Becoming a Coach or Mentor 3: How to Avoid an Identity Crisis

becoming-a-c-or-m-pink-light-purpleHow to avoid an identity crisis as a coach or mentor requires some upfront exploration of your options

This was a key first step for one participant on one of our Coaching and Mentoring Qualification Programmes>>  when she explored the differences between coaching and counselling.

Before embarking on training to be a coach or mentor it helps to know what you mean, and what others mean, by the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ as well as other terms such as ‘counselling’, ‘mediation’ and psychotherapy’.  Being clear what it is that YOU want to do is paramount.  Discovering that you are a square peg in a round hole is not the most helpful start to any learning programme. So what do you need to do to avoid an identity crisis as a coach or mentor?

Here is one person’s account of some of her explorations.

“A question that came up frequently for me, when delving into the Reading List was . . .

          ‘How is coaching different to counselling?’ 

It was also a question other people asked of me when, as part of my pre course work, I asked them their thoughts on what ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are.

Being asked to explore this question as a rookie coach and mentor has been very useful to me because I need to find a way of explaining what I mean by these terms. A way which makes sense to my coachees and mentees as well as to me. 

So – here goes!


  1. The focus in counselling is on a person’s past experiences, and working through issues with self and/or relationships, so that the future is easier to deal with. The primary focus  in Coaching is based on the achievement of goals and promoting the coachee’s personal responsibility for achieving these.  Of course past events will inform the way these goals are tackled, as will values and beliefs which may have been formed over a long period, so they will form part of the backdrop for the coaching or mentoring.


  2. Counselling explores thoughts and feelings and, whereas coaching acknowledges and pays attention to both, its primary focus is to release potential and to help the coachee generate outcomes.


  3. Coaching is developmental and involves learning. Where a client in counselling is usually there to work through a condition which has been medically or clinically diagnosed. Coaching is more appropriate for people who are looking to improve a situation or a way of dealing with a situation, rather than needing the kind of intervention which medically or clinically qualified therapists apply.


  4. Coaches need to understand where their expertise starts and finishes. They have a duty of care to safeguard a coachee or mentee and help them to identify if they need to refer themselves on to another professional where it is clear the issues and/or a client’s condition are outside the remit of a coaching or mentoring relationship.


  5. Helping a client to resolve pain and emotional trauma is for a qualified counsellor to address, whereas coaching is about facilitating the successful achievement of aspirations and goals. Quite often these are measurable.


  6. Both counselling and coaching seek to promote self-discovery, and both a counsellor and a coach are there to support the generation of different perspectives.


  7. Both use elements of the other in order to effect change.  However a coach is not there to diagnose or heal. Change is rapid and dynamic, rather than taking place over a long period, as is common in a counselling situation.


  8. A good coach does not need subject expertise because they deal with processes rather than training in a specific area, as in the case of counsellors. Mentoring, however, will usually require a background in the relevant environment or context.

As I move through the programme I know I will refine my understanding of all the different terms – I’m really enjoying the luxury of the exploration.”

So, what is your understanding of the difference between these key processes? And . . . is it coaching, mentoring or counselling for you?

If you are interested in knowing more about our Coaching and Mentoring Qualification Programmes, please follow this link >>

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