When to choose a Counsellor, and when to choose a Coach

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

At some point, we all need help to make personal changes in our life to improve it. I can’t think of anybody I know of which that statement doesn’t apply to. Not everybody turns to professional help in all case, yet what we do to help us make those changes should be dependent on the nature of our current situation and the type of change we need to make – as far as solutions go, one size doesn’t fit all.

Two very common approaches to gaining support for personal change are using a coach, or a counsellor. (It just so happens I have used both types at various points of my life, to solve different types of problems.) Both coaches and counsellors share one trait, and that their goal is to help you and come out of the other end of the process. They are not intended to be an emotional crutch, or a friend. As Sarah Fader of BetterHelp puts it, ‘effective counseling does not involve more than a therapeutic relationship.’

The differences between the two (or why you would choose one over the other) aren’t always obvious. I hope to help you with that in this article, using my own experiences.

When to use a Coach

Coaches are not just people who work in sport. Coaches can help us achieve a wide variety of changes, and do so in a way that separates them from counsellors – that they are action-oriented. Coaches work with you as their client to identify the problem(s) in the way of your goals, then set actionable steps to resolve those problems. This approach attempts to solve the problem at hand, but it also helps a coach’s client to successfully adapt to any other similar situation in the future.

With a coach, achievement of goals is paramount, and action is how those goals are achieved. In order to make coaching work, it’s assumed (and is important) that, once problems are identified and actions agreed, that you are capable and motivated to execute on those actions and that you have the mental and physical capacity to forge ahead. When being coached, much of the discussion will focus on action, objective, plans and status checks.

So in summary you’ll use a coach when you’re fairly clear on your goals, you need help on identifying and planning the right actions to overcome your blockers to those goals, and that when you do so, you’ll have the personal resources to put that plan into action.

When to use a Counsellor

The aim of a counsellor is to create a safe and supportive space to discover where and how you are stuck in your life, and what you must to do free yourself from your situation. Counsellors create the environment so that you can explore questions that deal with your feelings and emotions. One of their principal objectives is help you identify problems and then provide support to assist you in gaining the strength and clarity to overcome them.

Counseling will give you the tools and insight you need to make the positive changes you desire for yourself. Effective counsellors don’t suggest solutions to your problems or tell you what you should do. Rather, they may ask you to come up with possible solutions for yourself, and support you in identifying the one that you feel suits you best. A counsellor might work on helping you re-think and re-frame your underlying thoughts and emotions that add to your problems. Instead of focusing on your flaws or weaknesses, an effective counsellor should help realise your strengths and help you understand where you could put them into action. A counsellor will always leave their client in control and responsible for decisions and actions.

In summary, use a counsellor when you feel you are stuck in a rut in your life and you don’t know how to think your way through to a solution.

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