Peter Kane – Relationship Theorist and author "The Monogamy Challenge"

Counseling and Coaching Similarities

There are many similar aspects to counseling and coaching and to the relationship between the client and the facilitator. Counseling and coaching relationships both include support, input, guidance, and learning. Most of my career I have preferred the term counseling to describe my individual, couples, or family sessions, but I have always known that counseling included qualities of coaching, teaching, and even cheerleading.

Regardless of how we view these aspects or roles, an important aspect of counseling is that the client leads and I follow. How I follow is ideally dictated by the client, and not by my agenda or my menu items of what I think is important. I definitely have the ability and even the responsibility to add to the client’s direction, but the context is based on the client’s needs. This is true regardless of the terms we use to define the facilitator/client relationship.

It is valuable to note that until the early 70’s counseling as we know it didn’t even exist. Prior to the 70’s counseling was primarily a psychiatric endeavor and it primarily existed within a disease model. When I first practiced in San Francisco in the late 70’s my work was considered to be outside the box of academia, and was loosely labeled personal growth. If the sessions were with individuals I was usually thought of as a consultant, and if the sessions were with groups I was a seminar leader or a trainer. In the 80’s things quickly evolved and I viewed myself as a counselor, a seminar leader or a trainer. As these fields have evolved, the alternative counseling world has gotten closer to more traditional methods and vice versa. As these definitions have evolved each group of practitioners have sought to use terms that benefited their authority in the world. Often the terms used are connected to State Laws. For example, in my home State of Washington, to be a counselor you have to be registered or certified. If I explain my work to someone I meet at a party, they might be tempted to call me a psychologist, but in actuality the term psychologist is reserved by state law for only those who have a particular form of doctorate degree and have passed a specific exam. The issues and variations are nearly endless.

In the past decade coaching has become a common format for a facilitator/client relationship and in my view the field of coaching has sought to differentiate itself form counseling. This is perhaps a current way that coaches are talking themselves outside of the academic or state definitions.

Equally as important as the label we give the facilitator, is the label we give the client. My clients have never been patients. They have always been clients, students or participants. I view the value of these terms to be twofold. They help communicate authority and they also help communicate the theoretical attitude of the facilitator. The term “client” communicates more equality than the term “patient.” Counseling implies working more with feelings than coaching does and coaching implies working more with goals and actions. Counseling implies working with ones life and coaching implies working with ones career or business.

Any quality we could name brings specific awareness to the interaction the client and the facilitator have. It is very important to me that the facilitator has training about the pros and cons of their approach. Terms like counseling and coaching are as important as terms like talking, listening, authority, support, and empowerment. A good facilitator is going to have a feel for a particular client and what the client’s needs are in general, and in a given moment. Good counseling is not just one thing. It is a blend of skills. A good facilitator is going to understand that the labels they use to define their practice are also part of this. Sometimes a counselor is going to be in a role that is more like a teacher or coach than others. A coach is going to have times where they help to address feelings. Again the variations of qualities and the ways we blend them are infinite.

As I stated earlier, it is best if the facilitator helps the client take the initiative to lead and shape their sessions. Perhaps most importantly this article can serve to help clients begin to think of what they need or are looking for, but to also know that it isn’t necessary for it to be just counseling or coaching. It may be both and you get to call it what you want.

In my practice this evolves further because of the more experiential processes I specialize in. Simply put, my words in this article are most applicable to the talking component of the work I do. Additionally, I have many clients who come to me for breathwork or Voice Dialogue. These clients may not view the work as counseling or coaching, but these more experiential processes also require some general talking that should be thought of as counseling. Often over time, breathwork clients will add more and more counseling or coaching as the work they do with me evolves. It is also common for clients who first come to me for general or couples counseling to add more experiential therapies to the work they do.

On the logistical front: I do not think it makes sense to charge more money for coaching than for counseling. I charge the same hourly fees for either. This means my coaching fees are less than many coaches. My fees vary because I have some specific contractual obligations with some insurance providers. I do not sell coaching or counseling packages per say, but I can. I do phone sessions and if we do that it is probably best to think of the work as coaching.

What has always made the most sense to me it to discuss what form of works makes the most sense, begin our work together and discuss it as needed. It is in fact important to continue to discuss all aspects of our facilitator/client relationship because in doing so you not only create what you want, you learn to let go of old unsupportive habits that get in the way of feeling supported in any relationship.

Peter Kane - Counselor • Coach • Relationship Theorist
peter@peterkane.org | 425-802-2050
7981 168th Ave. NE. Suite 124, Redmond WA 98052 | Directions ››

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