What is the Difference Between Coaching, Therapy and Consulting?

A good way to explain the difference between coaching and therapy is by using an example. If you wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle how would each discipline approach it?

A Therapist:

If you wanted to learn how to ride and bicycle and went to a therapist or counsellor they would ask you to sit down and tell them all your experiences about bicycles. What did your parents think of bicycles? When did you first experience bicycles? How do your friends feel about bikes and cycling? What has stopped you from riding a bicycle up to now? The therapist would probe all your thoughts, past experiences and beliefs about cycling.

A Consultant:

A consultant would take the bicycle from you.  After a typically lengthy time the consultant would return with a 300 page report detailing with words, diagrams and pictures on how to ride a bicycle. They may even have a powerpoint presentation to share with you.

A Coach:

A coach would suggest you get on the bike and start pedaling. The coach would run alongside you encouraging you, identifying potential obstacles ahead, pointing out your actions and behaviours, support you and help you see your progress. Once you are cycling confidently for a period of time, the coach backs away and only returns when invited back, to maybe assist you in learning how to do wheelies.

In summary:

Therapy typically looks at the past, and a problem you are trying to overcome or fix and the therapist acts as an expert in assessing the patient’s issues.

Consulting typically looks at the theoretical aspect of a situation and advises on the best possible solution to a defined issue.

Coaching typically is future oriented where the coach and individual are equal partners in the relationship with the intention to change or create something new in one’s life.