We have known about therapy since the beginning of Sigmund Freud, but now it has become common to hear about this concept of coaching. However, there many different types of coaching: business, life, relationship, financial, spiritual and even wellness. After identifying the variety of coaching areas, where does counseling fit it. Inquiring minds want to know what is the difference? It can be confusing trying to figure out which field is best for you. My hope with this post is the clarify differences between the two by looking at: how each is defined, similarities, differences and how to know which is best based on your needs.

Per the American Psychological Association counseling addresses the emotional, social, work, school and physical health concerns people may have at different stages in their lives, focusing on typical life stresses and more severe issues with which people may struggle as individuals and as a part of families, groups and organizations. According to the International Coach Federation coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Upon reading the definitions there are noticeable similarities, but also differences between the two fields. Coaching focuses more on self-directed goal setting, creating outcomes and managing personal change in comparison to therapy or counseling which focuses on resolving conflict from the past that interfere with an individual’s ability to function in the present, leading the client to deal with the present in healthier way.

A good question to ask which often goes unanswered is the credentials required to be a coach or counselor. Can anyone become a coach? The short answer is yes. The more complex answer is that coaching is not a regulated field like that of the counseling or social work. There are a variety of schools/programs that offer credentials based on varying criteria. Thus, the quality of coaches varies dramatically. The International Coach Federation (ICF) provides independent certification that is the benchmark for the professional coaching industry. What are the qualifications to become a counselor? To become a licensed counselor most states, require that you earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree from an accredited university. Getting into a Master’s program in counseling will first require a Bachelor’s in Counseling, Psychology, Sociology, Social Work or other highly related field. Once a Master’s is earned, most states require 1000’s of hours of supervised professional experience to apply for your counseling license. Then the final step is to complete a national counselor exam.

Now with understanding of the criteria for each field, what can you expect:

Results of coaching can include:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable

Results of counseling can include:

  • Insight and understanding of oneself, with greater self-awareness.
  • Changing of one’s beliefs and mental models.
  • Increased acceptance and appreciation of oneself.
  • Increased ability to control oneself and one’s urges.
  • Development of skills and abilities that require self-management.
  • Improved motivation towards actions that are good for one’s self.
  • Increased appreciation and care for others.
  • Improvement in relationships with others.
  • Changing of relationship with family, friends and others.
  • Making amends for past negative actions.

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