“Oh, so you’re a coach? That is awesome, but what does a coach do? Isn’t that just like counseling?”
It was a question I was used to hearing by now. I’ve been coaching for six months independently and more people seemed as confused as they were curious about what I do for a living. Coaching versus counseling. What was the difference? They both sound similar. Both modalities seem to provide similar levels of support to the client. Many professionals even have a hard time explaining the difference. It’s no wonder it’s confusing. While both coaching and counseling have a goal to improve their clients’ lives, their methods of getting there can be quite different.
Coaching Vs Counseling
To help you decide which mental health support may be the best option for you, I have laid out a few of the key differences between coaching and counseling.
Pros to Coaching
- Goal Oriented- Coaching typically focuses on the client’s main goal or objective. In this sense, coaching also typically tends to focus on the future, rather than take a look at a client’s past or personal mental health history.
- Team Relationship- A coach will approach their relationship with their client as though they are working as a team. The coach and client must put in 100% together for the client to reach their goals. Boundaries are important since the coach is a professional, but the conversations may be more direct and amiable than in a patient-counselor relationship.
- Certification- Coaches get certified by a certification board. Coaches can also specialize in helping clients reach specific goals with specific types of coaching. For example, career coaches may only provide support with someone’s professional goals, and not offer life coaching, which focuses on someone’s personal goals. Coaches can explore what goals a client wishes to achieve support in and refer them if they do not offer what that client is looking for.
Cons to Coaching
- Out-of-Pocket Expense- Coaching is not typically covered by insurance. Coaching might be covered by a client’s employer, if the coaching they are seeking improves their professional skills. Examples of this could be career coaching, leadership coaching, or public speaking coaching. The positive to this con is that the client has more control over the type of support they receive and when that support begins and ends as opposed to the insurance company making the decision for them.
- Not Always In-Person- There are in-person coaching practices available, but many coaches offer online services. While this can make coaching convenient, this can be really overwhelming for a client that is trying to find the right coach. Many coaching certification websites offer a “Find A Coach” option to help people search for certified coaches in their area.
- Coaches Cannot Counsel- Coaches are certified. Education in the field of mental health, counseling, or psychology is not a requirement to gain certification. If a client has deeper mental health concerns that arise, it is vital that a coach refer them to licensed mental health professional. This limits the amount of support a coach may be able to provide a client overall.
Pros to Counseling
- Treatment Oriented- Many counselors focus on specific theories and types of treatment modalities to provide services to their clients. Theories and treatment modalities are frequently tested and researched to determine their effectiveness. Counselors are educated and trained in specialized techniques to offer support and care in cases of severe mental illness.
- Counselor-Patient Relationship- Because counselors are specialized and highly trained in the methods and treatment techniques they use, they often take on a client-patient relationship. Counselors must adhere to very strict and laid out boundaries with their clients determined by their licensure and education boards. This is to ensure that ethical services are provided to all clients.
- Licensed Professionals- Counselors are licensed by their state or national boards. This licensure allows them to diagnosis their clients, which allows clients to get services and treatment covered by their health insurance. Healthcare coverage can help with the cost of treatment provided. Licensure can only be achieved by professionals who have a Master’s Degree or Doctorate in a mental health field of study. The requirements of licensure vary state to state.
Cons to Counseling
- Almost Always In-Person- While being an in-person service can foster a deeper counselor-patient relationship, it may limit a client’s accessibility to mental health support. There are online counseling services available, however, most services are offered in-person. Should a client or counselor move locations, it ends the services being provided and a client has to begin again with a new counselor. The pro to this con is that it is less overwhelming for a client to locate help in their area if they can look professionals up physically.
- Diagnosis- Diagnosis can give someone clarity into what they are experiencing. It can provide answers and open doors to treatment options. It can also harm a person’s well-being and become a label they feel they cannot shed. It is important that a counselor explore with their client the diagnosis process and what may come from their assessment results prior to the client being diagnosed. This allows clients to be fully informed prior to making that decision.
- Covered By Insurance- A client’s insurance may cover the services they are receiving, allowing them the mental health support they need if they are unable to afford it. Insurance can also limit what services a counselor is able to provide to a client. Insurance companies can pick and choose what they pay for, what diagnoses they are willing to assist with, and the amount of services they will cover. These limitations may prevent a client from receiving alternative treatment methods or even halt their services mid-progress due to cost and coverage. This can remove the client’s control over developing their own plan and process.
There are many ways for an individual to get the support they are seeking. Coaching and counseling are just two of those methods. Besides the pros and cons of each type of service out there, the most important thing to consider is the type of support you are looking for as a client. You have the right to explore and find what works best for you. If you’d like to learn more about the type of coaching that I do, you can connect with me on both Instagram and Facebook.