Counselling or Coaching-what is right for me, right now?

coaching or counselling creating a change finding a new path
Finding the right path-will coaching or will counselling best suit me?lling

Coaching or Counselling-what is right for me, right now?

Dr Rhonda Emonson PhD

How do I know? 

What is the difference between coaching and counselling? 

Therapy and life coaching do share certain traits and aims. However, whether you choose to work with a life coach or a therapist, both work to enable clients to make positive changes in their lives enabling the client to have a more fulfilling life.  

In life coaching, a client works with a coach, who is not (necessarily) a healthcare professional in order to clarify goals and identify obstacles and problematic behaviors in order to create action plans to achieve desired results. 

How do I know which one to work with? 

The decision to seek out a therapist or a life coach is a very personal one. However, it does suggest that at this time, you are seeking assistance for something important in your life. Can I give you an example  of how some people differentiate the two?

Close your eyes for a moment and think that you are preparing yourself to climb a mountain, perhaps you haven't climbed such a high mountain before or perhaps you are always struggling to get past the initial steps. In either case, you could hire an expert sherpa/guide or you could hire a doctor. 

Both have the best intention for you.

How would you know which one to choose; who would be most helpful in climbing the mountain?  You have specific needs relevant to climbing the mountain-do you know what they are? 

Say you are physically unwell, or would be in some form of danger even if you attempted the climb; in this situation, a sherpa or a guide would not provide you with the medical advice and intervention you needed. If you are unwell, you would need some form of intervention/modality before trying something challenging such as climbing.

On the other hand, if you are healthy and need someone to help you with a climbing strategy or to help you carry the load of supplies or to find the best path or to keep you motivated and heading in the right direction as you climb the mountain...the guide or sherpa is a more suitable option. 

In the above example, the therapist/counsellor/psychologist is metaphorically the doctor. He or she will provide intervention to help you to take on major challenges in your life by exploring your mental and emotional well-being. In the same example, the sherpa or guide is your Coach - someone with expert knowledge and training to assist you in your climb, to help you reach the summit. So, in other words, generally you would need to be at a ‘baseline level’ of good mental health before you would tackle the climb, before you even begin. However, if  you are progressing and feeling ready to tackle the mountain - coaching is the appropriate choice. 

Although life coaches and therapists occasionally help clients with similar problems, their training and focus is not the same. Although, of course, a counsellor can be trained as a coach and vice versa. Neither will provide either coaching or counselling at the one time-not the two simultaneously. 

In order for you to access the right kind of professional expertise, it is important to know which kind of guidance will serve you best. Coaching is not just a ‘watered down’ version of therapy, but rather a dynamic discipline designed to help motivate and inspire people to achieve more than they believe is possible. 

Therapy is called counselling or psychotherapy or psychological intervention and with any of these, the therapist works with the client to resolve problematic beliefs, behaviours, feelings and diagnosed mental health concerns. Some say, (although there are many interpretations of what therapy is) that this form of intervention focuses on changing self destructive behaviours and to work through painful feelings. In this respect, therapy focuses on the past and on introspection with the hope of resolving past issues in an endeavour to create a happier and more stable future for the client with or without medication. 

What does a life coach do? 

Life Coaches set  clients up with a process that may be either long or short term-the frequency often decided on by the client. The client works with the Coach to clarify goals and identify obstacles and problematic behaviours in order to create an action plan to achieve desired results. In fact, Coaches takes the client’s current starting point as an acceptable neutral ground and moves on from THAT point in a non judgemental way. The approach allows the client to take control (and responsibility) of their life and supports them in actions that steer them toward the client's goal. Have a look at the diagram below (Robbins, 2019) as this may also help you see the differences. 

In coaching, you are respected for who you are, right now-there is no judgement by the coach. However, after the coach has worked with you to determine what your limiting beliefs are (obstacles that prevent you from moving forward) te coach will work with you to ascertain how those limiting beliefs are holding you back, how those limiting beliefs are your narrative, how those limiting beliefs are circling in your mind and raising their ugly head every time you feel overwhelmed. Time is spent with the coach determining how those limiting beliefs are serving you-are they serving you resourcefully or unresourcefully?

If unresourcefully-what is preventing you from changing your thinking and feeling confident to introduce and follow through with resourceful actions and thinking?

Professional Life Coaching is not all rah rah and cheerleading. It is  working with you to understand your limiting beliefs and to find a pathway to live a more fulfilled life and to provide you with support as you do so-yes, it is that simple!. 

First the coach will work  with you to get an understanding of  your current behaviour. From there,  establish your underlying beliefs and mindset along with your ‘internal rules’. Once these have been established,  the coach  will then work with you to ensure there is a clear understanding of your goals, your aspiration and what you ‘would like it to be like’. 

Then the coach will work with you to establish ‘well what is needed for that to be’. What needs to change, how are you going to create those changes and then set out some accountability on how that will happen.    

You are  on the path to create change, finding the right path, the right person to help you climb your mountain is dependent on whether you want to work on 'how you got here'-then it is a counsellor.

On the other hand, if you want to focus on your future and climb that mountain-then a coach is possibly more suitable to meet your needs. You have made the decision to move forward and that is the hardest step of all. Well done, you are on your way to a new and more fulfilling life.

Rhonda Emonson

If you would like to know more, to be further supported in your life, or to  enquire about further resources, please email Dr Rhonda Emonson PhD on

How do I know which one to work with?

 [email protected] and you will be provided with further resources.





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