How coaching is essentially different from other helping professions

Alice Galleway

Alice Galleway

How coaching is essentially different from other helping professions

The word “coaching” often creates some confusion, when added to the mix of “consulting”, ”counselling”, “mentoring”, “training” and even “therapy”. Those words are often used interchangeably because of their common points which make cause such confusion. They all have their place to develop individuals. However, they are all different, require peculiar skills, approaches and even outcomes. What follows is our explanation of our perception of the distinction between coaching and others helping professions or development approaches. We aim here to help you to choose the right one, because working with the right professional can indeed take you to new heights.

How coaching is essentially different from … Consulting

The consultant is a “subject matter expert”, who provides the answer that is considered to be the best for you. Consultants tap into their specific expertise with the assumption that they will diagnose problems, defines solutions to your issues, with the option to consult on the implementation on those remedies.

In coaching it is held that the best answers is inside you because you are the expert of your life. Your coach will not tell you what to do and will not take the superior position “the one who knows better”. On the contrary, your coach taps into your own experience, capabilities, knowledge and wisdom. Your coach supports you in accessing your truth to find the most effective answer for yourself. Your coach provides supportive, discovery-based approaches and frameworks to generate your own solutions and find in the answers you are looking for inside yourself. A coach combines clarity, accountability and support.

A coach is like a partner, while consultant is more like an advisor.

… Therapy

Therapy tends to focus on understanding and healing pain, conflicts, past experiences and asks “Why” and “From Where”. Therapists diagnose and treat mental illness. They analyze and look upon origins and historical roots of the main internal issues. They explore the genesis of behaviors.

The coach sees both parties as naturally creative, resourceful and whole. The coach is trained to work with fully functioning and capable individuals who are able to form an alliance and have common goals. Both coach and clients are on a peer basis, focusing on evolving and manifesting potential. The emphasis is on present and future, not on the past. The coach doesn’t ask “why and from where”, but “what’s now / what’s next”. Accountability in coaching is very important. Your coach focuses on taking action and moving toward your desired goal, aspiration and fulfillment. While positive feelings may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in your work or personal life.

Coaching does not replace therapy.

It should be acknowledged that both disciplines works side-by-side. They focus on helping people make changes and accomplish goals which are really important for them. They both use a discovery session/interview and may work with emotional material.

… Mentoring

It refers to a developmental relationship between a more experienced person (mentor) and less experienced partners in order to obtain information, good examples, and enlightenment, as they progress. Mentoring may include advising, counselling and coaching. Although highly skilled, mentors often provide some level of coaching; the focus is on information and teaching.

A coach will assist, challenge and encourage rather than direct, advise or teach. Coaching will help you if you are in need to develop personally, either to more effectively to reach personal or professional goals or to deal effectively with current working issues. Coaching will help you to work out what you need to do yourself to improve, what motivates or demotivates you (attitudes, prejudices, preconceptions, assumptions).

… Training

Training is about transferring new knowledge, information and skills through instruction and explanation. Programs are based on objectives set out by the trainer or instructor. The focus is to put on linear learning path that coincides with an established curriculum.

Although objectives are clarified in the coaching process, they are set by the individual or by the team with guidance provided by the coach. Coaching is less linear without a set curriculum. The focus is to put on development more than learning.

… Managing

Managing is a leadership activity where the manager oversees the work of others, set expectations which others “should” fulfill. Policies, directives and initiatives flow downward from the “top”. Managing is driving the team toward performance by delegating, giving feedback, monitoring progress, making decisions and dealing with conflicts. A manager is also an “arbiter” of outcomes and of what happens. The hierarchical link is vertical. Managers solve problems and have the task done.

In coaching the relation is at a horizontal level and offers a peer-to-peer partnership where mutual solutions are considered and generated. There is no directives. You set expectations for yourself about what you want to create. Your coach will explore with you your challenges in order to overcome your limits, holding you accountable. The coach will tell the whole truth. Discussions are 100% authentic, while in managing, it could be difficult to create such a space so that the “real you” arises. Coaching drives development and change.

By learning how to think, talk and act like a coach, managers can fulfill their responsibility to deliver enhanced performance and build a culture of trust within their team members.

… Friendship

A supportive friend can be a wonderful sounding board and cheerleader but cannot provide the powerful questions and direction that a coach can offer. There is no professional focus held for the other, both parties share their life issues and triumphs. Generally, both judgment and evaluation are freely shared in a friendship, with a bias as to what your friend “should do”.

A professional coach brings unique skills, new perspectives and objectivity without emotional attachment to the client choice. Your coach listens focusing on you only, without any judgment and evaluation. Your coach has no vested interest in which decision you make. Your coach supports and follows up with your personal agreements (in a friendship, there is generally no organised follow up). Your coach will elicit your talents, values and life purpose and support you to bear these in mind when making decisions.

As a coach, it is part of our role to explore your coaching need and establish the appropriate requirement or development approaches.

