Jan 26, 2020 | Coaching

The difference between coaching, therapy and consulting.

A brief article to help you choose the best practice for you.

If you ever considered working with a professional to overcome some personal or work challenges at least once in your life then you might have experienced a lot of confusion while trying to figure out which type of approach could help you get the best results.

If you’re in the process right now, then stick around, because this article is for you!

My aim is to pinpoint some of the main differences between these three methods so that you can gain the clarity you need to make an informed decision for yourself.
“Why do I have to read all this stuff? All I want is someone who can help me solve my problems!”

I hear you! And that’s what I’m trying to do here, because before you can find someone who can really help you, you need to be sure you’re looking in the right direction!

Another crucial step is to be clear about what you expect out this experience, rather than a generic “fix my problem”, so that at the end of your journey you’ll feel satisfied about it, both in terms of results and personal investment.
While you think about this last point a bit more, I’m going to give you a very brief overview of how the three methods differ in focus, who they aim at and in which cases they can be considered the best option.
I’m going to start with coaching, because I’m a Life & Business Coach and because it’s the least known of all three, the “youngest” and in my opinion the most “misunderstood” too.
International Coach Federation
According to ICF (the International Coach Federation) which I follow in terms of professional standards and ethical guidelines, coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

Translation: coaching is a creative learning method better suited to promote personal and professional growth. This means that it’s not a medical approach, therefore it’s not suitable for those who are looking to heal physical and mental health issues.

Coaching doesn’t focus on “why” things are the way they are, just for the sake of it, but instead always aims at working towards a better desired outcome for the individual.



It doesn’t dig into one’s past and childhood traumas but remains well anchored into the present to work on how things are, with the purpose of promoting actions that can change and improve the immediate future.

As you can see, coaching is very practical and action oriented, even though it leaves a lot of room for self-discovery, reflection, creativity and processing emotions.

It’s important to notice that therapy can only be performed by a licensed therapist, or psychologist (rules may vary according to the country you live in), while a coach doesn’t have to be a therapist or psychologist, but that doesn’t mean that people can just wake up one morning and start calling themselves a coach!

Unfortunately, way too many think they can, but things are rapidly changing and it’s becoming clearer everyday that it’s not possible anymore to operate as a Life Coach without any specific training and accredited certifications.

What about therapy?


If you’re not sure whether you should hire a life coach or a therapist, ask yourself what you wish to gain from the work you’ll do with them: is it healing from a past trauma? Is it understanding yourself and learning to function better in a certain context? Are you going through a rough time and just need someone to talk to, vent to, but you’re not sure about what the issue is or how you can deal with it? Then a therapist is probably a better fit for you.

If instead you’re looking for someone who can help you gain clarity over a specific situation with the aim of acting upon it, or you need support in achieving a personal or professional goal, or are looking for a change in life or career path (even if you don’t know what that could be or how to get there), or again, you have a project you want to bring to light, but feel stuck, or want to improve your work-life balance, your relations or your work or athletic performances, then go ahead and hire a life coach.



When is it more appropriate than coaching?

The main difference between coaching and consulting is in the “how” and here comes the main source of confusion between the two practices, also fueled by the general misuse of the term “coach” by many professionals.

Consulting is a very effective method to gather information, know how and advice on a specific subject or topic. It is mainly achieved through the transferring of knowledge and professional or personal experience from the consultant to the client.

While a consultant will surely answer all your questions and provide you with a specific course of action to reach your goal, a coach will instead be the one asking you questions.

Your coach will not tell you what to do, how to proceed or give you any type of advice, but rather he or she will gently let you come to your own conclusions and encourage you to choose your own preferable course of action, helping you to become responsible and accountable for your own results.


So, what should you do?


If you don’t know whether you should hire a coach or a consultant, think about your learning style: do you prefer being told what to do or get to your own conclusion?

Again, think about what you would hire this professional for and what you really need help with: are you working on a personal or business project and need practical tips and specific expertise? Then a consultant is probably better.

If instead you’re struggling with getting clarity,  you feel stuck or have any fears and insecurities attached to your goal or project, a coach is the best option for you.

As you can see, the differences between coaching, therapy and consulting are a very good starting point to make an informed decision for yourself. Regardless of the choice you’ll make I encourage you to meet the professionals you wish to hire (in person or online), so that you can ask them all the questions you need before committing.

