What is the difference between coaching and counselling?

Overview of Coaching

Collins Dictionary: "A life coach is someone whose job involves helping people to improve their lives by doing challenging or worthwhile things."  Coaching is all about moving toward a specific goal working through challenges that may impede that process.  

The coach and client work together as a team, working on solutions in a peer-like relationship.  These goals can be related to all manner of life: diet, exercise, & other health goals, building great relationships, finding true happiness, discovering your life purpose, working on stress management, developing general coping skills, and much more. Coaching is not meant to assess or treat specific mental illnesses/disorders or work through past events*.  Coaching is a fun, light hearted, and generally positive experience.  

*While coaching is not therapy and does not work on deeper long past issues, there is an amazing healing that can take place when working on the present.  Fractal theory states life has infinata patterns that are broken into small bits.  Deal with one tiny part of that pattern and you change the whole picture.

Overview of Counselling

Counselling is focused on dealing with your current mental state from an expert in that field. Collins Dictionary: "Counselling is advice which a therapist or other expert gives to someone about a particular problem."  The CPA states: "Counselling psychology is a broad specialization within professional psychology concerned with using psychological principles to enhance and promote the positive growth, well-being, and mental health of individuals, families, groups, and the broader community."

Counsellors work with those experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.  It focuses on empathy, and other methods, that work with the client to improve their state of well-being from past or present circumstances.  The counsellor client relationship must follow a strict set of ethical guidelines including not forming a relationship of any kind outside of therapy. 


Both coaching and counselling work with a client: 

  • in personal growth
  • dealing with life challenges
  • finding happiness
  • building better relationships
  • dealing with current painful emotions
  • work through road blocks to success
  • discovering life purpose or a career path
  • moving on past a loss or unhealthy relationship (after it has already ended)

The both use a variety of techniques that often overlap such as:

  • solution focused (using a client's current strengths) 
  • reflective listening & empathy
  • goal setting
  • dealing with poor thinking (cognitive techniques)
  • exposure techniques 
  • bibliotherapy (books)
  • self-work (education, reflection, etc.)
  • various relaxation techniques
  • role playing


Counselling is usually far more in depth and gets pretty personal.   Counselling sessions have a legal* confidentiality protection that can usually only be broken by a subpoena, child/elder abuse, or if there is danger of immediate harm - suicide/homicide.  Coaching is not protected under these same laws which vary from country to country.  However, know that I will protect your privacy and confidentiality, as far as I am able, even in a coaching relationship.  Coaching is a flexible relationship, one of peers, whereas counselling has strict rules of conduct. 

Counselling works with a client: 

  • in working on past issues
  • what has a mental illness or other disorder
  • who has strong or intense painful emotions
  • who is struggling to function

Coaching works with a client (depending on training):

  • very specific life goals
  • challenges on reaching those goals
  • health & nutrition goals
  • who is functioning well but wants more out of life

Tools more specific to coaching (NOT all coaches use all these tools):

  • SMART goals
  • T-Goals
  • consulting (if coach is trained/expert in a field)
  • worksheets for special life goals
  • accountability tools
  • more supportive of pushing a client to success within ethical bounds (once a client has set the goal and invites this support) for an example see team members on CBS show "Hoarders" 

Counselling uses different tools (NOT all counsellors use all these tools):

  • psychodynamic therapy 
  • talk therapy (just talking to vent and be heard)
  • hypnosis (a limited number of coaches use NLP, a form of hypnosis)
  • exposure therapy (more advanced techniques)
  • grief therapy (more advanced techniques)
  • many other therapy tools and techniques too numerous to list

Which one should I choose?

It can be confusing since there are many similarities between coaching and counselling. They both can be very effective in helping clients with personal growth and better coping skills. Some help on which way to go:

  • If your emotions are very intense or are you are having trouble functioning at some level, if you are struggling with depression, unresolved grief, severe anxiety, or mental illness/disorder, therapy is a better option.
  • If you want to move on with your life after a crisis has past, find your life purpose, mind more meaning in life, be more confident in social situations, or work on any number of health goals, coaching may be the better choice.  

In many countries there are no legal restrictions on either and thus one can do both or interchange them as the client needs. On the other hand in some countries, such as the USA, counselling is highly regulated by and varies from state to state. Thus if you are not in Canada, at this time I can only provide coaching unless you are in a country that allows unlicensed individuals to practice therapy, you'll need to show me documentation of this.  Those of you in Canada we can work together to see what fit works best for you.  

IMPORTANT NOTES: 1.  Video therapy has its limitations. There are restrictions on doing certain techniques and it is not for everyone. If during intake it is clear video therapy is not for you, I will recommend you see a local therapist. 2. Counselling has certain ethical guidelines. Due to the nature of a counselling relationship, we can’t not have a dual relationship, that is any relationship outside of therapy. If you decide, after the phone consultation, you'd like to change from coaching to counselling or counseling to coaching we can do it during intake (the first one or two sessions). Once you sign a consent to therapy/coaching (a form you will receive at the end of intake, usually after the first or second session) we are committed to that relationship only.  

Whether you choose coaching, or counselling, or if you are not sure which one, book a FREE 15 minute consultation today to see if working together would be right for you. 

Book an appointment with Body Mind Health - Angela Poch using SetMore

*NOTE: The definitions and information above may be different in different countries, i.e. some countries do not prevent unlicensed counsellors from practicing while in other countries counselling is highly regulated. At this time coaching is not regulated in ANY country that I am aware of. This article is by no means legal advice.