Professional Counseling vs. Coaching

What's the Difference?

We are often asked about the difference between professional counseling and life coaching. The services have similarities but also distinct differences. Counseling involves moving from a state of dysfunction to function. Counseling involves spending time examining the past of the clients, assisting them with dysfunction and emotional issues, and treating a specific diagnosis. Counseling is a medical professional/patient relationship. More serious and deeper issues require counseling (those issues creating significant impairment on daily functioning). In most cases, insurance will pay for counseling when it involves treating a diagnosable issue. Professional counseling can only be provided by a licensed mental health professional.

Coaching, on the other hand, involves helping a client reach specific goals and forming a partnership with the client to reach those goals. It is less formal and structured than counseling. Coaching can take place in person, over video teleconference (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc), or over the phone. Coaches work clients who are functioning well, yet want to improve their circumstances. Insurance will not pay for coaching because it does not involve the treatment of a diagnosable issue. Coaches form a plan that uses the client’s strengths, provide accountability and support, and give the client tools and resources for success. Coaching is more proactive and preventative, meaning that clients are already functioning well but want to function at an even higher level.