September 22, 2016

What is counselling & coaching?

“It is a bewildering thing in human life that the thing that causes the greatest fear is the source of the greatest wisdom” — C. G. Jung


Counsellors are helping professionals. They provide their clients with safe, confidential spaces to explore and discuss their personal difficulties and work toward living more vital lives.A photo by Sebastian Unrau.

Counsellors do not tell their clients what to do. Rather, counsellors work with their clients to help them better understand their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Through this work, clients gain insight into their personal difficulties, and find ways to transform them.

The counselling process can look very different depending on the counsellor’s approach, the client, the client’s difficulty, and counsellor-client relationship. You can learn about my counselling approach here.

I find the Dictionary of Counselling’s comprehensive definition for counselling helpful:

Counselling is a…relationship characterised by the application of one or more psychological theories and a recognised set of communication skills, modified by experience, intuition and other interpersonal factors, to clients’ intimate concerns, problems or aspirations.

Its predominant ethos is one of facilitation rather than of advice-giving or coercion. It may be of very brief or long duration, take place in an organisational or private practice setting and may or may not overlap with practical, medical and other matters of personal welfare. It is both a distinctive activity undertaken by people agreeing to occupy the roles of counsellor and client and it is an emergent profession….

It is a service sought by people in distress or in some degree of confusion who wish to discuss and resolve these in a relationship which is more disciplined and confidential than friendship, and perhaps less stigmatising than helping relationships offered in traditional medical or psychiatric settings (Feltham & Dryden, 1993, p. 6).

Relationship to psychotherapy

Counselling is intimately related to psychotherapy. Some people suggest that the two terms are synonymous. Both counsellors and psychotherapists work out of similar theoretical models, both stress the value and uniqueness of their clients, both listen carefully and sympathetically to what their clients communicate, and both foster in their clients the capacity for self-help and personal responsibility (Nelson-Jones, 2012).


Counselling and coaching are interrelated. Both are helping professions that seek to foster clients’ personal growth. That said, like the relationship between psychotherapy and counselling, coaching and counselling can also be considered distinct.

Coaching tends to be more pragmatic than counselling. Coaches help their clients set tangible personal and professional goals and develop personalized strategies to help their clients reach their potential. While counsellors can also be quite strategic, counselling tends to be focused more on intimate, personal concerns than coaching is.