professional attainment plays an enormous part in coaching. Typically speaking, most people who enlist the help of a professional coach do so as they’re trying to achieve something in their personal life, their professional life or possibly both.

Those who seek the help of a counsellor on the other hand simply want to be able to effectively express themselves. Though they ultimately want to try and find a way to feel differently about personal issues that they might be experiencing, the focus isn’t on goal attainment and is instead on the exploration of emotion. This is considered to be attainment in its own right in a counselling session.

Day To Day

Counselling focuses heavily on creating coping strategies that allow a person to function more healthily in their day to day lives. They may be going through some kind of trauma or experiencing emotional hardship, and the aim of counselling is ultimately to allow the person to perform their everyday tasks effectively in instances where they may not otherwise have been able to.

Coaching sessions don’t focus on day-to-day coping methods, instead, they focus on the future and how a person can effectively take the right positive actions required today to arrive in a more beneficial personal or professional position over time.

Mental Health

Mental Health

Though this isn’t true of all coaches, usually they are not equipped to be able to effectively support people with mental health conditions. Or at least, this is the case when the individual seeks to alleviate the symptoms of such a condition. This would instead more commonly fall into the remit of a qualified counsellor.

Those who are trying to combat mental health issues will usually need to see a counsellor as counsellors are able to effectively allow them to work through the emotions associated with their condition and express them in a healthy way.

Instead, coaches are well equipped to be able to work with anybody provided the underlying aim of their sessions is goal attainment. Somebody with mental health issues could for example work with a coach on their own personal and professional development, but the coach likely wouldn’t be equipped to help them to tackle the specific issues presented by their mental health condition.

On the other hand, a counsellor would be able to do this.


The majority of coaches are self-employed, whereas counsellors are frequently contractually hired by large health organizations including the NHS. This isn’t because one is more legitimate than the other, rather, counselling ties more closely into public health than coaching and is therefore more of a medical necessity.

Though positive advancement and goal attainment can sustain and improve mental health, ultimately, these facets of a person’s wellbeing are considered to be optional and take less precedence than the symptoms of mental illness and the issues that can arise when a person is in a state of emotional unwellness or diagnosed illness.

Organizations like the NHS simply couldn’t apply coaches to public health in the same way that they could counsellors, who are able to more directly address and remedy mental health issues. This is primarily why they are often featured on the payroll of health organizations whereas coaches are not.

However, it’s not uncommon for coaches to be contractually hired by businesses to enhance employee retention and morale.


As you can see, though there are some similarities, coaching vs counselling are two very different disciplines requiring very different skill sets. Counsellors require degree level or equivalent qualifications whereas coaches can get qualified through a wide array of different governing bodies.

Counsellors can assist with curing mental health issues whereas coaches cannot, but on balance, counselling sessions aren’t usually conducive to personal and professional goal attainment whereas coaching sessions are. Coaching is all about forward advancement whereas counselling is about confronting the past in order to improve the present and future.

After reading today’s post, you should now be fully aware of the difference between coaching vs counselling. We’d love to hear all about your individual experiences with each discipline in the comments section below. How have they helped you?