Episode 066: Counseling vs Coaching…What’s the Difference?

Episode 066: Counseling vs Coaching…What’s the Difference?

Lately, I have been getting a lot of questions about the differences between counseling and coaching. Today I attempt to answer those questions…if you have wondered what’s the difference…tune in and listen.

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Hi and welcome. You are listening to the Happiness Hacks Podcast, and I’m your host, Nancy Jane Smith.  This is episode 66, counseling versus coaching, what’s the difference?

Hey, everyone. It’s a beautiful fall Wednesday here in Columbus, Ohio. I am coming to you from my home office. Today I’m doing a little different of a podcast because I’m going to be getting into the profession of counseling versus coaching. The reason I wanted to do this is I keep getting a lot of questions about it, from people emailing me or when I talk to potential clients. What’s the difference between counseling and coaching?

If you ask 10 counselors or 10 coaches, they will give you 10 different definitions of the difference between counseling and coaching. So part of the problem with this difference is it isn’t spelled out in anything specific. I’m going to give me thoughts on what I think the difference is and the positives and negatives of both I guess.

I just want to go over some myths or some common stereotypes of both professions and flush this out a little bit. One of the common stereotypes is that coaches have no certification. That is not true completely because there are lots of well-respected coaching certification programs. It is true that coaching has no licensing body overall. So counseling has been around for years, and we have a licensing body. I’m licensed through the state of Ohio; I have to do a certain number of CEUs a year and I had to sit for a licensing exam. The board kind of controls what I can and cannot do, so I have a lot of stringent rules and ethics that I have to compete with, or comply to, I’m sorry.

But the coaching profession has a wide array of certifications. So you could have someone that has gone through year-long certification processes and taken an exam, and they are certified coach through the licensing body of coaching, even though there isn’t a licensing body, but there is one that’s a little more respected than most. Or, you could have someone that just, they went through a divorce a year ago and they feel like they have a lot to share about going through a divorce, and so they throw up a coaching shingle, even though they’ve had no certification or anything.

The idea that there is no certification for coaching is wrong. There is a certification for coaching, but as a consumer, it’s up to you to pay attention to what is that certification. If I say I’m a licensed counselor, it’s a standard process of what I’ve gone through. If someone says they’re a certified coach, that certification isn’t standardized. So to find out what does that mean, and to ask a few more question, probably would be helpful when it comes to flushing out, “Do I want coaching or counseling?”

Another myth of coaching and counseling is that counselors keep you stuck in the past and coaches move you forward. This stereotype drives me absolutely crazy because you can talk to any one of my clients, we do not get stuck in the past. I do not. I move my clients forward. I try to make their lives better. To make your lives better, sometimes you do have to go into the past and look at what happened to unhook a pattern that happened with your dad, or a pattern that happened with a sibling, or a pattern that happened at school. The past has clues for us, it is not something that we should be avoiding.

That’s kind of an old school trying to find the differences between coaching and counseling, is that counseling only works in the past. It depends on the counselor and who you’re talking to. There are counselors out there that want to believe that the past portrays the present and the future. I am not one of those counselors personally, but I do believe that there is stuff that happened in my childhood, there is stuff that happened in your childhood that affects us now. So we may need to tap into that briefly to unearth that, but we’re not going to get stuck there as far as our work together. That’s something to pay attention to.

Another question to ask is, what is the philosophy of the counselor or the coach when it comes to working in the past? The danger sometimes with coaching can become, if they have not had a true certification process and they start going back into the past and unearthing stuff, it can get a little sticky. I have had training in how to do that, and I continue to get training through my CEUs, as do all counselors. Coaches sometimes don’t have that training. The coaching profession is taught to refer to a therapist who’s had more training in unearthing if there’s been trauma or something sticky in the past to help you process through that. That’s something also to pay attention to, where are you in your healing of your past. If you’ve had some real trauma, it may be helpful to see someone that’s had a little more certification, a little more education in that piece.

