Counseling, Coaching, Consulting…Oh My!

I frequently am asked this question:

“What is the difference between coaching, counseling, and consulting? ”


Here’s the International Coaching Federation’s (ICF) definition of coaching: “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Put another way, a coach looks to your future to support you in taking your business or personal life to the next level. Coaching is typically for high-achievers who want to go even further.

Counseling defines counseling as “Professional guidance in resolving personal conflicts and emotional problems.”

A counselor looks to your past to unresolved issues that are affecting your ability to function fully today. Counseling is the best course of action for someone who is not functioning at an “acceptable” level in some-or all-areas of his or her life.


According to, a consultant is someone who is “employed or involved in giving professional advice to the public or to those practicing the profession.”

Put another way, a consultant is the expert who will either tell you what you need to do, or do it for you.

What I do in my practice is a combination of coaching and consulting, and I think most career coaches do both.

There are times when it’s appropriate to let your brilliance to shine through, such as when you are making a decision about shifting careers. This is when I wear my coach hat.

At other times, you are best served by learning a proven formula for success, such as when I am teaching you my Land Your Dream Job! program for planning and executing a targeted, proactive job search. In this situation, I wear my consultant hat.

Benefits of career coaching

I found these 10 benefits of working with a career coach on the University of Vermont’s website:

  1. Learn critical skills required in today’s work environment.
  2. Build confidence and define your value proposition.
  3. Build a powerful and relevant resume.
  4. Make informed decisions about the evolution of your career.
  5. Set goals and build a roadmap to your destination.
  6. Build connections.
  7. Gain lifelong career skills.
  8. Launch a career in a new field.
  9. Prepare for interviews.
  10. Help craft your story to land your dream job.

My coach, Brooke Castillo, did an excellent podcast last year on the difference between therapy and coaching. She, like me, has gone through both therapy and coaching and can speak with a great deal of knowledge about the two.

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