Coaching, mentoring, therapy, counselling – what should I choose?

There is often confusion around what type of professional support is needed when people want to change something in their life or need some kind of guidance to proceed further.

Coaching, mentoring, psychotherapy or counseling? There are basic similarities and differences and by no means is it an easy task to precisely define them.

Below you can find more information about each type of professional support as well as key characteristics around the context, objective, roles and requirements of the members in each relationship.


Coaching is a collaborative, developmental relationship between a Coach and a Coachee, with the aim of achieving the latter’s goals. It is a supportive process oriented towards goal, change, and positive results. In order to start a coaching partnership, a goal is required, even if it is not a S.M.A.R.T. one yet. There is no coaching, without a goal, without a point of reference. In coaching we focus on and utilize the positive capital of each person (strengths – knowledge – skills) in order to achieve their goal. In the coaching process, continuous improvement and small actions are constantly in focus. The Coachee has the first and last word, keeping an active role throughout the coaching partnership. The coaching relationship is terminated when the Coachee achieves his/her goal or when s/he has a clear action plan to achieve it.


Mentoring has a lot in common with coaching; same techniques, same methodology, same tools. However, there is 1 major difference – Goal – setting. Mentoring is about transferring knowledge to gain experience. In mentoring, 2 roles are involved, the mentor and the mentee. Usually, the mentor is quite experienced in a particular role and the mentee is younger and/or more inexperienced in that role and needs guidance. The mentors practically share their experience, the steps they have taken so far, the lessons they have learned and the journey they have experienced. Thus, they guide the mentee so as to make more targeted choices, avoid mistakes, gain expertise and receive support and assistance throughout the mentoring relationship.


There are several similarities between coaching and psychotherapy, mainly in the methods used to explore and extract information. In addition, in both cases the tendency to intrusive guidance and provision of specific advice is avoided.
But at the same time there are also several differences and they lie in where each one focuses.

  • In psychotherapy, the context is therapeutic, while in coaching it is developmental.
  • In psychotherapy, we work with patients, while in Coaching we work with Clients.
  • The purpose of a therapy session is to address a problem, a functional restoration or emotional relief. The purpose of a coaching session is goal setting, realizing a Client’s vision, increasing productivity and developing new skills.
  • In psychotherapy we focus on the cause of a problem, we look to find the ‘why’, we look back to the past to see what had happened and of course we try to metabolize the existing emotions. In coaching, we focus on the solution of a problem and the focus of our attention is on the present and the future. We don’t focus on the ‘why’, but on the ‘how’ – how do I proceed, what do I need to see or do differently?
  • Psychotherapy focuses more on negative emotions and shortcomings, while in coaching we focus on positive traits, strengths and skills that can be exploited.
  • Psychotherapy is a long-term process, while coaching lasts only a few sessions over the course of a few weeks/months.

Counselling/ Consulting

The term ‘counselling’ can be interpreted in 2 ways. The first is that of Counselling Psychology and the second is more business-oriented, such as business/sales/marketing consulting.

Counselling psychology has many similarities with coaching, mainly in the part of the relationship and interaction between the counselor and the counselee, in targeting and focusing on an individual’s personal, social and professional development. However, the core focus is the metabolism of emotions and its character is clearly therapeutic.

The other consulting services (business, marketing, sales) are oriented towards more business and corporate models, are more specialized in each field and have a more advisory and directive role. For example, if someone approaches a Marketing Consultant, they will expect to receive specific guidelines and advice in order to promote their product/service.

Therefore, depending on what each person needs to work on, manage or change in specific phases of their life, they can respond to the appropriate service. Of course, there is no need for anyone to memorize the above or to know in advance the most suitable specialty in their case. The above references are simply informative, possibly helping to filter out some cases, for example mentoring, and certainly contacting and communicating with specific professionals in each field will help you find what suits you according to your request.

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