Coaching or Counselling ?

My Question :

Coaching or Counselling ?
Many organizations and Human Resources Personnel report that they utilize coaching when in fact, what they are employing is an outdated, traditional counselling model.
What according to you are the similarities and differences between the two models ?

Answers :
 Kevin Lynch
Chief Executive Officer, P&L Solutions

As soon as you have added some formal documentation that outlines a problem and potential consequences for not improving you have crossed over from coaching to counseling.

Coaching is a very politically correct term for handling employees with “kid gloves”. It implies something very positive. However, all coaching need not be positive. Go into any locker room in America and you will find that not all coaching is about positivity.

In my view, coaching leads to counseling if the employee does not improve performance. I have always found the biggest problem with coaching is not the concept or the delivery, but the communication of the issue at hand. In an effort to not hurt feelings, many managers do not get to the real point they want to deliver and give mixed and confusing messages to employees about performance. The other main problem is that managers address the symptom of the problem rather than the root of the problem. As a result, problems do not get fixed.

Every good manager will use a mix of coaching and counseling, as appropriate.
 Janet Zinn
Owner, Janet Zinn, LCSW and Mental Health Care Specialist

Coaching and counseling are both useful tools when used appropriately. Coaching is great when you need assistance with specific steps to reach a goal. However, you have to be willing to work with the coach in fulfilling the steps recommended to reach your goals. On the other hand, counseling is the preferable when there are underlying issues to resolve before you can go forward. Sometimes you go into coaching only to find out you need counseling.

 Frank (Francesco) S. Adamo
Certified Career Coach at FSAdamo Enterprises

I consider coaching as a catalyst. In chemistry, a catalyst is an inert substance which, when added to other chemicals, will start the reaction. No matter how hard we try, the reaction will not start even by applying any type of energy, such as heat or pressure, without the catalyst. Likewise, a coach is there to guide others in determining their goals, vision and action. A coach is relatively inert.

Sometimes, a person is a coach without realizing it – a true catalyst. An example is what happened to me in high school. In PE, we were required to climb a rope (which I did) and then to scale over a 10-foot wall onto the balcony above. That was in September. By the end of October, all but three of us were able to climb the wall. By January, there were two left. A short, stocky person and a tall, slender, but un-athletic person — ME! Fast forward to the last week in May. The two of us still hadn’t climb the wall and it was my turn to try agin. As I was preparing to attempt to scale the wall again, a beautiful, slender senior girl came into the gymnasium to deliver a note to the PE teacher. She came closer and closer as I was set to attempt to scale the wall again. Guess what happened. I scaled the wall better than Spiderman would have. It was so easy to scale the wall. I wasn’t really conscious of her being there, but subconsciously, her presence was the catalyst for me to scale the wall.

I believe in counseling you need to help others to work out with underlying issues that may be blocking

Perhaps, coaching is like walking side-by-side, keeping him/her focused in the right direction. On the other hand, a counselor is a person who leads his/her client through a forest and then from beneath the forest into a clearing where he/she can see the direction to go. That’s when you can become the coach.

Hope this helps. It helped me to clarify my thinking on this.

 Mark Nicastro
Staffing & Compliance Manager

Coaching to me is proactive. Counseling in reactive.

 George Anderson, MSW, BCD, CEAP
Anger Management/executive Coaching for Physicians

Psychotherapy is an intervention designed treat DSW-IV diagnosable mental or nervous disorders. For example, depression is a disorder which can be diagnosed clinically or via psychometric tests. The type of treatment depends on the diagnoses. Only, professionally trained, licensed mental health professionals can provide psychotherapy.

Coaching is not yet well defined. However, it does not require any universal standards and there are no laws anywhere to regulate the practice of coaching. It is for these reasons that coaches must be carry to self police their own practices and operated in a scope of practice which does not include psychothering.

It is the responsibility of the psychotherapist or coach to educate H.R. Managers on what we do and the limitations of our practices.

George Anderson, MSW, BCD


Clarification added 1 day ago:
Sorry about the typos. It should read “designed to treat DSM-IV …
Counselling is very broad and be religous or eductional in nature. It may or may not relate to treating mental or nervous disorders.

