Coaching vs. Therapy & Consulting

Coaching differs from both therapy and consulting.  Coaching provides complementary benefits to these disciplines, and may be combined effectively with them.


The emphasis of counseling and therapy is on healing, to bring the client to a place of wholeness.  These disciplines are prepared to take an in-depth look at the client's past to achieve this.  The many modalities of these disciplines have available a variety of techniques with deep psychological bases, which require considerable expertise in delving into the client's psyche.

The emphasis of coaching is on the client's deepening the learning from where they presently are in their lives, and moving forward into action, to realize a fulfilling life.  This starts with the view that the client is already in a place of wholeness.  This different assumption permeates the coaching process in its effect: the focus is forward looking, or at least always has a significant forward-looking component; the emphasis is a positive one of change and transformation.

Counseling and therapy may also look forward in the client's life and emphasize moving them into action to live a healthy life.  Coaching may also look backward in the client's life, particularly when false beliefs or old patterns are blocking action, to foster the necessary wholeness for moving forward.  However, the differences in assumptions and foci of the disciplines, as stated above, typically result in very different experiences of the sessions for clients.


The consultant is an expert in the particular area in which their client has an issue to address or a goal to achieve.  As an expert, the consultant assesses their client's situation and goal, and advises them how to proceed.  Though the client may acquire some of the consultant's expertise as part of the process, often the consultant remains the expert and the client remains dependant upon them should such a need for their expertise arise again.

The coach is an expert in coaching, that is, the discipline and facilitation techniques of helping the client understand and change their lives.  The client is the expert in their life, including the areas in which they have issues to address or goals to achieve (cf. this latter is the consultant's role in consulting).  The coach is a facilitator to the client's process, with the goal that the client be self-sufficient.  There are carefully circumscribed situations in coaching when the coach may offer suggestions, such as brainstorming.  However, in these cases, ideas are offered without attachment or claimed expertise, and are intended to broaden the client's sense of possibilities rather than to advise.

Coaching and consulting are complementary.  The client having all the answers in coaching doesn't mean that a client knows all that a consultant might know, but rather that the issues addressed during the two relationships, or the manner in which they're addressed, are different: inside-out vs. expertise about outside circumstances.  It may be appropriate for a coaching client to utilize a consultant, including on issues on which they're being coached, if they need expertise about outside circumstances.

Seize Truth
Dan Craft
San Francisco Bay Area