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The Difference between Coaching, Consulting and Counseling

Life and Leadership Coaches guide people, groups and organizations from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment they desire.” (Collins, Gary R., Christian Coaching, page 359)

I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about coaching over the past several months. Many are unfamiliar with exactly what coaching is. One of the main sources of confusion stems from understanding exactly how coaching differs from consulting or even counseling. Many people incorrectly assume that they are all the same or, worse, have had such horrible experiences with one type that they wrongly group all of these different services together and write them all off.

I would like to clear away the confusion and give some specific differences between each of these valuable resources for helping people navigate the unknowns.

How does coaching differ from counseling?

  • Coaching is for those who are ready to build a vision for their lives and move forward. It is not for people who need therapy to overcome pain in their past.

  • Coaching pursues the next step forward, not retracing the past for answers.

  • Coaching focuses on building confidence, strength, and skills, not overcoming weaknesses. 

  • Coaching is a partnership between two individuals (or within a group) where the client has the answers and the coach helps the client identify them, not where the coach has the answers to guide the client.

What is the difference between Coaching and Consulting?

  • Coaching assumes the client knows and has the answers and uses active listening and powerful questions to help them uncover that within themselves.

  • Consulting provides direction and answers and uses the expertise of the consultant to offer suggestions, develop plans, and implement ideas.

  • Coaching believes the client has all they need to move forward and provides focused, guided space to clarify that pathway

  • Consulting relies on the expertise of the consultant to tell the client how they should move forward.

Think of it like this:

  • A client who wants to be able to look into her past in order to develop an understanding of why she acts/reacts/behaves as she does now is a perfect candidate for counseling.

  • A client who wants someone to examine the way she does things and provide feedback for how she should move forward is a perfect candidate for consulting.

  • A client who wants to become aware of what her reality is right now, identify values and beliefs in that reality, and proactively determine the appropriate steps to develop a future she would like to have is a perfect candidate for coaching.

Why do people seek coaching?

Coaching helps people who want to:

  • Pursue goals

  • Develop confidence

  • Build a vision for their future

  • Get unstuck

  • Transition well between seasons of life

  • Establish healthy balance between priority areas

  • Unlock their potential

No matter where you are in life, coaching can help. If you are interested and would like to learn more, visit or, better yet, schedule a free Discovery Call with me to learn more.


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