Coaching, counseling, mentoring and consulting – what’s the difference?

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    I often get asked about the difference between coaching, counseling, mentoring and consulting. While the communication skills used by these professions are similar – such as asking questions, active listening, summarizing, etc, they are very different methods and it depends on what the client needs. Here are some distinctions:

    Coaching – according to the International Coach Federation coaching is defined as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” The coach is the subject matter expert at coaching, not necessarily the subject matter expert of the client’s coaching topic.

    Counseling – according to the CoActive Coaching, the boundary between coaching and counseling is not defined by a set of absolute rules or terms. In general, counselors are trained to diagnose and help client with emotional problems, the past or dysfunction while coaches are not. The coach’s domain is future oriented – what does the client want? And then coaching the client to get there.

    Mentoring– a mentor is a wise and trusted guide and advisor. The mentor is the teacher that shares their experience while bringing the “mentee” up the ranks. A coach is not necessarily the subject matter expert in order to help develop the client.

    Consulting – a consultant is an expert who is called on for professional or technical advice or opinions. They are relied on to understand the problem and present solutions. Consulting is unlike coaching because with pure coaching, the answers come from the client.

    What are your thoughts about these distinctions?

    For more resources, see the Library topic Personal and Professional Coaching.