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Coaching vs Counseling

People are curious about what I do. As a psychotherapist and life coach, people ask me the difference between the two roles. They also want to know how to determine which service is appropriate for them. Basically, is their situation coachable or therapeutic in nature?

It is not uncommon for people to confuse these two professions and to be sure, similarities do exist. However, these professions are not interchangeable. It can become even more confusing as many counselors, like me, are practicing as both professional licensed counselors and certified life coaches. It’s important to note that as a potential client, you might not know exactly which service is right for you. I have listed some of the major differences and similarities below to help guide you through the decision-making process.

Calm Sea


  • sessions are focused on the agenda set by client

  • is action oriented and results driven

  • takes place in the here and now, not in the past

  • assumes that you are resilient, strong, capable and healthy

  • focuses on aligning your strengths with your stated goals

  • assumes that you are the expert of your own life purpose

  • is a collaborative process

  • is credentialed in many different ways by many governing bodies but in reality, no certification or credential is required to call oneself a coach

  • can take place by phone, video or in person across the USA or worldwide

Sea Turtle


  • assesses for and diagnoses mental health disorders

  • provides treatment for mental health disorders

  • is often considered “medically necessary” and is covered by health insurance

  • focuses on emotions, behaviors and thoughts and the root of these feelings

  • is process oriented

  • helps the client relate current situations to past traumas or learned experiences

  • is conducted by licensed Masters/Doctoral level trained therapists. Each state has rigorous regulations and requirements in place to ensure client safety.

  • is a medical model which is governed by the laws of HIPAA

  • can only take place in person, or by secure HIPAA compliant methods (including video and audio) while the therapist and client are in the same state - few exceptions exist and require state board approval.

  • uses evidenced-based practices based on the therapist’s theoretical orientation

  • is regulated by the state board in each state across the United States. A therapist may only practice with a client who is located in the state in which the therapist is licensed.

Dark Waves

Similarities Between Coaching and Counseling

  • Both professions have the same inherent goal of assisting clients to create fulfilling lives

  • Both professions recognize and honor that each person is different and that there is no ‘one size fits all’ recipe for healing and success

  • Both professions adhere to ethical guidelines which foster safety within the relationship

  • Both professions have specialized training, certifications, course work, and field practice

  • Both coaches and therapists are highly trained, empathetic, and want the best for the client

It’s the job of the coach to help you, the client, understand these differences so that you can choose the appropriate service for your needs. As the consumer, you are entitled to understand what coaching is, and is not, so that you can knowledgeably enter the coaching contract. In traditional psychotherapy, we would make this part of the informed consent process. A thorough initial phone call or video call should include: establishing rapport, assessing your readiness for coaching and explaining the limitations of coaching.

It is my belief that both coaching and therapy are vital and helpful services for many people. There is no ‘better’ or ‘less than’ helping profession. It’s actually this diversity which allows us to have access to the services we need most at a particular time in life.

If you would like to explore the possibility of life coaching or counselling with me, please set up an appointment here. I provide mental health counseling in the state of New York only and you can find out more about my counseling philosophy here or throughout this site.

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