If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or upset, it can be hard to think clearly about your next steps. When you’re dealing with big life events—decisions that need to be made, major changes, added responsibilities—you may require some extra support. But who should you turn to? A coach, or a counsellor?
Understanding the difference
Counselling and coaching are both focused on improving your overall wellbeing. Knowing which one is right for you depends on what your current needs and goals are.
Counselling often delves into your family history, previous relationships, past or present trauma, and historical reasons for patterns of unhelpful behaviour. The focus is on healing and treating emotional and psychological disorders, minimising feelings of distress, and resolving crises. It is generally focused on your present or past.
Coaching builds on the present to shape the future. It believes in your unlimited potential for growth. It helps you identify your values, specific obstacles, and relationship goals in your personal or professional life.
Coaching gives you clear, actionable steps to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself and support you in making positive transitions. It focuses on goals, education and accountability.
What coaching and counselling have in common
Coaching and counselling can both:
Encourage self-reflection and personal growth
Help you to identify obstacles
Give you a space to share that is supportive and non-judgemental
Provide strategies for improving your life and realising your full potential
When to seek counselling
Coaches are professional, supportive people with whom you can safely share your concerns. However, while some coaches are also trained mental health professionals, not all of them are. A well-qualified coach will tell you if your current needs would be better supported by a mental health professional.
Generally speaking, you should seek help from a counsellor regarding current concerns of substance abuse, eating disorders, abuse, trauma, mental health issues, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Any time the immediate safety of yourself or others is at risk, it’s best to reach out to a mental health professional or contact emergency services.
For anyone with a history of the above who is not currently in crisis, using counselling and coaching simultaneously may be an effective way to achieve your wellbeing and life goals moving forward.
Are your needs right for coaching?
Coaching can improve your life in many areas. It helps you to clarify your vision, define your goals, identify obstacles in your way, implement strategies, and cultivate the mindset necessary to achieve your goals.
While a counsellor may be a better fit if you’re experiencing severe emotional distress, you don’t need to be in perfect emotional harmony to begin work with a coach.
Experiencing some degree of stress and anxiety is normal, and a coach can help you to find effective coping strategies to better manage these feelings. Feeling overwhelmed, stuck, unfulfilled, burnt out, or frustrated occasionally is all a normal part of the human experience.
A good coach will help you to break down and implement the steps it will take to improve your overall wellbeing, utilise coping skills and manage your emotions more effectively.
Sometimes intense emotions can be brought on by periods of transition. Starting a new role at work or dating again after a divorce can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. A coach is an excellent source of support for navigating new changes in a positive, proactive way.
How a coach can help you
When you encounter an obstacle, do you panic, give up, or even deny the reality of your new circumstance? A coach helps you to better understand how you respond to obstacles, explore your options for overcoming them, and help you deploy new strategies so you can move forward.
In your professional life and personal life, many issues can be resolved simply through better communication. The result is an increase in positive interactions, both professionally and personally.
Through asking the right questions, offering a new perspective, holding you accountable and offering step-by-step strategies, a coach can help you to communicate in a way that improves your relationships and makes your life easier.
If you’re struggling to resolve conflict, a coach can serve as a neutral listener and observer to help you gain clarity and see the situation from new perspectives. They can help you to identify options, come up with steps for action, and even help you rehearse difficult conversations so you’ll feel calm and confident when they happen.
A coach can help you to see conflict as an opportunity to learn and grow, assist you in identifying shared goals, build relationship skills, and give you strategies to reduce feelings of isolation.
Adapt to life changes
Whether you have initiated a change in your life or had change imposed on you, change can be daunting. A coach can empower you to navigate the fear of the unknown with ease, and help you position yourself to make the most of a new situation.
Coaches may specialise in a wide variety of fields, including leadership, creativity, self-image, mindset and more. If you are currently facing challenges in your life and would like some extra support or insight, booking a coaching session is an excellent place to start.
Today’s action steps
Get clarity on what it is that you would most like to work on. Where are you struggling? What have you tried already that hasn’t worked? What do you think your biggest obstacle is? Take five minutes to write down what’s bothering you and what kind of support you think you might need.
In addition to what you’ve already written, jot down three questions about your situation that you’d like to ask a coach about.
Book a session sometime in the next week with a coach who specialises in the area you need the most support.
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