Another myth is that counselors have to diagnose you, or counselors keep you stuck in a pathology. So if you see a counselor, I’m going to try to figure out your diagnosis and decide if you have anxiety or depression, and I’m going to pigeon-hole you into this diagnosis. Then we’re only going to work on whatever that diagnosis is. That could not be further from the truth. Yes, it is true that counselors can diagnose. That’s part of the deal, is counselors can give you a diagnosis. The only reason I think that diagnosis is helpful is that you can get insurance reimbursement if you have a diagnosis.

I don’t take insurance, but I do help clients who want to. I’ll fill out a form to help clients who want to refer to try to get insurance, I call it out of network insurance. When I do that, I have to give them a diagnosis, that’s how the health insurance world works. If a client comes in to see me and they want to fill out their insurance forms, I will diagnose them with anxiety or depression, and that’s it. We don’t obsess about that that’s our diagnosis, we don’t talk about it all the time. That is just something we do for the purposes of paperwork and health insurance.

A coach will not diagnose you at all. It won’t even come up because it’s not something they have to do for insurance purposes. Now, that said, it depends on the counselor that you see, how much they’re going to be talking about the diagnosis. An old school counselor that has been around for a long time may be more focused on diagnosis and may be more focused on treating the depression, the big diagnosis pathology. My personal belief is, I don’t get stuck on the diagnosis. It’s a diagnosis, we all have anxiety and depression any given day, any given moment, we just kind of type in and out of it.

For me, that’s just a means to end to get reimbursement from insurance. It is a diagnosis, it is true, it is something that you’re struggling with. But it’s not something that I’m going to label you and pigeon-hole you in and put you in a box in. It is one piece of this huge puzzle which is your life and the struggles that you’re having.

I think that it has become a stereotype or a myth, is that coaching is more for the worried well, people that are just needing some help in moving forward and achieving a goal and kicking some stuff to the curb. Counseling is more hardcore, you need to dig into your past, and you’re feeling terrible, and you have this depression and anxiety, and you need help with it.

To some degree, that’s probably true, but I also want to encourage you, and the biggest message I want to send on all of this, is counseling and coaching are very similar and very different all at the same time. Each counselor and each coach you talk to is very similar and very different all at the same time. It is also up to you, the consumer, to chat with each coach, counselor, whoever it is that you want to talk to, and see if you have a fit with them.

That’s the most important thing, to ask them the questions I talked about. What’s their licensing? What’s their certification? What’s their opinion about diagnoses? How do they work with clients? How are you going to make progress? How are you going to move forward? All those things, you need to be asking those questions of each person you talk to. Because this is an intimate process working with another person and talking about your life and trying to unhook some stuff and move your forward. It’s hard, and it’s challenging. You want to make sure you have someone that you connect with, and you agree with and that you like their philosophy.

So I guess the biggest message I’m going to send on this, counseling versus coaching, is it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have found someone who you connect with and you trust, and you believe that they can help you and move you forward and that you know that if it isn’t working, you can back out and you can move on and find somebody else.

The idea that you have the control here of figuring out who it is that you most want to work with. The name they call themselves is not as important as their licensing, their certification, their experience, their continuing education, how much they care about you and the connection they have with you. That’s my take on counseling versus coaching.

If you have other questions about this, please email me, nancyjane@live-happier.com. I’ll be happy to answer them and chat with you more about this question.



Weekly Ritual Segment:

One thing that has helped me Live Happier is adding regular ritual practices to my daily life so each week I am going to be sharing a ritual with you and challenge you to complete it.

Notice the Leaves

The seasons are slowly changing here in Ohio. Slowing down to notice the subtle changes in the leaves, the flowers, and even the sky remind us that there is a bigger world out there. This time of year goes so fast as we make the quick slide into the Holidays.

This week the weekly ritual challenge is to go outside and look around. Slow down, look around and notice the changes all around you.

I challenge you to complete the weekly ritual challenge of being creative. Check out my Instagram where I share my daily check in with the weekly ritual practice. It is a helpful way for both of us to stay accountable to the practice.

I’ll be back next week for another Happiness Hacks podcast, and I hope to see you then If you have questions or thoughts or anything, please email me at nancyjane@live-happier.com, or you can follow me on Instagram, @nancyjane_livehappier. Until next time here’s to living happier.

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