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Coaching:  What is it and how it differs from counseling

Coaching:  What is it and how it differs from counseling

Chad Eckert, MA, Certified Life Coach

Family Coaching



According to the International Coach Federation, coaching is the “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives.”

Author, Christian coach and licensed clinical psychologist, Gary Collins Ph.D., defines coaching as, “the art and practice of walking with a person or group from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment that they desire.”

Coaches function with people and travel alongside them until they arrive at their desired location. A Christian Coach does everything a “regular” coach does but considers God’s will in the mix. Christian coaching guides people from where they are to where God wants them to be.

Coaching vs Counseling

A subtle yet main difference between counseling and coaching is their objective. Counseling often focuses on healing wounds from the past in order to find relief and stabilize one’s ability to operate. Coaching seeks to help clients maximize potential by making progress in a specific area identified by the client. Coaching clients are relatively well-adjusted, capable and willing to progress towards the desired goal. Both counseling and coaching can be effective in their objectives when paired with appropriate clients.

Counseling focuses more on moving people from dysfunction to a more functional state or way of being. Those already functional or even highly functional but aren’t achieving their fullest potential are likely to succeed in the coaching process.


Counselors help people overcome painful influences from the past. Coaches help people build vision and move toward the future.

Counseling looks back to heal, coaching looks ahead to grow.

Coaching focuses less on overcoming weaknesses and more about building skills and strengths.

Coaching is often viewed as less formal because the coach-client relationship is defined as a “partnership” between two equals, whereas counselors tend to be seen as the superior in the relationship.

What coaching is not?

Coaching is not therapy, counseling, advice-giving, mental health care, or treatment for substance abuse. The coach is not functioning as a licensed mental health professional and coaching is not intended as a replacement for counseling, psychiatric interventions, treatment for mental illness, and recovery from past abuse, professional medical advice, financial assistance, legal counsel or other professional services.

Why would anyone want a coach?

Coaching is designed to address issues the person being coached would like to consider. These could include but are not limited to, career development, relationship enhancement, spiritual growth, lifestyle management/change, life balance, decision making, life transitions and short or long term goals.

Coaching helps people who want to get unstuck, build confidence, expand their vision for the future, obtain personal mission/dreams, and unlock more potential, increase personal skills and gifts, live more in their passion and move through transitions.

Generally speaking, coaching is less threatening, less concerned about the past, problems or weaknesses, and more inclined to help people reach their potential moving forward.

What’s the coaching process like?

The coaching process evolves as clients become more aware of who they are and what they want. Coaching provokes change by asking questions that stimulate the client’s deeper desires, abilities, needs, reasons and commitment level.

In general, every coaching situation will begin by exploring the issues that the client wants to change. Then there is the need for better awareness of where the client is at present by exploring strengths, abilities, passions, gifts, values, hopes, etc. Next is vision. Coaching will challenge the client to develop a greater clarity of where they want to go and why. After vision comes the how, which includes planning action steps and creating accountability. The last part of the coaching process is identifying potential barriers. Coaches will then challenge, encourage and support clients to persevere and become more of who God is calling them to b