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Do I need Counselling, Psychotherapy or Coaching?

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

Many of us know something about the disciplines of counselling, psychotherapy and coaching, but perhaps not all of us understand which approach might be best suited to us.

This article aims to promote understanding about the differences and similarities between these disciplines in a way that is easy to understand.


Counselling is where a professional allows their client to talk about their feelings, within a confidential environment. There may be no specific structure or agenda. In general, counselling allows you to explore who you are, how you got to this point and helps you identify and solve problems. This all takes place within a safe and supportive environment.

Counselling can help in many different areas, such as:

Abuse, addictions, bereavement, depression, stress and anxiety, eating disorders, low self-confidence, relationship issues, works related issues - amongst others!

Counselling can take place individually, as a family, in couples or in groups.

Developing a trusting relationship with your counsellor is very important.

Counselling interventions can be more short term in nature, and may be 'problem' specific. Very often, these short term interventions are the ones that are offered free by the NHS.


The terms counselling and psychotherapy are often used interchangeably. The word 'therapy' is generally used to describe psychotherapy. Psychotherapists do all of the counselling things discussed above, but they go much further.

The aim of psychotherapy is to help clients overcome a wide scope of concerns. These concerns range from emotional difficulties to psychiatric disorders. There is a choice of a wide range of psychotherapeutic approaches. Very often a psychotherapist will want to teach skills to help their clients manage difficult emotions more effectively. This might be called psycho-education.

Psychotherapists typically train for longer than counsellors, and they often specialise in different disciplines, such as :

Cognitive behavioural therapies

Psychoanalytic therapies

Humanisitc therapies

Arts therapies

Other therapies

Some people practicing psychotherapy, such as myself, take an integrative approach and will draw on multiple disciplines and 'do what works.' My specialism is the Humanistic Therapy known as Transactional Analysis (TA), but I will draw on other disciplines where necessary such as Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Psychotherapy tends to be a longer term therapy, as the psychotherapeutic relationship is often the key to success. It is typical for therapists to work over months or years. Psychotherapy often focuses on the processes going on, rather than the content. By understanding those processes, hopefully clients can then sort or resolve the content for themselves by building their own resilience. This way, one might consider that there is a therapeutic pathway towards a 'cure' although this is not a term I am totally comfortable with in all circumstances.

Many of the problems described within the counselling section above are issues that may be dealt with in therapy. However, I would add some more deep seated issues such as childhood or later traumas, repeating life patterns including addictions, gender identity, sexuality, self esteem or body image, life transitions, spirituality. These lists are not intended to be exhaustive. Literally, anything that has, or continues to trouble you is a potential topic for therapy.


Coaching (or life coaching) is a very different discipline. Coaching is not a mental health support discipline and coaches generally do not receive the same level of training on psychological issues as counsellors or psychotherapists.

Where counselling and psychotherapy very often look backwards and into the present day, coaching is very much focused on now but most importantly into the future. Coaches look at outcomes. Where is it you want to go, and how will you get there? Life coaches are focused on your potential.

Coaching is very much more of a light touch discipline than therapy. Coaches often 'reflect back' your own words and actions - they are a 'clean mirror'. Good coaches do not tell you what to do, they are more a sounding board to help you discover what you want to do. They then help you build strategies you are comfortable with, to get there. Beware the coach who tells you how they think you should do it! The most compelling and achievable strategies are always your own.

Broadly, I think the following diagram helps to consider the differences and interconnection between the disciplines.


Some of the key differences between coaching and counselling/therapy are :

Coaching is action oriented whereas counselling or therapy tends to be coping oriented.

Coaches help you recognise what you think, whereas counsellors/therapists also want to help you realise how you feel.

Coaching helps you set and achieve goals. Counselling and therapy helps you recognise and solve your problems in life.

A coach has the job to challenge you frequently. Counsellors and therapists are there to support you with empathy and understanding. They will challenge you too, but it is often a gentle side by side approach.

A coach is focused on your potential whereas a counsellor or therapist is focused on helping you be at peace with yourself and your life.

Coaches are trained in helping clients move forward in life. Counsellors and therapists are trained in human development, sexuality, family dynamics, and mental health conditions. They will share this knowledge, so that you can help yourself to move forward.

Coaches can recognise if it is old core beliefs stopping you in life. Counsellors and particularly therapists can also recognise if it depression, ADHD, or another mental health condition that is holding you back.

Coaches are generally not supervised (some may be), whereas it is the norm for counsellors and therapists to have a supervisor overseeing their work.

Talking Works

I employ counselling and psychotherapy techniques throughout my work. I have also been a coach for many years. As a result, I believe my approach is highly rounded and can be totally tailored to match your individual requirements. If you need a counselling approach of someone to listen to you unpack your week, I can help. If you want psychotherapy to unravel your traumas or the unhelpful patterns you have built in your life, I can help with that too. If you want to move forward towards some new goals, then that's great - coach mode kicks in. If you need all three, even better.

If you would like to find out more, I would welcome a conversation with you.

All my contact links and social media links can be found here :

Or, why not book a FREE Zoom consultation with me at a time to suit you?

If you prefer the phone, that's OK - you can book that here :

I hope to speak with you soon!


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