Is Coaching like Therapy?

Updated: Jul 24, 2019

Coaching can sometimes be confused with Therapy, Counselling Mentoring or Consultancy. These are all different. Below is my very brief guide to how!

First, let's look at what Therapy is. Therapists are highly-qualified medical professionals and experts who are trained to work with, diagnose and treat patients. Therapeutic relationships are focused on healing and understanding a client, who may have specific or long-standing issues, pain, grief, trauma or illness to work through. Therapy typically involves establishing a long-term relationship that focuses on exploring a client's past and present experiences to gain insight into patterns of thought and behaviour. Therapists will seek to find out why we might have low self-esteem, and will work through, analyse and treat the origins and historical roots of any negative self-beliefs. The Big Questions are typically 'why?' and 'from where?'. Sessions are usually weekly and contact between therapy sessions is for crisis and difficulties only.

Counselling is another talking therapy that involves a trained counsellor listening to you and helping you find ways to deal with emotional issues, trauma or grief. Counselling is typically a more short-term relationship that helps you work through issues with mental ill-health, difficult life events, difficult emotions or physical problems. Counselling helps us deal with things that are difficult to deal with. Counsellors offer support for when we are feeling most vulnerable, for as long as it takes until we feel able to cope on our own.

Unlike in Therapy, Coaches do not diagnose or treat, or focus on understanding and working through the origins of pain, shame, grief or trauma. Typical Coaching questions are present and future focussed, rather than present and past. Instead, 'What's next? What now?' are the Big Questions. Also, homework, accountability and contact between sessions are important parts of the Coaching relationship.

Mentoring roles tend to exist in work or education environments for people to get feedback, advice and discuss action steps from those with more experience. Teens may have a mentor to help them stay on track or find a path, for instance, and businesses typically use more experienced team members as mentors to 'light the way' for younger or less experienced colleagues.

Consultants are people who are brought in as experts to work through solutions for problems that might be occurring or on the verge of occurring in a company. Consultants have a breadth of well-founded knowledge and experience to impart on teams and businesses who need advice to help them move forward in the best way.

Unlike in Mentoring and Consultancy, Coaches won’t ever tell you what you should do, how you can fix things or advise you on how best to move forwards.

Hang on… (I hear you say). If Coaching doesn’t diagnose or treat our problems, advise us or tell us what we need to do to solve our problems, how does it help, please?!

Well, let me divulge. Coaching is similar to counselling or therapy insofar as these all require a safe and completely non-judgemental space for you to (give yourself permission to) be really honest with yourself. In all of these disciplines, there is an exploratory phase in which you have to acknowledge how you are presently showing up in life. You will become more aware of the feelings, thoughts and beliefs that you are (often blindly) experiencing and living by, day-to-day. By articulating what you feel your daily obstacles or challenges are, we can work together to change habits and change our patterns of thought and behaviour driving them. As I said before, Coaching sessions won’t dwell on or unpick the past to explain present behaviours. Coaches are not qualified to treat or diagnose long-standing problems or illnesses. Whilst we don't avoid talking about the past in Coaching (this is essentially impossible), we focus instead on understanding what it is about how you are doing life, and how you are feeling, right now that isn't working for you or your vision for the future.

Coaching is about taking action.

The coach is a facilitator: first encouraging you to identify what changes you'd like to make, and then helping you to create positive, future-focussed and inspiring goals, breaking them down into manageable, baby steps.

Coaching equips and empowers you to transition from where you are to where you want to be.

To be clear... Just like in the talking therapies, coaches will actively listen and offer challenge and thought-provoking questions that help you develop a deeper understanding of yourself because our common goal is to get you moving towards your desired outcomes. It is therefore vital that your coach holds you to account for each step you take. They will challenge you, check up on your progress, and occasionally give you a kick when you need to re-focus or stop procrastinating.

A commitment to coaching is a commitment to expanding the boundaries of your comfort zone and stepping into a life you fully enjoy living.

Every day we all make choices about what we do or don’t do. Each of these choices (no matter how small) will affect what happens next for us. Whether or not we feel fulfilled with these outcomes is something only we know, deep down in our core. Coaching allows you the time and space to really get to grips with that person, underneath it all. What’s really important to you? What drives you? What do you really want? Figuring this stuff out ultimately enables you to make wiser, balanced (no longer blind) choices about how you are in the now, which in turn will result in you taking action to create a more peaceful, effective and fulfilling life for the future.

Put simply, Coaching is committing to real, honest conversations that help you to understand yourself and empower you to step out of the boundaries of your comfort zone towards your true desires.

Coaching will help you feel better and it will support you in taking action to be better.

If you would like to find out more about Coaching and how it can help you move forwards, reach out to me at or 07921923234.