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April 19, 2014, 3:38 pm

When you arrive at your future, will you blame your past?

Robert Half

Life Coaching..
Building Focus, Energy & Courage - to Make a Better Life for You

Coaching or Counselling
- What's the Difference?


Some definitions of counselling say it is only concerned with a person’s past life and not rooted and grounded in where that person is heading in their life today. A similar definition would say that ‘life coaching’ is grounded completely in the present and only looking forward with no thought to the past.

Counselling = looking back, coaching = looking forward.

If only life were that simple!

CLick here to read Myra's Profile  & to Contact Her
Myra Harris

Why Counselling?

Many people attend for counselling because their present life has become unbearable and they lack hope for a different future. Their desire is to resolve issues from their past so that they can see their present life and future prospects with a different perspective.

Equally, many who seek coaching in an area of their lives benefit immensely from understanding how they came to this present time of difficulty and what negative baggage they may have accumulated on the way.

Thus an overlap is formed.

A skilful counsellor and coach will help a person to acknowledge the past, gain a fresh perspective on it, and then form life goals which will help that person lead a considerably more positive and fulfilled life. The starting point is always how far along that journey the client is already.


Craig is in his thirties and presented because he was bored and depressed in work and was at a loss as to how he could change his job. It emerged that he had been repeatedly told by his grandfather that he would never amount to anything in his life. This hurt him deeply in his teenage years which he covered up by throwing himself into the sporting life of his community, just as his grandfather had done before him. His obsession with sport was very time consuming and meant that he left school at sixteen and took a job in a local supermarket. Through his twenties he had some personal success on local teams but an injury in his thirties had left him unable to continue in sport and wondering how he ended up in a job with no promotion prospects and which he finds increasingly boring. He isn’t sure however of what he really wants to do with his life, but feels inside that it has got to be better than this!

Through the process he remembered his grandfather’s words and was shocked to realise that deep within himself was still the repeated determination of “I’ll show him”, despite the fact that his grandfather had been dead for a number of years. He still carried and lived under a strong sense of inadequacy.

The process helped him to realise that not only was that a cruel and unkind way for his grandfather to treat him, but that he, Craig, no longer needed to live under that shadow and he could as an adult now decide for himself who he was and what he wished to do with his life. After doing some personality and skills tests, he realised that he was actually very good at and enjoyed dealing with bookkeeping and accounts. He decided that he would enroll on a bookkeeping course as a night class and gain qualifications in this area so that he could apply for jobs which would be more satisfying intellectually and financially. The more he recognised how much he had looked at himself through his grandfather’s eyes in the past, the more he realised that he no longer needed to live like that and that he was free to make his own choices in life without the unsaid but deeply felt sense that nothing he did would ever be ‘good enough’. This not only affected his attitude in work positively, but also his relationships with other family members and with his own children.

Life Coaching & Counselling Boundaries

Where does counselling end and coaching begin? It was as past issues were recognised that future issues could be faced and quality decisions made. And although Craig’s story is fictitious, elements of it are evident in the life stories of countless people seeking counselling and coaching.

The skilled counsellor and life coach is able to use their skills to help their clients shake free from the negative influences of their pasts and set off on their journey into the future with fresh hope and vigour and a clear plan of where they would like to be and how they can get there.

In conclusion, is there a clearly defined difference? I prefer to think of them as blended skills which help a person discover how they can move from where they are to where they would like to be.


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