We have creating formal frameworks to structure our coaching and mentoring sessions to ensure you will benefit at the best. The boundaries and ethics by which a Beyond Borders Careers Coach™ operate can be found on the ICF website.

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Your true path escapes definition, you create it as you walk in

Alice Galleway

Alice Galleway

Your true path escapes definition, you create it as you walk in

I believe in the ability of each individual to create his own path to live the best life ones deserves. By being a career counsellor during several years, I was paid to advice my unemployed clients in their job search strategy. Teaching my knowledge about techniques and tricks to perform in an interview and offering « my » knowledge to someone who was in need for was usefull but not enough. I always respect my clients by serving them in the best way I could. My satisfaction was coming from the utility of my advices helping them to make progress. Right. Fair enough. That is a first step till the point I started to feel something was missing in my work to support them to achieve the outcome they were expecting to reach, in and for their life, having a meaningful job for a sustainable life.

I started to observe my clients in greater depth and more foundamentally. The common point I made was that most of the time, when we feel lost, at first hand, we try to find a solution outside (out-side of the self). The reflex is to intend to ask friends, spouse, parents and colleagues about what should we do regarding the challenge of finding the right and good job for us. It is not wrong. If taking advice is usefull, I think it is not the starting point. From my perspective, being clear about what our internal world (In-Side our Self) is telling to do is more powerful. By listenning my inner voice, I am more able and capable to take the right and best decision to create the life I deserve.

At that point of time in my career counsellor’s life, I started to refrain myself to give answers about what my client « should » be, do, think or feel about their career. I have chosen to put my focus in supporting them to discover their own world honoring the way they were seeing things. I realise, even if I was working blindfolded here, by holding the space to facilitate their progress in having the capacity to listen what is inside themselves going on, I started to meet regularly my client empowered, self-accountable, responsible in taking decisions for themselves instead of making their choice based on external world’s advices. Witnessing the client’s transformation in becoming their own entreprenor of their life, they start to nourrish self-love and self-acceptance. Looking back, those two components represent the roots of their life project.

That was a breakthrough for my own individual life as well as the rational, intellectual, reasonable being I was. How is it possible to bring love and kindness in the professional area, when client is here to discuss about professional opportunities ? From my mind, my intellect to my heart, I was unable to connect the dots. Here is the place I am coming from. For me, love was about loving my kids or my spouse but myself ? What is the link with choosing a job ? I grew up in a world, in a time and in a culture from my childhood till today, where I was used to hear « when you enter the company, leave your feelings and emotions behind you, put them in the locker room and take them back on your way out » or about studies « Love and studies are not compatible ».

The distancing in the separation of emotions and the intellectual part is so nourrished from our conditionnings and believings since we got borned, we forgot as Human Being that we are whole and one, and all is interconnected. This link, this interconnection, when established again makes the internal dialogue clearer, greater and encouraging.

This was litteraly a breakthrough in my work (and in my heart !). My second life as a Life & Career transition coach started. I decided to enter the profession of coaching in a professionnal way by curiosity at first in order to check if my conclusions were right, because my intellectual part was asking for proof. I was as well highly « attracted » by this « calling » without really knowing why. It was like « coming from my gut » but I did not care to much about this. At that stage, I was not able to listen more the other part of my Being except my mental part.

By stepping into the Professional Coaching World, I discovered a unique profession designed to honor authentically Human Being in their wholeness (including spiritualy as well, but this specific topic requires at least a full and complete article dedicated), meeting them where they are and with what they have to offer. I have learnt and practiced what is to be in that space of non-judgement, non-critic, non-evaluation and non-influence. Such a great world which has transformed my own reality ! My purpose with my clients is to create for them that space of self-discovery for themselves, to learn by experimenting how to listen their inner voice and how to act to reach their goal. Reconnecting them to their most resourceful space (which is in-side Self), is the front door where lies the path which leads toward their Life goals.

Today my Life Purpose is to serve the world and his humanity to live the best version of the life they deserve. Everything I do is not coming by me but through me. I don’t own my work, I feel gifted to be a channel through which facilitation happens. Witnessing human transformation is a gift that has been offered to me. I feel deeply grateful to all my client, because since the beginning they are part of my progress. I am learning, growing and evolving everyday thanks to them. I feel infinitely and deeply grateful to my mentor Peter J. Reding whose presence conveyed me on the right path for myself, the path I was endowed to create. 

Such great journey !


Alice Gallwey

Quotes about the topic :

« A way can be a guide, but not a fixed path (tr. Thomas Cleary 1991) »

« Existence is beyond the power of words to define (tr. Witter Bynner 1944) »

« The truth that may be told is not the everlasting Truth (tr. Cheng Lin 1949) »

 « Microscopic discernment within

Is the path of clarity.

The tenderest embrace is the strongest.

Let your own true radiance guide you,

For inner clarity is return to the Origin,

Where one’s true self finds protection. »

— Laozi (Verse 52, tr. Brian Donohue)

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