Coaching not same as counselling

Economy January 06, 2014 00:00

By Michael Heah
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IN MY ROLE as a coach, I often work with many professionals who are either counsellors or who have a good background in counselling. Many of them show keen interest in coaching. They even attend the programme to become Certified Professional Coaches. This

Are they really the same?

There are many areas where coaching and counselling are similar. Primarily, it is in the listening area. Both coaches and counsellors are great listeners as they need to listen deeply to unearth the hidden issues, reasons, roadblocks and meanings of what the person is trying to tell you. To do this well, both have the ability to connect intimately for the emotional engagement that is needed for the truth to be out.

Where are the differences?

There are a number of them. One is on the listening aspect again where the coach listens to understand more of the client’s present situation and how they can move them forward to the future while the counsellor spends more time in finding out about their past. The coach does not go into this in great detail because the past hurts sometimes. Instead, the coach will spend a lot of time in helping clients build the next chapter of their lives.

Another key difference is the great length the coach goes to to build the “architectural” aspect of the game plan in order to lay out very clear steps for the client to move forward. While the counsellor also discusses the “how to” with their clients, this area of work usually does not go very deep as compared with the coach. This explains why the area covered by coaching is far wider – in life, business and development growth, etc. Counselling usually sticks more to life matters than any other area.

Another difference lies in the tracking and monitoring aspects. While counselling can be a one-off session, coaching is usually for a longer term. This is needed because the coaches want to hold their clients accountable for their actions

Do you think that both coaches and counsellors should complement one another?

Certainly. Coaches can learn to improve their listening skills from counsellors. I believe counsellors learn this skill more intensively. They have a great listening ear. This makes them patient, understanding and caring. Such qualities are superb to have. On the other hand, counsellors can learn more from coaches in two key areas. One of them is the “architectural” aspect. In this, the counsellors can learn how to set realistic, yet stretched goal and how to build a good game plan to drive the behaviours needed for it to be achieved. The other is the accountability aspect where the counsellor can learn how to instil ownership and build a tracking system to monitor and measure results.

Advice to both of them

Both professionals should be aware that clients these days are very different from those of yesteryears. Not only are their demands more complex but so are their issues. So, with an expanded skill set, they can thus do more for them and help them achieve holistic solutions with sustainable results. One more point, which both these professionals also need to know is that the clients who consult them usually do not know the real difference between coaching and counselling and they come only to find solutions from you on what is bothering them. So whether it is a coach or counsellor, the more resourceful and skilful they are, the more effective they will be to touch their clients’ lives more effectively and meaningfully too.

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