One of the things that my clients appreciate is that I am a qualified and experienced psychotherapeutic counsellor and a coach. This means that however we work together, you will have a holistic experience that you can attend to all of you.
My coaching clients appreciate my background as a therapist, as it equips me with a comprehensive understanding of human behaviour and psychology. On the other hand, my counselling clients value my coaching approach for its directness.
This post explores the differences between counselling and coaching and how to choose which to support your relationship.
Gaining Insight From Books, Podcasts & Friends
When tackling specific problems, my go-to is a quick Google search, which leads me to book recommendations, podcasts, websites, and YouTube videos for insights. Occasionally, I take online courses to deepen my understanding and spark the process of figuring things out.
While these resources can provide valuable perspectives, there are moments when we need support beyond books or social media, especially in navigating relationship issues.
Sometimes, friends and family can provide that initial support, but they may lack the objectivity or expertise to help you make informed decisions about complex relationship matters.
People will naturally project their own experiences; if they haven’t done vital inner work on relationships, their advice may not suit your situation.
The Best Way To Tackle Relationship Issues
The importance of personalised, one-to-one expert support becomes apparent at this time. In moments of relational impasse and crisis, reaching out to a professional is not just a suggestion but a necessity.
This is when you might consider engaging a counsellor, psychotherapist, or coach. I have positively benefited from individual and group psychotherapy and coaching for different areas of my life.
A qualified counsellor, psychotherapist or coach who is experienced and specialised in relationships or marriage will effectively support you and your relationship.
So, what’s the difference between counselling and coaching
What is counselling?
As an Integrative Psychosynthesis counsellor, I believe counselling and psychotherapy, collectively called therapy, nurture the soul.
The acknowledgement of the soul’s needs becomes evident when we find ourselves grappling with psychological and emotional distress. Therapy serves as a means to navigate, manage and care for our pain, as well as make meaning of our emotional problems and learn how to sense sacredness in them.
Some sources of distress are outlined clinically in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). These may encompass conditions like depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD. Although therapists in the U.K. don’t prescribe medication, Talking Therapies play a vital role in attending to mental unwellness.
Therapists extend support for a range of life experiences, such as abuse, grief, illness, and infertility, recognising their interconnectedness with and impact on mental health.
Soul pain manifests in many ways. Therapy can support you with an existential crisis or the unravelling of your soul’s journey,
What does a therapist do?
A therapist serves as a guide and witness, assisting you in untangling the complexities of your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
They help unveil valuable insights into your identity and how you connect with others, often exploring your formative years when your personality and understanding of life developed.
Therefore, therapists are crucial in revealing deep-seated aspects like attachment styles and experiences we may have overlooked. These elements shape how we navigate adult relationships, especially in romantic contexts where therapy becomes instrumental in addressing conflicts rooted in pre-existing issues.
It also involves understanding the subtleties of conscious and unconscious communication, bringing hidden thoughts and patterns into our awareness.
Beyond providing support, therapists share tools and strategies to manage, enhance, or alleviate the impact of symptoms, aiming for positive changes that contribute to a more fulfilling, integrated and soulful life. Those tools can awaken your imagination and creativity.
Heart & Soul
The therapeutic relationship is at the centre of all therapy. Ultimately, for me, in my practice, counselling is about heart, soul and care. Through the therapeutic relationship, a client can experience and practice being in a healthy relationship in real time.
What does therapy achieve?
Sound therapy, therefore, replicates a secure attachment, i.e. a safe space. One way it does that is with the structure of therapy, same time, same place, every week. Another way is setting boundaries through fees, cancellation policies and keeping to the session times.
Effective therapy will not foster codependency but will support a client to use the tools learnt and practised in the therapeutic relationship out in the world beyond the therapy room.
Therapy is an opportunity to reconnect and integrate all of who we are and reclaim our authenticity, agency and autonomy.
There are many benefits of counselling and psychotherapy. These include:
- Resolve the pervasive underlying causes of your problems.
- Learn how your symptoms are catalysts for growth and transformation.
- Heal from early childhood trauma and abuse.
- Gain freedom from self-destructive thoughts and behaviours.
- Build a toolbox of coping and life skills.
- Facilitate healthy, lifelong changes.
- Establish a strong foundation for healthy relationships.
- Increase self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence.
- Reconnect with your true self.
- Discover value, meaning, and purpose in life.
Therapy can be short-term or long-term, i.e. weeks or years.
Who is my therapist?
Qualified counsellors and psychotherapists undergo extensive training, lasting up to 5 years before qualifying. In addition, many therapists will have further training in an area of expertise such as couples, trauma or addiction with particular tools such as Shadow Work, Dreams or EDMR.
In the U.K., anyone can call themselves a counsellor and set up a private practice, so it is crucial to find a therapist who you know is fully qualified.
Depending on their training, therapists will likely keep details of their personal lives or experiences private from you.
What is coaching?
At its core, coaching has a foundation in goal-oriented, solution-focused therapy models. While using many tools, the coaching approach focuses on moving individuals forward, emphasising its proactive, interactive, engaging, and challenging nature.
