The Definition of Coaching – The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy

The definition of coaching has typically varied across the industry due to coaching becoming more popular, but the widely accepted definition comes from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Coaching according to the ICF is defined as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. In this article, we are also going to highlight the differences between coaching and therapy.

 The Definition of Coaching - The Difference Between Coaching and Therapy

The Definition of Coaching

Here are just a few other coaching definitions that you might have seen or heard before.

  • “Coaching is a process that aims to improve performance and focuses on the here and now’ rather than on the distant past or future. In coaching, fundamentally, the coach is helping the individual to improve their own performance: in other words, helping them to learn.” (
  • “A collaborative, solution-focused, result-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and personal growth of the coachee” (Grant 1999, Association for Coaching,).
  • “Coaching is a professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organizations, helping them to bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.” (The Institute for Life Coach Training).
  • “At surface level, coaching is the power to help people learn about themselves, get unstuck and get moving forward toward what they want. Coaching is a mindset that makes things possible for other people. What things? Virtually ANYthing.” (Reitz 2018, CoachNet).
  • “Extending traditional training methods to include focus on (1) an individual’s needs and accomplishments (2) close observation, and (3) impartial and non-judgmental feedback on performance.”(BusinessDictionary).

Coaching vs Therapy: Are They Similar?

Since coaching is nevertheless a relatively new field, it is oftentimes confused with therapy or counseling. Coaching and Therapy are different in approaches and practices and so to help those who are trying to figure out if or when therapy or coaching for them is needed, check out the following differences between the two.

1. Coaching uses a future-focused approach, whereas therapy often looks to the past.
Individuals typically seek coaching as a method for forging a new future. Coaching is for those who are emotionally and mentally healthy and ready to advance. On the other hand, therapy deals with alleviating emotional pain, dysfunction, and conflict within an individual or in relationships.

2. Coaching professionals do not diagnose; therapists and other mental health professionals like psychologists do.

3. The coaching client is emotionally and psychologically healthy while in therapy or counseling, the client is emotionally and/or spiritually unstable and seeks healing.

4. Coaching asks the question “Where would you like to be or see yourself? and how can you get there?” Therapy asks“How did that make you feel?”

5. Coaching is results-based and focuses on exploring solutions while therapy explores the root of problems and offers an explanation.

6. Coaching is for a limited time, whereas the therapist-client relationship can go on for an indefinite period of time.

7. Coaching can be done virtually, over the phone and in person, while therapy is typically done mostly face to face due to licensing or other legal restrictions.

Regardless of how many definitions are out there and what definition of coaching you prefer or identify with, the most significant thing to undoubtedly know and comprehend is that coaching is NOT therapy. It is a profession that exists to help improve the professional and personal lives of people by moving them forward towards achieving their desired goals or outcomes.

By the way… you’re invited to claim your FREE step-by-step “30-Days to Become a Coach” video toolkit. Just go HERE now to get your 30-day coaching blueprint videos.

Peggy Adegoke
Life Coach
Writer, Coaches Training Blog community

FREE Video Course: How to Build a High Paying Coaching Business

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