Every reliable professional should offer a free consultation appointment, so that expectations, needs and doubts can be addressed together.

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This is what some of my clients say about me. Thank you!

“Working with Chiara has been a revealing experience. I had the chance to uncover sides of myself I had never considered before and I also worked on my own potential, which I had been unable to recognize, because I was clouded by negative thoughts.

I never felt judged, and I could talk freely about what was making feel confused. Chiara was also very patient and available even in between sessions if I wanted to reach out to her. Something worth noting is her flexible approach, meaning that she was able to understand what I needed in each moment and therefore to adapt to it.

When I started the sessions, I was deeply confused about various aspects of my life. The first goal was getting some clarity, then we started working towards the goals that emerged during the sessions. I’m glad I manage to unravel those intricated thoughts that had been with me for a while and I also feel full of energy, because I have goals to achieve.

I definitely recommend Chiara, simply because I got so many benefits, some of which become evident even at the end of the program. “

Ferruccio Pastore

Teacher and Trainer, London, UK

"Chiara holds a warm, welcoming presence. She has a lovely smile and clean energy.
I appreciated how she was responsive to what came up for me in each session.

She always held up a supportive space for me to process my emotions and find my own answers, without pressuring me with an agenda or goals. This made feel safe and helped me open up.

Definitely recommend Chiara, she’s a lovely coach!"

Elle McPherson

Washington DC, Travel Coach at “Beyond the Itinerary”

"Working with Chiara was very pleasant, she’s very kind and helpful.
I liked her professional style, the way she related to me, how she truly helps with your personal growth without being intrusive, the way she’s able to take you to your final goal by asking you the right questions.
Thanks to her coaching, I learnt to organize my workday more efficiently, optimizing the way I use the available time.
I’ve become more aware of my own professional skills and abilities, which led me to be more self-reliant and independent and I learnt to work in a goal-oriented way. Being coached by Chiara was really helpful to me, so I definitely recommend her because I know she can help anyone else reaching their goals."

Marcello Venezia

Engineer - Carate Brianza (MB), Italy

"Working with Chiara has been a stimulating and enriching experience. Chiara has been a valuable ally during a transition, fully present even in between sessions.

I really appreciated being able to work on what was coming up in the moment, without forcing things, yet remaining goal oriented.

As a result of working with Chiara I gained a clearer perspective over what I was going through and what I had to let go; I took a break, processed the end of a phase in my life and started over with renewed awareness.

Chiara is open and transparent, she helped me see things from a distance and explore what needed to be healed. Anyone would benefit from working with her and I highly recommend her to all those who tend to challenge themselves. Coaching is for you if you want to take your own personal development to a new level."

Alessandra Mudu

Digital Marketer, Barcelona, Spain

"Chiara is a truly exceptional coach!

Working with her feels like sitting with a good friend and having a heart- felt conversation.
She helped me prepare for my TEDx talk and better understand my “why”.
After each session, I not only got valuable takeaways, but also felt uplifted and motivated to take concrete actions.

Her questions opened my eyes to new possibilities and ideas and her guidance and feedbacks helped me structure my TEDx talk into an informative, inspiring and entertaining narrative.

I’ve already recommended Chiara to my friends, because even in this global economy world, it’s hard to find a good coach, who genuinely cares about you and seeks to provide values before

Khuloud Kalthoum

Entrepreneur, TEDx Speaker - Braga, Portugal

"When I worked with Chiara I felt relaxed, open to talk, it felt as if we had known each other for
a long time!
I liked her energy, so friendly, so calm, so supportive and her voice and smile too!
Thanks to her coaching I solved some personal and professional issues, I gained a lot of insights
and above all, I feel like I gained a friend and coach I can go back to anytime in my life.
Of course I recommend her! Always and to everybody!"

Vanja Vojsk

Master Reiki - Serbia

"My experience with Chiara was great!

She’s able to create a very nice atmosphere where you feel so well and at ease!

She’s a very good listener and she asks you these very powerful questions that help you get unstuck and move on in a positive way.

Working with Chiara made me feel much better, I gained more clarity on what I had to do next and how I could do it, which led me to “feel” and then reach my goals.

I definitely recommend her!"

Carole Henrar

Founder & CEO at "Grow to Excellence" , Liège, Belgium


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