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What Is The Difference Between Counseling And Coaching?

Written by: Ryan Light, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Being an emotional/mental health coach, I often ask, "What is the difference between working with you or a counselor?" While some differences may appear subtle, there is quite a large gap that lies between others. If you are searching for help in any area of life, the main question you need to ask yourself first is this: "What am I looking to get out of this experience?"

Your answer to that question is the foundation that will help you decide whether a counselor or coach could be the most beneficial for you.

What is the Role of a Counselor?

To begin with, counselors should have a degree of some sort, along with additional accreditation. Most will also acquire many hours after that of clinical experience before venturing off into practice or on their own.

A counselor assesses your difficulties and looks for ways to alleviate the symptoms.

They focus more on the past and utilize talk therapy as one of their primary help methods.

While this can be beneficial to decrease symptomology in the present, it falls more into the category of coping versus healing.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not against counseling in the least! But I chose coaching as my method of helping others because of its focus and because coaching tends to be more actionable and proactive than counseling.

What is the Role of a Coach?

If you happen to choose a coach, you will delve more into the future as opposed to your past

What I mean by this is that the role of a coach is to guide you, through the use of actionable steps, to get you "unstuck" from the past to live in the present and prepare for your future.

Our focus is not based on digging for the answer to why something happened; we want to help you not only alleviate the manifestations such as panic attacks, anxiety, and depression but get to the root cause(s) of what triggered them in the first place.

In my coaching practice, that involves learning how to "sit with" and feel your feelings ‒ not run from them through the likes of unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I am accredited in numerous modalities, such as NLP, EFT, TFT, and REBT. These allow me to work with a client's trauma using varying techniques to bring awareness to how one's body manifests that trauma. I provide further steps to utilize on your own to work through those underlying issues.

I don't want you to run, hide, or learn how to cope any longer, but become self-aware of your actions, reactions, and behaviors and how to reframe those to move forward in life.

One other aspect you will find with many coaches nowadays (including myself) is we often incorporate our personal stories and struggles to connect with a client on a level many counselors are unable to do.

How Do You Choose?

When you are looking to answer the question of what you want out of this experience, keep in mind a few other differences listed below:

  • Counseling often involves weekly sessions for an extended period of time. While coaching consists of maybe 2-10 sessions total.

This is because coaching integrates more interactive homework outside and between sessions than counseling.

  • Coaching entails less talk and additional modalities that can be taught and utilized in everyday life. While counseling tends to contain Larger chunks of "talk therapy."

  • A counselor's focus usually extends deeper into the "Why?" of your past. On the other hand, a coach will place most of their focus on the "How?" ‒ as in what can be done to release you of those struggles.

Acknowledging and validating your trauma are the first steps toward healing, but repeatedly talking about them can traumatize you even further.

  • A coach wants to make you think on your own through the practice of self-awareness. The more familiar you become with how your mind and body react, the more you can work yourself through struggles in the future.

Counselors tend to impart advice and answers over teaching you how to resolve such difficulties on your own.

The fact is, you don't necessarily need to choose one or the other. I work with many clients who, in turn, seek help through counselors simultaneously.

Sometimes it involves trial and error as well. Many sought my help after years (or even decades) of counseling and did nothing to alleviate their struggles and pain.

No matter what you seek help for, the path you choose needs to be the right one for you…and you alone.

Whether through counseling, coaching, or both, your main objective should not be grasping how to manage symptoms (coping) but how to walk through and release yourself from the pull they have on your everyday life.

Remember, coping is the way you learn to survive, but true healing is where you will learn how to live.

Follow Ryan on his Facebook, Instagram and website for more info!


Ryan Light, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ryan Light is a mental health coach, author, thought leader, and influencer in the mental health space. Having spent 20 years of his life attempting to run, avoid and hide from the pain of his childhood and adolescence. He struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and panic disorder. After contemplating suicide, Ryan decided to finally confront his traumas through what he now coins “Feeling Work” and heal the real issues plaguing him with various mental health disorders. Today, his passion lies in guiding others through their struggles with anxiety, depression, and/or trauma through such avenues as social media, public speaking, self-paced courses, e-books, live workshops, and 1:1 coaching.



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