Coaching vs. Therapy vs. Consulting

One of the most common questions we are asked is related to how Life Coaching differs to the field of Therapy or Counseling and the field of Consulting. Below are some similarities and differences.

Similarities between Coaching and Therapy (Counseling):

  • Both professions are based on an ongoing, confidential, one-to-one relationship between the practitioner and their client.
  • Clients come to both services wanting change.
  • Both professions assume that significant change will only occur over time.
  • Within the both relationships, regular sessions are scheduled, during which conversations occur.
  • Other similarities of practice exist.

Differences between Coaching and Therapy:
The context of the relationship, condition of the client, and content of the sessions differ between the two professions as follows.

Coaches work with people who are:

  • Eager to move to a higher level of functioning
  • Seeking focus, strategy, and motivation
  • Asking “How to?” questions
  • Designing their future
  • Learning new skills
  • Seeking more balance in their lives

Therapists work with people who are:

  • Seeking self-understanding
  • Asking “Why?” questions
  • Dealing with past issues, emotional pain or traumas
  • Psychologically challenged in a quantifiable way

How is Coaching Different from Consulting?

Consulting and Coaching differ greatly. Consulting requires that the consultant have expertise in the area that the client seeks advice, whereas Coaches do not advise their clients at all. Coaches do not need to have specific knowledge or experience in the topic area that the client wishes to improve. The Coach instead offers expertise in the change, goal attainment, and accountability process, which is effective regardless of whether the client is seeking to lose weight, make changes in their business, learn a new skill, or stop a habit.

In some cases, however, when a Coach offers a niche form of coaching (for example, health, fitness, business startup, purpose, team building, etc), the coach does have expertise and knowledge about their particular niche and does provide advise based on such knowledge. The differentiation between niche coaching and consulting is that the consultant holds the power in the relationship, however in a coaching relationship the partnership holds the power.

Distinctions among Coaching, Therapy (Counseling), and Consulting.

Comparison Coaching Therapy/Counseling Consulting
Client status Client is creative, resourceful, and whole; wants forward movement and results Client needs/wants healing Client needs advice, solutions, or help
Who is the expert? Client is the expert
In some niche coaching cases, the coach is the expert
Therapist is the expert Consultant is the expert
Questions? Asks what questions Asks why questions Answers questions
Time focus Focus on present/future Focus on past/present Focus on present/future
Agenda Client’s Therapist’s Consultant’s
Problem solving Client solves problem Problem is analyzed/may or may not be solved, “Why is this happening?” is primary focus Consultant solves the problem