Coaching v Counselling (briefly!)

I’ve been asked a lot recently about the difference between coaching and counselling, so that’s the focus for today – the short version is that although there are a lot of similarities and parallels, there are also some key differences.

In general, both seek to help individuals make changes that they want to make, in a confidential setting. Many of the values and skills that underpin counselling, such as listening, unconditional positive regard and empathy, apply to coaching also. They often use similar techniques to one another and many coaching tools are grounded in counselling or therapeutic models. And there are 100s of schools of counselling…

Both encourage self-development and personal growth, in their own way. Good practice for either includes adhering to a code of conduct or ethics, being accredited by a professional body and regular supervision. Counselling and coaching can be used in conjunction with one another or independently.

What are some of the differences?

Counselling provides assistance, advice or guidance in resolving personal or psychological problems. Coaching clarifies what a client wants and then helps them to focus and set goals, move forward and holds them to account. Both deal with feelings and encourage self-reflection, but coaching focuses on creating actions as a result ('ok, what am I going to do about this?') rather than examining emotions in too great a depth (which falls outside of the boundaries of coaching). There are also differences in training (content, purpose and length) and how you relate to a client.

In a nutshell:

  • Coaching focuses on the present and the future; therapy is often looking to the past
  • Coaching is solution-focussed; therapy is ‘problem’ focused
  • Coaching doesn’t advise or diagnose: the coachee has the answers, which the coach helps draw out; counselling offers advice and recommendations and the therapist is often viewed as an ‘expert’
  • Both can explore negative beliefs: counselling as to why they have arisen, coaching how these can be removed and reframed
  • Coaching focuses on maximising personal potential and counselling looks at healing.

How can coaching help with fertility issues?

Fertility is really complex and I’m not just talking about the biological side of things. It invades so many areas of life, it can be difficult to differentiate: when one area becomes unbalanced, be it finances or relationships, it impacts another - your health or job, for example. On a journey that can often feel like you are firmly planted on the back seat, coaching can help you take back some of the control. Part of that is increasing awareness and attention where it’s needed, seeing where the particular stresses lie or what other choices and resources are available. You can explore, gain insight and uncover different perspectives when given the space and environment to do so - and that’s really what coaching sets out to provide you with. One natural outcome of coaching is to highlight 'information' gaps; although you can't coach knowledge itself, it is possible to gain clarity about what you don't know (to an extent). Armed with this insight, you can then decide what to do about it.

What else can it help with?

It can help remind you that you are more than fertility issues: you are a human with needs and excitements and desires and wants and passions and gifts, just like everyone else. Sometimes, it’s just about reconnecting to that: it could be as simple as signing up to an evening class or taking a long bath... or a long-forgotten dream to fly to the Galapagos and save the lesser known giant swamp turtle-bat (I‘m not sure they exist, but they sort of sound like they should). What it is doesn’t really matter so much: the point is, that you are still in there, and it’s really important not to lose sight of that along the way - there is always a choice about how you feel, even if it doesn’t immediately seem like it.