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What Is The Difference Between Counseling And Coaching?

At Christian Counseling Associates, we have counselors and we also have biblical life coaches. All of our biblical life coaches have earned their master’s degree in counseling and have counseling experience, but they are either waiting on their licensure as professional counselors or they have chosen to focus solely on biblical life coaching. We are often asked, “What is the difference between a counselor and a coach? Which should I choose?” The answer is that some people need a counselor and some need a coach. This blog will hopefully answer which is the right choice for you.

What Is Counseling?

Counseling, or therapy, focuses on helping clients with mental health issues like trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship distress. It tends to do work related to the past and present so that the client can face the future successfully. Therapists explore your cognition and/or emotions. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common method used in counseling. The idea behind it is that our behavior, good or bad, is driven by our thoughts and beliefs. So, the key to changing wrong behavior is to correct wrong thoughts and beliefs. Other counseling models like Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) explore the unmet primary emotional needs that trigger dysfunctional behaviors in an effort to restore connection. And there are literally hundreds of other methodologies used in counseling to address problems in the present caused by problems in the past.

Professional licensed counselors are required to earn a master’s degree in counseling, which includes completing a practicum internship in a counseling practice. After graduation, the counselor must pass a licensing exam and then complete 3,000 hours (in Texas) of face-to-face counseling under the supervision of a licensed counselor supervisor. Only then can the counselor be a fully licensed professional counselor.

Licensed counselors can only practice in the state(s) where they are licensed. When it comes to payment, licensed counselors can take payment from Health Savings Account (HAS) cards, and some take insurance (although, if they do, they are required to give a mental health diagnosis…which is one reason why many counselors don’t take insurance).

If you need help with your mental health and issues like depression, anxiety, trauma, dysfunction in your relationship (marriage or family), disorders like bi-polar, ADD, ADHD, OCD, body-image disorders, or addictions, you need a licensed counselor.

What Is Coaching?

Where counseling focuses on helping clients with mental health issues, coaching focuses on helping clients with life’s challenges and decision-making. A biblical life coach can help you apply God’s word to make changes in your walk with God, your life, career, finances, and health. While counselor does work related to the past and present, coaching does work in the present to find solutions that will help you have a more successful future. Coaching is solution-based and outcome-based. While a counselor’s attention will be on exploring the past for the things that fuel mental and emotional issues that are holding you back from making healthy decisions, coaching will not explore your past or your emotions or wrong thoughts, but will help you weigh options and find possible solutions for your immediate issue. A life coach will help you see clearly where you are today and find ways to move toward your future goals. So, if you are dealing with a mental or emotional block that is impacting your daily functioning, you need a counselor. But if you're well mentally and emotionally, but need help performing at a higher level, making a big decision, or overcoming a life-challenge, you need a coach.

Also, if you are out-of-state, that is a problem if you wish to see a counselor for online therapy since counselors can only counsel in the state where they are licensed. Coaches, however, do not have such restrictions. This is because the counseling field is highly regulated, but the coaching field is not. Unlike counselors, life coaches do not have educational requirements or licensing requirements. However, with the growth of the field of coaching, a desire for excellence has given birth to voluntarily formed regulatory bodies that many of our coaches at Christian Counseling Associates submit to.

Regarding payment, while licensed counselors can take HSA cards, and some take insurance, coaches cannot take these types of payments. However, the cost for coaching is generally lower than that of a licensed counselor. The rate for biblical coaching at Christian Counseling Associates is $100 per hour, while the rates for licensed counselors range from $175 to $125 and hour.

Should You Choose A Counselor Or A Coach?

Counseling and coaching definitely have some areas of overlap and can address some of the same issues. Both can help you move toward the life you are wanting. Counselors tend to work more on the “why” of the problem while coaches tend to work more on the “how” of the problem. Counselors take the past into consideration and help you understand what drives your behavior. Coaches focus on what you are doing in the present and how to change it so that you get a better outcome in the future.

For sure, if you have mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, dysfunction in your relationships, disorders such as bi-polar, ADD, ADHD, OCD, body or gender dysphoria, or addictions, see a counselor; coaching won’t work until you see a counselor and get these issues under control. But if you are pretty healthy mentally, either a counselor or a coach, or both, can help you. It’s your choice. The decision might be more about geography if you’re out-of-state and need to use the internet, or about payment if you need to use your HSA card or insurance. A good rule of thumb is, for mental health issues when you need to heal, see a counselor; for life challenges when you need to find a solution, see a coach. Whether it's a counselor or coach you need, contact us at Christian Counseling Associates to schedule a free consultation with one of our counselors or coaches.

Dr. Mark Riley is the Executive Director of Christian Counselor Associates. He is a former pastor who ministered to six churches in Texas and Oklahoma.

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