What is the Difference Between a Coach and a Counsellor?

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Career Professionals of Canada provides the tools and resources to help members become trained coaches and improve their counselling skills. For both career professionals and our clients, it is important to understand the difference between a coach and counsellor.

As career development practitioners, our clients may request coaching or counselling. There are times in your practice when coaching will be needed versus counselling. Of course, it always depends upon the situation and the client. Yet, not all career professionals are qualified to serve as coaches or counsellors. In order to practice ethically, it is vital that we adhere to the Canadian Standards & Guidelines for Career Development Practitioners (S&Gs) and Career Professionals of Canada’s Standards and Ethics. CPC’s Standards and Ethics state that members must “understand their boundary of competency and provide qualified expertise: they must refrain from practicing in areas in which they do not have specific training or are not professionally experienced.”

A coach will use a different approach from a counsellor. Always consider the client’s situation, goals, values, and needs. If you are not qualified to fulfill your client’s professional needs, then providing a referral is recommended.

What is a Coach?

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines a coach as a professional who works with clients to enhance their personal and professional growth.

 A coach:

  • Is future-oriented – the coach looks at the present to improve future prospects.
  • Provides a creative and cooperative process with the client.
  • Helps the client to achieve their desired goals.
  • Sees the client as the “expert.”
  • Helps the client set goals and improve marketable skills.
  • Enables clients to find solutions by asking meaningful questions.
  • Offers various experiences and skillsets.
  • Can provide coaching in different walks of life.
  • Is often specialized or certified in a particular area through specific and in-depth training.

Specifically, a career coach can conduct personality and career aptitude tests, conduct career exploration exercises, and help clients understand how to tap into the hidden job market, among other things.

What is a Counsellor?

A counsellor is typically a member of — and certified by — a professional association such as the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). CCPA has developed their association’s definition of the role of a counsellor and outlines the scope of practice. However, there are challenges for the profession as a whole in coming up with a universal, comprehensive, and boundary-setting definition of counselling. To sum it up best, a counsellor’s role is to help the client work through their issues, make sound choices, and change their behaviour in a way that respects their core values, personal resources, and independence.

A counsellor:

  • Is past-oriented – focuses on past events as they affect the present for clients.
  • Is trained to offer support to youth or adults on personal, social, or psychological matters.
  • Diagnoses issues and develops treatment plans after identifying past concerns.
  • Helps clients resolve mental and emotional conflicts in interpersonal relationships by asking thoughtful questions.
  • Supports clients in developing coping strategies as they work toward recovery and healing from a crisis.
  • Assists clients in dealing with their pains.
  • Often has formal or higher academic education in psychology, counselling, social work, career development, or nursing.
  • Counsels clients in many walks of life.
  • Is often specialized, for example, in career counselling.

A career counsellor can help clients get past emotional roadblocks to further their career goals. They can also assist them through career transitions and restructurings using the Change Cycle model.

Both coaches and career counsellors are valuable to clients. As career professionals, we need to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the differences between career coaching and counselling and use our sound judgment to decide which approach will work best for the specific needs of each client.

Enrol in CPC’s Work-Life Strategist program and enhance your skill in career and life coaching. And, learn how you can start up your own coaching business in this free online course offered by CPC!

Lori Jazvac is a passionate, award-winning Master Certified Résumé Strategist and Certified Employment Strategist through Career Professionals of Canada. As a multi-certified Master Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Coach, she specializes in helping clients navigate challenging career transitions. In 2013, an empowering vision inspired Lori to launch Creative Horizons Communications, a holistic career services firm where she virtually supports jobseekers around the globe to embrace their next career milestone. In her spare time, Lori enjoys dance, blogging, watching comedies and reality shows, yoga, and taking long walks in nature.

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

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