The difference between coaching, therapy and consulting.

by Jan 26, 2020Coaching

Do you really know the difference between coaching, therapy and consulting?

Here’s 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!


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“What happens during a life coaching session?”

“You can create the life you want”

“Your choices determine your life”

“Get out of your comfort zone”

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 Coaching Federation

According to ICF (the International Coaching 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.



Coaching 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.

now and then street art

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.

Instead if you:

  • are looking for someone who can help you gain clarity over a specific situation with the aim of acting upon it
  • need support in achieving a personal or professional goal,
  • 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)
  • have a project you want to bring to light, but feel stuck
  • want to improve your work-life balance, your relations or your work or athletic performances

then go ahead and hire a life coach.



Now let’s see the diffeence between coaching and consulting.

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.

A coach is not an “expert” in a specific field, and that’s because coaches don’t teach, don’t train and don’t give advice.

At least not according to ICF.

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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