Coaching vs. Counseling

Are you a little confused about the differences between Coaching and Counseling? There are similarities, but there are also some important differences between the two. The training, education requirements, and scope of practice vary significantly for each discipline.

Education and Training

Licensed Mental Health Counselors must have a Masters degree and fulfill rigorous credentialing requirements of the state in which they practice. Once credentialed, they can apply for acceptance on health insurance panels that provide benefits for counseling services.

Coaches may be self-taught, though many are certified through professional coach training organizations. Health insurance companies do not provide benefits for coaching services.

I received my Coach training and Certification through The Academy for Coach Training in Bellevue, WA in 2001 (now doing business as INVITEChange in Edmonds, WA) and my Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Northwest University in Kirkland, WA in 2006.

Scope of Practice

Counseling tends to focus on helping people heal from past wounds that prevent them from taking effective action in the present. When these wounds are healed, clients more easily shift their attention to present and future plans.

Coaching tends to focus on the future and involves setting strategic goals (short and long-term) and creating dynamic action plans for achieving those goals. The coach guides the process and becomes the client’s accountability partner and champion for success.

It is inappropriate and unethical for a coach to diagnose and treat mental health disorders. A licensed counselor receives extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues and is expected to practice within their scope of expertise (their specialized training).

A coach who is also licensed as a counselor is able to bridge both disciplines and can more easily determine the best fit for the client’s needs.

Length of Sessions

Counseling sessions generally last 45-50 minutes and can be conducted in person, by telephone, by chat, or by videoconference. (I am currently offering only videoconference sessions on a HIPAA compliant version of Zoom.) Counselors may or may not ask their clients to complete ‘homework’ between sessions.

Coaching appointments are typically 30 minutes in length and are most often conducted via Zoom (or other video conferencing method), or by telephone. Since coaching is both process and results-oriented, coaching clients will always be taking actions (doing homework) between sessions to move themselves closer to the goals they have set.

My Approach

I regularly bring coaching skills into my counseling sessions and bring counseling expertise and guidance into my coaching sessions when necessary.

If a coaching client continually runs into roadblocks while working towards their goals, I may encourage him or her to consider counseling to address their internal obstacles in more depth. I make appropriate referrals as needed.


If you are interested in coaching or counseling but are unsure which approach will best meet your needs, please contact me using the form below.