Coaching, mentoring, counselling, consulting – what’s the difference?

My very first post in this blog is about coaching itself. There seems to be some confusion on the term, often used interchangeably with other terms.

Johann Friedrich Greuter: Socrates and His Students, 17th century.
J.F. Greuter: Socrates and His Students, 17th century.

Coaching is a future-oriented co-creative process involing two roles: the coach and the coachee. The coach is offering the listening ear for the coachee to develop their own solutions. Coaching roots back to the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and his Socratic Method (also referred to as “maieutics”).

Coaching is not mentoring but can draw from it – a coach is not necessarily someone in the field of the coachee and cannot necessarily guide from own experience in the career path of the coachee. Rather, the coachee generates their own, unique solution and strategy with the help of the coach versus a mentor who shows their mentee how it was for them.

Coaching is future-oriented and forward-moving. Therapy and counseling root in psychology and deal with healing pain, dysfunction, and conflict with the aim to fix the errors of the past. While improved and positive feelings are also a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus of coaching is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals.

Coaching is not consulting – the coach does not implement solutions to the challenges of the coachee on behalf of the latter, as expected in consulting. In coaching, the coachee is the knowledgeable expert of themselves and it is them that derive and realize the solutions to their problems, with the help and support of the coach.

In summary, coaching is future-oriented, in contrast with counseling and therapy, and coachee-centered in deriving the solutions and actions as experts, in contrast with mentoring and consulting.

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