What is counselling?
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.
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).
How is counselling related to psychotherapy?
Counselling is intimately related to psychotherapy. Often, the two terms are used synonymously. 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).
I am a Registered Psychotherapist in the Province of Ontario, Canada. According to the College of Registered Psychotherapist of Ontario, the scope of practice of psychotherapy includes the assessment and treatment of cognitive, emotional or behavioural disturbances by psychotherapeutic means, delivered through a therapeutic relationship based primarily on verbal or non-verbal communication.
What is coaching?
Counselling and coaching are interrelated. Both are helping professions that seek to foster clients’ personal growth. That said, counselling and coaching can be distinguished.
Generally, coaching is more future-focused than counselling. While the goals of counselling may be to heal from childhood trauma and/or better understand how the past is shaping the present, the goals of coaching may be to start with what is in the present and focus on creating a preferred future.
The International Coaching Federation describes coaching as:
partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential….Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole.
In my practice, I tend to integrate counselling and coaching perspectives, tailoring my approach to each client’s unique situation and personal preference. That said, I also work with some clients in a purely coaching fashion.