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Why as a counselor, I also coach?

Somewhere on social media, I read “Build someone up. Put their insecurities to sleep. Remind them they’re worthy. Tell them they’re magical.” You really don’t need to be a counselor or coach to do that, but there are times when we can lack this support, or this support may not be able to meet our needs. We are unsure, we are unable to see what others do in us or our awareness about ourselves and our behavior is diminished. It is best and simply described as being stuck. This is when depending on where you are in your journey, and where you wish to go, a counselor or a coach can be a significant companion.

The American Counseling Association (ACA) defines counseling as “a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families, and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. Counselors work with clients on strategies to overcome the obstacles and personal challenges that they are facing.” The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Both these professional relationships are about building people up. They are about addressing why a person feels in a certain way and how those feelings are influencing an individual’s behavior. Neel Burton in Psychology Today explains feelings arise as a result of emotional experiences and/or physical sensations (hunger, pain). Feelings are largely conscious experiences. Emotions on the other hand can be discovered through one’s thoughts, beliefs, desires, and actions and are often triggered by the emotional experience of the moment. Burton differentiates between emotional experience, an emotion, and a trait by using the example “I am proud” whereby an individual could be feeling proud for having run three miles (emotional experience), a person generally feels pride when they accomplish something (emotion), or an individual is a proud person (trait).

Consider the following examples of a common day to day situation;

You haven’t had a proper night’s sleep, you woke up late, missed your coffee, and have a presentation that you aren’t completely satisfied with first thing in the morning. A little anxious and then someone pushes you getting on the subway and you yell!!


You are well-rested, had a cup of coffee with your partner, been kissed goodbye, feeling really good about the presentation that you and your team have prepared. A sense of joie de vivre and someone pushes you to get on the subway, and you graciously move aside, “after you!!”

Our behavior consciously or unconsciously reflects our feelings and emotions. If we wish to alter our behavior then we need to address the underlying feelings and possibly emotions. As a coach, I address those feelings starting from here and now to move my client forward. As a counselor, I address the feelings here and now but also help my client look into what life experiences have shaped those emotions and traits that might subconsciously manifest in today’s behavior.

As a coach, my responsibility is to help my client grow awareness of how his or her feelings are affecting his relationships, work habits, thought processes. It is about supporting my client in understanding what they do, why they do and how can they change. As a counselor besides exploring what they do, why they do, and how can they change, I would encourage my clients to look deeper and beyond the what and why, to when did they begin doing what they do and who or what shaped or influenced that. I dig deeper into the emotional makeup of a client that drives feelings and the resulting behavior.

As a coach helping to resolve your past experiences and how they have affected you as a person is not within my framework, it is about helping you understand your current impediments or challenges, and facilitating your move forward, but as I a counselor if I did not encourage you to explore both your conscious and subconscious retrospectively I would be failing you.

As a coach or as a counselor I am here to help you grow as a person. The routes to that growth might be different - depending on your current situations, your current needs, and your current mindset. Where the roles of a coach and a counselor do intersect is that both require observation and understanding of human behavior, human emotions, and human motivators. They are both professions that need to truly value another person, be empathetic and non- judgemental. It also crucial that both as a coach and a counselor we acknowledge that our client is the expert on their lives - they know what is best for them, we just aid them to unlock it.

Mental wellbeing, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, stress management, people’s potential are all buzz words, and rightly so because they all in different ways focus on the person, and it is people who matter. To me, a deep awareness of who we are as an individual (this includes our strengths, our weaknesses, our belief system, the life we value) is the first step to being truly comfortable in our own skin. It is only when we recognize and accept ourselves and internalize that understanding of who we are, can we become the person we were meant to be.

Disclaimer: The above write up is a personal opinion piece and should not be considered in lieu of professional advice. The views and opinions belong solely to the author and are not associated or representative of any persons, organizations, or institutions that the author may or may not be associated with.

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