Coaching is NOT Counseling

by: Dwight Bain, LMHC 

Every day coaches are asked questions… “How will this help me,” “How much does coaching cost?” but the #1 Question that coaches are asked about is the difference between the mental health field of counseling to see if it’s the same thing as coaching. Here is a quick overview to guide you through the process of being an ethical coach, while directing people in need of counseling to a qualified mental health professional. 

Because a common area of confusion for people helpers these days is in making the determination between coaching or counseling. Both are important skills that can bring transformational life change to clients however they are not the same.

More and more professionals are hearing about the growing profession of life coaching and may want to expand their skill set to offer more comprehensive services to meet the growing needs of their clients.

Counselors can gain certification to offer coaching services, or a coach could gain the training to offer professional counseling, but they are not the same… not by a long shot!

Professionals need to know the difference so they can rapidly guide people God entrusts to their care. Here’s a quick comparison to guide you in not only knowing the difference between these two important disciplines, but in making sure that you are working ethically and appropriately.

Here are the differences between these two powerful professions:

Counseling is more focused on solving painful problems from the past
Coaching is more about finding creative ways to reach your potential in the future

Counseling guides clients toward experiencing relief through recovery
Coaching is driven by one word- results in people’s lives

Counseling helps people to build supports to stabilize their life
Coaching guides clients toward strategic ways to maximize their life

Counseling develops healthy emotions and relationships to experience peace
Coaching builds healthy patterns with accountability to experience personal power

Counseling has been recognized as a life-changing experience for millions of people through the decades. Christian Counseling became popular by the 1970’s from the teaching of pioneers like Clyde Narramore, Ed Hindson, Tim LaHaye and James Dobson. These men were dedicated to showing the world that there was a difference between secular psychology and Biblical guidance. They laid the foundation for the next generation of leaders in Christian Counseling; Paul Meier, Frank Minirth, Steve Arterburn, June Hunt, Henry Cloud, John Townsend and Tim Clinton. Biblically based counseling has a 40 year history of success in North America and around the world. Christian Counseling is rooted in God’s word because he Bible has many references to show the value of searching out wise counsel. One of my favorite verses to illustrate this is Proverbs 24: 5-6, which states “A man of knowledge increases strength; and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Wise people seek out wise counselors to grow stronger.

So what about Christian Coaching? 
This discipline hasn’t been around as long as Christian Counseling, but the Bible has a lot to say about maximizing and stretching to reach your God-given potential. Listen to the theme of these scriptures as you meditate about the importance of building lasting success from a solid biblical foundation.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:7

“May God give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” – Psalms 20:4

“Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the LORD gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” – 1 Chronicles 22:13

If you want to experience this kind of biblical success you must have other people who challenge you to become God’s best- people who will take on the role of becoming like “Iron sharpening Iron” (Prov 27:17) to stretch and develop you to reach your potential. Christian Coaching provides that extra push because of the rapid results that occur when someone is on track with a trusted guide focused on helping them rapidly reach their goals.

So here’s the foundational question – Do you want to help people past the stress in their lives to move them forward to experience God-given success? Then become your best as a wise counselor and coach. Successful people need both!

Coaching is a new way to be part of helping people live out the biblical challenge from King Solomon given in Proverbs 15:22- “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

About the author- Dwight Bain is an author, Certified Leadership Coach and Nationally Certified Counselor in FL Follow him  


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