Demistifying the Idea Behind Coaching: What is the difference between coaching, mentoring, consulting, and therapy?

As coaching becomes more popular, our guest writer, ICF-Certified Career Exploration Coach Rachel Serwetz has joined us to answer some common questions about coaching. We’ll help you understand what coaching is all about, the varieties of coaching, what to consider if you’re seeking a coach, and more. Read on and let us know if you have additional questions at [email protected]

What is coaching?

According to the International Coach Federation, coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership.” (Source)

What are the different focus areas for coaching?

You can find life coaches which are a very broad way of getting support, where you can talk about any and all topics, goals, or challenges that are top of mind for you.You can find a variety of career coaches with varying styles, approaches, and tools to help you explore, pursue, and land a career path that aligns with your strengths. Some are focused on personal branding, some are focused on work/life balance, some are focused on job search, some are focused on pivots/career transitions, and more. Career coaching typically involves an element of consulting to teach you frameworks and best practices to achieve your career goal(s), with an added touch of open-ended, question-based, client-driven coaching to ensure that your mindset is a key consideration in unlocking your professional potential.You can find other coaches such as nutrition/health/wellness coaches, financial coaches, relationship/dating coaches, and more. These days, there’s likely a coach that’s specifically focused on the exact niche you need.

What is the difference between coaching, mentoring, consulting, and therapy?

  • Coaching — This is typically an open-ended, client-driven, questions-based process where a coach helps you to have a space to process your thinking so that you can unlock the answers within you. A coach will provide you with a mirror, a sounding board, breathing room to flesh out your thinking, and a time for you to focus on yourself and your progress. Each coach is different in whether they combine traditional coaching such as this with any of the below methods (i.e. career coaching typically involves some consulting + coaching).
  • Mentoring — This is often done for free by a person with a few years ahead of you in your target field, where you can meet on a regular basis to glean advice (largely in a professional capacity). Keep in mind that it is great to hear from someone more experienced in your field, but that that is just one person’s experience who isn’t necessarily trained in coaching. Coaching paired with helping you find a variety of the right mentors could be a great combination to achieve your goals.
  • Consulting — This is typically where an individual is hired to advise another individual or organization. While a strong consultant will also need to actively listen to uncover the client’s goals, it is more of an act where the consultant is giving advice or recommendations directly, whereas coaching mainly helps a client to find their way to their own answers.
  • Therapy — This is done by a trained and certified therapist where an individual is usually looking well “under the hood” to understand who they are, why they are the way they are, and how to understand their ways of being in order to show up in their life the way they want, rather than the way they have been groomed to do so, whether consciously or subconsciously. Some therapists can provide homework, this is typically more conversational where coaching is more forward-looking, goal-based, and action-based.

Why would I get a coach?

During my training, I was coached and coached others, and I was blown away by the impact one hour can have of purely open-ended questioning. When you have a coach trained in active listening and powerful questioning, you can walk away feeling more grounded and certain to make progress towards any goal. This time is focused on giving you space for all the various priorities in your life to recenter and sort through your best avenues to progress.

What are the price ranges for coaching?

Some new coaches who get off the ground often offer pro bono coaching as they get themselves started, but often coaching is a paid service. As a coach’s tenure increases, their prices likely increase as well. The price ranges can vary drastically, where some coaches offer extremely steep prices depending on their target market, level of training, experience, or expertise. However, some coaches purposefully make themselves affordable and accessible (like WOKEN’s career coaching service which has four flexible tier options, $49, $109, $209, or $309 per month, depending on the level of support you need) — so don’t always take a coach’s price as an exact sign of their value.

What should I consider when hiring or assessing the best fit coach for me?

Ask them about their training/certifications, target clientele/niche, focus areas, style, format, supplemental tools/resources, length and and frequency of sessions, communication in between sessions, successes, pricing, and any other criteria that is important to you, to see which coach is the best fit for you. Oftentimes coaches will offer a free initial call so you can get to know them and they can get to know you to see if you’re a good fit for their coaching as well.

Where should I find a coach?

You can find coaches on the ICF website, but there are a TON of “coach marketplaces” out there as well (you can find them easily on Google). In addition, you can use LinkedIn’s search feature to type in the keywords of what you’re looking for, i.e. career exploration coach. Referrals are another good means if you know someone who has had a coach that benefited them.

Where can I learn more?

If you’re in need of support with clarifying your career path, upskilling decisions, improving personal branding, or job searching, check out WOKEN’s career coaching offerings! WOKEN’s Head Career Coach Rachel offers an initial free career coaching call.