The ICF (International Federation of Coaching) defines coaching as:
Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.
Coaching falls into two main camps: performance coaching and self-development coaching. At the centre of both is change.
Coaching supports you in reaching your specific life goals, whether related to leadership, business, money, health, finding love, enhancing your existing relationship or navigating a divorce.
Whilst coaching is not an intervention for mental illness, trauma or deep-rooted issues, it can play a role in your overall mental health. For example, improved resilience, reframing outdated beliefs, problem-solving, and believing in ourselves all improve our well-being.
What does a coach do?
A coach is your supportive ally, working collaboratively to identify, articulate and achieve your goals.
Not too different from counselling and psychotherapy, coaches facilitate a process of self-discovery, helping you gain clarity on your aspirations and challenges.
A coach helps break down complex issues into manageable steps through active listening and thoughtful questioning. While our past is always present, coaching primarily focuses on the present and future, offering practical tools and strategies for achieving specific objectives.
A coach will also explicitly hold you accountable for doing what you say you will do to work towards your goal.
What does coaching achieve?
Effective coaching will facilitate personal growth and enhance your skill set to attain your goals.
Coaching tends to be short-term, 3-6 months and offered as a package
It empowers you to overcome challenges and blind spots, build confidence, and make informed decisions. The ultimate goal is to achieve a positive and tangible impact on your life or career.
Those tangible outcomes may include enhanced self-awareness, improved decision-making abilities, and a greater sense of fulfillment and purpose. All of these have an impact on relationships, which is an example of coaching’s intangible impact. When you integrate coaching, you will see a clear impact on all areas of your life.
The most apparent benefit to coaching is that you are likely to see quick, positive results. Other benefits include:
- Understanding your values, priorities, and aspirations to set clear goals.
- Reflecting on yourself helps you discover strengths and areas for improvement.
- Setting goals boosts confidence, making it easier to face challenges.
- Get the tools to make intelligent decisions in your personal and career life.
- Better communication means fewer conflicts and improved relationships.
- Coaching gives you ways to handle stress and bounce back from challenging times.
- Learning to balance your time and set boundaries for a happier life.
- Having a clear goal makes you more motivated to work hard and succeed.
- Coaches help you decide what’s essential and manage your time wisely.
- Coaching enables you to stay positive, focusing on what you’re good at and what’s possible.
Who is my coach?
A coach supports and inspires you to unlock your full potential. A coach is not a qualified mental health practitioner.
Life coaching is not regulated in the U.K., so anyone can work as a life coach if they have the necessary skills and qualities. I have participated in an ICF Accredited Coach Training with CreativeMind University. This was deep and advanced-level training.
While coaching organisations such as the ICF, the A.C. (Association for Coaching), and the EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council) have worked to define the skills and competencies coaches should have and provide structure for ethics and best practices, coaches do not have to receive supervision and oversight of their work.
Many coaches use personal experience as the basis of expertise, i.e. a successful entrepreneur providing business coaching. In such instances, that is hugely supportive and aspirational and forms the basis of an empathic connection with a client.
However, in other areas, such as relationships, love and divorce, experience does not necessarily mean expertise.
A divorce coach, leading with their own experience, can support you with the divorce process and your general well-being.
They will not be adequately equipped to process your relational wounds or any anxiety, trauma, depression or mental health issues you experience at this time. Without supervision, there is also the risk of the coach’s experience unconsciously becoming intertwined with the client’s.
Counselling or Coaching?
Our relationship problems do not exist in a vacuum.
Approximately 1 in 4 people in the U.K. will experience a mental health problem each year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week .
Does that mean that you cannot have coaching? No, it doesn’t.
So, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room.
I understand that the language around coaching and therapy might seem similar.
In discerning between therapy and coaching, a key factor to consider is the level of distress, challenge, or impact your mental health struggles may have on your life. If you’re still grappling with the effects of addiction, abuse or trauma and haven’t initiated the healing process, or if you’re not ready to discuss these issues, therapy becomes the essential foundation for eventually transitioning into coaching.
On the other hand, if you’re focused on achieving your next goal or improving specific aspects, such as relationships or personal navigation, coaching might be the ideal choice, even if you are in therapy.
You have the flexibility to see a coach while still engaged in therapy, addressing various aspects concurrently. Both avenues offer valuable support, allowing you to simultaneously work on different facets of your personal growth. This coexistence can be a powerful complementary approach, tailoring your support system to suit your unique needs.
Counselling, psychotherapy, and coaching all work towards working towards you having a better future. Whilst therapy reflects on the past to understand the present, at its core, like coaching, it is about making changes so that you have better life experiences and relationships.
Over To You
If you’re stuck in your relationship and considering how counselling and coaching can help strengthen your marriage, get in touch for a clarity session. I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood 2023
Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialises in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.
. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) Paperback – 31 May 2013 American Psychiatric Association
 Mind: Mental Health Facts & Statistics