Analysed yet thoroughly Confused

 Sanjeev Himachali
HR Professional, Researcher, Motivator, Thinker, Career Coach and Human Relations Counsellor

This in fact is a very interesting question. Let me answer it based on my experience.
In general the differences are as follows:
Counselling is to “hit the heart” but Coaching is to “hit the head/brain”.
Counselling is to hit, alter and modify the emotions and behaviour. Coaching is to challenge the person, his abilities and skills.
Counselling is related to comfort whereas Coaching is related to Performance.
Counselling is oral. It can be done within the closed walls. Coaching is practical and can be down in actual field.
For Coaching, you need to be “Subject matter Expert”. One cannot be a Business Coach if he do not know how the business is done.

I think this will give you some insight.

Thanks and Regards

Sajith Kumar

Training Manager at ABB

Hi Shalini,

I agree with Madhu and Sanjeev. Coaching involves practical demonstrations whereas counselling may not. As I understand, coaching is more appropriate when it involved hard skills/technical areas and I feel counselling may not be of much use in this case. As regards, soft skills or behavioral issues, you can choose coaching or counselling according to the situation. You may start with coaching and graduate to counselling or vice-versa.

I also feel counselling is more like mentoring, no?

As said by Sanjeev, for Coaching, you need to be “Subject matter Expert” but for counselling you should know how to influence his mind or have the contacts or skills to press the right buttons to remove bottlenecks or have a broad outlook, experience and wisdom to advice.

Hope it makes sense. Have you seen the movie” Iqbal”? Nasiruddin Shah acts as a coach and a mentor at different times in that…and if I may say also as a counseller at times.

 Bjorn Martinoff
Senior Executive Coach, Global Trainer & Consultant (

Largely Counselling deals with the past and Coaching deals with the present and the future

According to some it is not possible to make a clear distinction between counselling and psychotherapy, indeed the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) now uses the same criteria for counselling and psychotherapy accreditation.

Now having said this I feel that there is some overlap between counselling and coaching however coaching can never be confused with psychotherapy.

As a coach I see my client as the expert in her/his life, I facilitate solution finding through asking good questions.

So coaching should be chosen to help a person to achieve even greater results. Counselling and Psychotherapy are there to deal and hopefully heal any issues from the past.

Another way of looking at it and using the metaphor of driving a car would be:
– Coaching is there to put the foot on the gas pedal and accelerate achievement
– Counselling is there to take the foot off the brakes so the client can achieve

Here’s to accelerating achievement

Sunny regards,

Bjorn Martinoff
President & CEO

 Eugene Rembor, MBA
Over 25 years experience in interim, turnaround and strategic consultation

Coaching is the directing and training of people. Direction may include motivational speaking. Training may include seminars, workshops, and supervised practice. There are many types of coaching including Sports, Personal Development, and Business Coaching.

Counseling can be defined as a relatively short-term, interpersonal, theory-based process of helping persons who are fundamentally psychologically healthy resolve developmental and situational issues

The similarities are that both techniques are designed to help peope soling problems. But that’s where the similarities end:

Training / coaching is helping people to deal with external factors and is a long term initiative, while counselling is helping people to deal with their psychological barriers and internal issues and is a rather ad hoc initiative.

 Michelle Kunz, CEC, ACC
Executive Leadership and Team Coach at PEL Coaching (Power, Energy, Leadership)

I have seen so many confusing and misleading answers to so many questions around coaching and what it is that I have finally gone to the International Coach Federation (ICF), an internationally recognized credentialing body for coaches, to provide some answers for those of you who remain confused about the differences between coaching, therapy and, most importantly, consulting. From the ICF pages:

“Therapy—Coaching can be distinguished from therapy in a number of ways. First, coaching is a profession that supports personal and professional growth and development based on individual-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is forward moving and future focused. Therapy, on the other hand, deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or a relationship between two or more individuals. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past which hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with present life and work circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways. Therapy outcomes often include improved emotional/feeling states. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability and follow through.

