How is Coaching Different from Therapy, Mentoring, and Consulting?

  • Kevin William Grant

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Coaching helps people lead more fulfilled and meaningful lives and begins by focusing on what already works for you. Coaching will enable you to identify and optimize your values and strengths. Look at the big picture of your life so you can fine-tune and adjust the path you are on.

Coaching encourages deep reflection about yourself and your life to increase personal insight and awareness. Apply this new understanding to make clear, informed, and fresh choices.

Finally, coaching is about committing to actions that will create real, lasting change and move you towards a more meaningful, happy, and fulfilling life.

The coaching alliance is truly designed as a partnership in the service of a particular client's goals and desires—these are co-created with the client and coach.

Coaching differs from therapy, mentoring, and consulting, and the table below covers the difference between these four professions. 





Deals mostly with a person's past and trauma and seek healing.

Deals mostly with succession training and seek to help someone do what you do.

Deals mostly with problems and seek to provide information (expertise, strategy, structures, methodologies) to solve them.

Deals mostly with a person's present and seek to guide them into a more desirable future.

Doctor-patient relationship. The therapist has the answers.

A less experienced person works with a wiser, more experienced person. The mentor has the answers.

Expert-person with problem relationship. The consultant has the answers.

Co-creative, equal partnership. The coach helps the client discover their answers.

Assumes many emotions are a symptom of pathology or are an indicator that something's wrong.

It is limited to the emotional response of the mentoring parameters.

It does not typically address or deal with emotions. The focus is on the information.

Assumes that emotions are natural and normalizes them.

The therapist diagnoses then provide professional expertise and guidelines to give clients a path to healing.

Mentors allow their clients observe their behavior and their expertise. Mentors answer questions, provide guidance and wisdom.

The consultant stands back, evaluates a situation, and then identifies the problem and determines how to fix it.

The coach stands with the client and helps them identify their challenges. Coaches work with the client to turn challenges into victories and hold the client accountable so they can reach their goals.