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Counselor... or Coach? Which One?

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

We all need help sometimes.

In my “short” life, I know it’s taken “a village!” I’ve worked with multiple counselors and coaches and still do.

But which help is the right help for you now? “Do you think I need a counselor or a coach?”

I hear this question regularly: “Do I need a counselor … or a coach?” And those who want to use their people-growing gifts will ask, “Should I become a counselor… or a coach?”

With that in mind, I’ve given some thought and done some homework to answer the question – from the vantage point of coaching and with total respect and frequent work with my work counselors and coaches over the years.

There is overlap. But yes, there are key differences. I hope that these five signs you need a coach can help bring clarity.

Here are 5 reasons you might seek out a coach, instead of a counselor. (Basically, 5 signs you’re ready for coaching.)

1. You’re on the healthy end of the “spectrum.”

There is a spectrum to consider when exploring counselor or coach. It moves from sick on the left, to healthy in the middle and thriving on the right. It matters where you place yourself as it relates to the overall health or lack thereof of your inner psychology.

On the left side of the spectrum, we can call it “sick.” Sick will require the work, expertise, and experience of a trained counselor. It's why professional counseling or therapy requires years of training and involves knowing how to work with pathologies like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

A counselor’s goal typically involves creating a treatment plan that involves moving you to the middle of the spectrum and away from sickness. (This is why many insurance plans will cover it)

The middle of the spectrum is “health.” Of course, health can have its degrees, but usually, it involves getting to a place of being functional. You can make decisions on your own. You are not harming yourself or others. You can take care of yourself. Get out of bed in the morning. Be in healthy relationships. Have a foundational level of peace….

The right side of the spectrum is full potential. A transformational coach seeks to work with you to move you from a place of basic health (or just a bit below) to the right side of purpose, prosperity, and full potential.

• By the way, a well-trained transformational coach knows when to refer a client or potential client to work with a counselor because they sense signs of deeper inner disturbance (depression, unresolved trauma, abuse, hurt, etc.)

2. You seek an increase in influence, impact, or income – not just insight

Transformation does begin with insight and awareness, but that’s just the first step. As important as it is to “know thyself,” it’s also important to become “thy best self.”

The transformational coach works with those ready to move towards new levels of best self in increased effectiveness, productivity, or goal achievement. This may span arenas that may address career, business, or financial growth, leadership, health, relationships, or more.

One coaching client recently wrote to tell me “Your coaching gave me the confidence and clarity to move into using my greatest skills and passions for helping others find theirs.”

Of course, a good counselor cares about these issues, but they will more likely work with you to review and help you analyze patterns from your past. They will listen to help you discover where you’ve experienced pain, abuse, trauma, or setback. They enable you to gain insights and tools to recover or heal from your inner battles.

3. You desire to discover and engage the bigger purpose gleaned from your pain

A person is typically ready for coaching when they are no longer deeply triggered or held back by their pain. Instead, they are open to building on the lessons and purpose of their pain to move into their desired life, leadership, or destiny.

Coaching, like counseling, does not shy away from addressing pain or past disappointment.

However, while the counselor will focus more on healing or deeper healing of that pain, the coach helps harness reframe your mind and even harness lessons learned to equip you to gain wisdom, and insight and even fuel future dreams. Frequently there’s even a giving back element where you help others avoid or address the kind of pain you experienced.

4. You’re ready for better results that go beyond the past.

Coaching, by its nature, involves achieving better results. Those results may be quite measurable, like increased income, career change navigated, weight loss, or goals achieved.

Or it may be harder to measure the clarity of purpose, confidence in yourself, a mindset to achieve a dream, and peace of mind.

The results of counseling can certainly set you up for some of these, but they’re not as actively focused on external results and actions as much as a coach is.

5. You’re seeking new pathways, not just to process old ones

Many come to coaching seeking clarity. “I have different options, but I’m not sure which one is the right one for me. Can you help me?” Some even apologize that they are not sure which path to go down and wonder if this will decrease the effectiveness of the coaching.

A transformational coach may help you realize the pain from your past has prepared you for destiny and it wasn’t just a waste. All to say, you are ready to invest in a coach

• You’re ready to influence and

• You realize the pain from the past has prepared you for destiny and you’re ready to go.

Well, how many “yeses,” “No’s” and “maybe’s” did you get?

If you had 1 or 0 “no’s” you may be ready to at least intentionally explore

As I have learned, it’s not a weakness to work in a profession. Just the opposite, it’s wisdom! The fact you’ve read this far means you care about growth… for yourself and others.

And you believe your growth matters.

The time is now! The person is you!


PS. If you’re now ready to explore how this relates to you, either to get to the next level of your own life, leadership, or livelihood OR to consider how becoming a transformational coach may be the right next step for you, be sure to take the free assessment: “Is Coaching for Me?”LINK HERE

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