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10 Ways Coaching Differs From Counseling

1.  The primary focus of coaching is on work issues while counseling is often focused on personal and mental health issues.

2.   Coaching stresses problem solving while much of counseling is limited to problem identification.

3.   The preferred time frame of coaching is now and the immediate future while counseling often becomes preoccupied with the past.

4.   Coaches view themselves as active partners with the client while many counselors strive to remain detached and objective.

5.   Most coaches use a structured problem solving model while many counselors strive to be non-directive and just “go with the flow.”

6.   The vast majority of coaches focus on taking action while many counselor focus on the client’s feelings.

7.  Coaches are very good at becoming expert advisors while many counselors limit their role to being  accepting listeners.

8.   Coaches actively prescribe and tell clients which actions might be more effective while many counselors limit their communications to asking and listening.

9.   Coaches understand the value of challenging and confronting the client on ineffective behavior while a counselor’s mission is to make the client comfortable.

10. The major goal of the coach is the implementation  of the client’s plan while many counselors see the plan as the end result of their meetings.

These ten ways that coaching differs from counseling is not meant to denigrate counseling.  After all, I have been a counselor and coach for over thirty years and have consistently used both coaching and counseling skills.  My reason for making these ten distinctions is to encourage career practitioners (career counselors, career coaches, case managers, job search trainers, job developers and resume writers) to look at who and where the client is and determine if coaching or counseling tools are most appropriate for a given client in a given situation.

© Richard Knowdell, National Certified Career Counselor trains and certifies Job & Career Transition Coaches.  He can be contacted at



 Richard Knowdell
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