“Consulting—Consultants may be retained by individuals or organizations for the purpose of accessing specialized expertise. While consulting approaches vary widely, there is often an assumption that the consultant diagnoses problems and prescribes and sometimes implements solutions. In general, the assumption with coaching is that individuals or teams are capable of generating their own solutions, with the coach supplying supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks.”

Now that we’ve cleared that up, to answer the question at hand, COUNSELING can be just about anything! Whether or not a coaching program is actually counseling is an entirely different question. Coaching is indeed a specific modality which requires that the coach assume the client has the answers. The coach is there to assist in the discovery of those answers through the use of empowering questions and other powerful discovery tools. This is why specific coach training is vital to a great coaching program.

Counseling could suggest a specific course of action. Coaching also sometimes suggests courses of action, but always with the input and approval of the client — the action is co-created, not assigned. Counseling could be more directive than suggestive. Coaching is not directive; it is always interactive.

Anyone who would like more information on what coaching actually is really should consult the ICF website. They have a great FAQ and other resources, including one for finding a great coach who has been credentialed. Credentialing requires minimum coaching hours and clients, plus a demonstrated knowledge of ethics and standards.

I hope this helps!
Michelle Kunz, CEC, ACC
PEL Coaching

 Jeffrey Murrah
Marriage and Family Counselor: Public Speaker


First, in many States within the United States, counseling is often a licensed profession that requires licensed professionals. Coaching is still undefined and is not licensed as a profession. The lack of licensure for the profession has allowed many people to enter it without the accountability that currently exists in the counseling field.

Traditionally, counselors also have training in clinical issues. In a Human Resource situation, a licensed professional with a background in dealing with depression, chemical dependency, suicide assessment, critical incident de-briefing and other training would be a real asset to a business. Putting a coach, which could have specialty running the gamut from business performance improvement to conflict management, to improving organization skills may help the organization run smooth, but it involves a trade off in level of training and liability when the company has to deal with a human resource crisis.

As a counselor, I do not see the methods employed in the field as outdated by any means. In fact, many of the ideas and concepts that substance abuse counselors held in contrast with the those of the medical profession about addiction and the brain are being validated by new neuro-imaging techniques. Seeing this kind of validation tells me that counseling works, and the methods are not outdated by any means.

Both counselors and coaches are in the business of helping people. Coaches often use more non-conventional and innovative methods in dealing with people. For the types of issues they often find themselves dealing with, such methods are valuable and useful. Counselors often do stick with methods which have some proven validation. They develop skills that have proven results.

Whether or not a business uses a counselor or coach depends on what its needs are and the type of business they seek to develop. Deciding which to use will depend on liability and other issues the company needs to consider.


Author: Shalini Verma

Hi ! I am Shalini Verma and I help people to Achieve continuous inspiration and success , aid them to FREE energy from patterns and programmes that no longer serve them , partner with them to CREATE energy by putting into place regular work and life practices that are inspiring and sustaining and to MOBILIZE energy by taking intentional action into new oppurtunities and adventures . If you are ready to make inspiration and success your daily reality......then we are ready to go !

One thought on “Coaching or Counselling ?”


    Holliday (2001) suggests that “coaching implies motivating, inspiring, taking people to greater heights. It is directive process by you, a manager, to train and orient an employee to realities of your work place, and to assist in removing the barriers to optimum work performance” (p.1).
    According to Cummings and Worley (2005) “coaching is an intervention designed to improve the competencies of individual organization members through committed support, feedback, new views of work, new visions of the organization, and new ways of relating to people” (p.662).


    According to Holliday (2001) word counseling implies “Confronting and correcting people whose performance is below standard. When you deal with people who are not performing at an acceptable level, you must counsel them.” (p. 161).
    Stone (1999) defines counseling as, A non punitive disciplinary process, the most important step of which is one-on-one meetings with the problem employee in which your purpose is to get the employee to acknowledge the difference between actual performance and expected performance; identify the source of the problem; and develop an action plan to bring performance at least to minimum expectations, if not higher (p. 82).

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