Are you looking for support and trying to decide between life coaching or counselling? Jane Pickard, counsellor and coach at The Next Chapter, explains more about the difference…

I often get asked about the difference between counselling and coaching, and there is one very important question to consider first: Are you in emotional distress? This might be feeling highly anxious with constant thoughts, yet no peaceful mind – or even the opposite: low in energy and without motivation, very tired yet finding sleep hard. Are your friends or family worried about you – perhaps suggesting you see someone? Maybe you’ve been through a difficult experience and are finding it hard to get back to a self you recognise? All of these are good reasons to seek counselling.

so how does counselling work?

Counselling, or ‘talking therapy’ is different to coaching as it is generally for 50 minutes and every week. Sometimes my clients come very distressed and overwhelmed with recent events in their lives, and the regular contact is really important to enable them to feel safe, and to begin to trust me. The psychotherapeutic counselling I offer can help you understand yourself better and to be kind to yourself. It might lead to more self-acceptance. It could help you find your own strengths to use in your day-to-day life, and perhaps worry less about aspects of yourself you are not so comfortable with.

Counselling gives you a chance to talk about thoughts you may never have shared before. Together, we can think about them. It is a unique chance, and often a relief, to share parts of what we call our ‘inner’ life with someone else, without judgement.

This can bring change about in the way you are, and in the way you are in relationship with other people.

As an experienced counsellor, I have seen and heard enough to know how helpful it is to share and to really have space to think and reflect.

so when do I need coaching?

Coaching is much more of a search for change. The key questions here are: do you feel OK yet stuck, or do you sense you are missing something but can’t quite get there alone? You may want something very specific, for example new relationships or career. Or you may not know what it is, but feel like finding out, naming a goal and working towards it. Either way, you know you want something but are not sure how to get there. You may lack motivation and allow other things to get in the way, or the leap to what you want seems so great you can’t find a way towards it.

As a coach, I know you have both the answer and the potential, and together we work on the best route to unlocking that within you. Goals are set between our meetings, and we probably only meet every 4- 6 weeks, for 90 minutes.

We work together, navigating the journey to those goals at the right pace for you and understanding your blocks successfully. As a coach I act both as supporter and challenger in holding you to account in your goals. Success looks like being on the right path with an aim of arriving at a specific destination in the future.

what is the practical difference?

In coaching, appointments are irregular – once every 6 weeks or as appropriate. The first appointment is usually 1 ½ to 2 hours and thereafter 90 minutes.

what is the advantage to seeing a counsellor for coaching?

As a therapist coach, I have added experience and curiosity around blocks that arise when we want something. Imagine we are in a car together, I am the map reader and you are driving – my experience acts like a map helping you get to the destination.

As a BACP accredited therapist, my clients know I operate in both areas under the ethics and competences set by a well-respected professional body and attend to my own training, therapy and supervision. I am a safe and confidential pair of hands!

will I be experiencing both therapy and coaching at the same time?

I’m clear with my clients about what I’m offering when we work together. I always check what my clients are looking for and work in those boundaries. But, as a therapist coach, I can notice and act if coaching is touching on something much more personal. Likewise, after some experience of therapy, a client may choose to return later for some coaching.

photo in header by Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash
here’s a list of books on this topic – click on a jacket picture to go straight to the details of that book, or click on the list title to see the full list on Bookshop…

All book links take you to our pages on Bookshop – the platform for independent bookshops.

If you buy a book from these links, we get 30% of the sale, which we put towards providing low-cost counselling and other wellbeing services. So your book contributes to your wellbeing (we hope) and to others’ too.

Please email if you have any questions about the books or would like to get some personalised recommendations.