How Is Coaching Different Than Mentoring, Consulting and Counseling?

I’m often asked how life coaching is different than mentoring, consulting, and counseling, so I wanted to answer that question and shed light on how to make sure you are choosing the right person for your needs and goals. Since the life coaching profession is an unregulated field, many people may refer to themselves as coaches when in fact they are mentors, counselors, consultants or even teachers. Those are admirable roles and they serve a distinct purpose; however, I have seen way too many untrained people call themselves a “coach” and then end up with frustrated and underserved clients. Moving forward, people who have had bad experiences often struggle to then trust a trained coach.

Full disclosure: Because of the “horror” stories I’ve heard, I have become a bit of a coach “snob” . . . and I have to use a measure of self-control to keep quiet when someone says they are going to start charging people for life coaching because they think they can help them, but don’t have any training in the field and very little experience. It would be like saying you are a mental health counselor because you like to help people solve their problems. We would likely raise an eyebrow at that, right? My goal is to help you know the difference between these roles and define what a life coach does in comparison to other professional roles. Before someone chooses who they work with, they should first consider what is really wanted or needed. For example:

  • Do they need help processing something difficult from their past?
  • Do they need someone to show them how to build their business?
  • Do they need someone to teach them how to master a new skill?
  • Do they need someone to help them prepare for marriage?

If the answer to any of these questions was, “Yes,” then a coach is not the best fit, but rather a counselor, consultant, mentor or teacher.

What is a Life Coach?

Coaching is set apart by the way a life coach approaches a conversation with a client. Coaches do not necessarily teach, but help others through a process of discovery by using active listening skills, asking powerful questions, expanding thought processes, identifying limited beliefs, designing action steps, and following up. Keith Webb, a leading expert in the field of coaching puts it this way:

To most leaders, professional coaching practices are counter-intuitive. Take a look at these characteristics:

  • Coaches don’t talk, they listen.
  • Coaches don’t give information, they ask questions.
  • Coaches don’t offer ideas, they generate ideas from clients.
  • Coaches don’t share their story, they tap into the client’s experience.
  • Coaches don’t present solutions, they expand the client’s thinking.
  • Coaches don’t give recommendations, they empower clients to choose.

Why it Matters to Find a Certified or Credentialed Life Coach

The leading secular credentialing authority in the coaching profession is the International Coach Federation (ICF). They have set standards for training in what is referred to as core competencies and ethics. I went through a training program that required many hours of training, practice, and mentoring. My coaching calls were reviewed and I was mentored on how to improve. Once I completed that process and received my certification, I had to take a three-hour test and have over 100 hours of coaching clients before I could be credentialed as an ICF coach. This is a major time and financial investment as well.

Sadly, there are programs out there that promise to certify people as a “coach,” but don’t actually follow the ICF standards. I have had friends pay a lot of money to become a coach, only to find out they took classes from an organization that didn’t have good standards. Be careful of the folks who say they are credentialed from an organization that does not have any coaching affiliation at all. These organizations just decided to join the trend, without putting in the work, and then train others to do the same. Do your research.

The International Christian Coaching Institute (ICCI), of which I serve as a Board of Reference Member, is a credible faith-based organization that offers high quality training from nationally known Christian coaches, mentoring and credentialing opportunities, and mirrors the same core competencies as ICF. The most significant difference is that they celebrate and integrate biblical truth in all that they do.

Other Professional Roles Compared to Life Coaches

These definitions are quoted or adapted from my training through Creative Results Management.

  • Counselors – seeks to discover issues in the client’s past that are blocking them from success and/or the ability to function well in daily living activities. Special techniques and tools are used to understand these issues and bring healing and closure to them so the client may move forward. While coaches and counselors may use many of the same dialogue techniques, coaching begins in the present and is future oriented.
  • Mentors – have expertise in a particular area and share that learning with mentees. Mentors provide knowledge, they advise, guide, correct, and encourage in their field of expertise. A mentor works within their profession, whereas a life coach with good discovery, as well as change and communication skills, can coach anyone.
  • Consultants – are specialists who are paid for solutions. They assess and diagnose problems and propose solutions. Many times they implement the solutions as well. Coaches also focus on solutions, but draw them out of the client. Coaches help clients set goals and then support them in creating a plan of action and implementing it. Ultimately, clients gain long-term problem solving capacity.

I have heard some consultants, counselors or mentors also mix in coaching tools. Why? Because asking questions is one of the most powerful ways someone discovers what is inside of them, and studies show when you make a decision for yourself, you will be more likely to stick to it better than if someone told you what to do.

Freedom Coaching®

I coach people with traditional coaching in business, relational, and personal development goals. I love seeing people find the greatness that is already inside of them and to reach their goals! I have also created a coaching program that blends coaching and ministry tools called the Freedom Coach Model®. It’s similar to many of the bonus tools life coaches use like Strength Finders, the DISC or other self-discovery and goal setting modalities. I have certain questions I ask and I lead people through specific prayers. In this model, I lead the session, not the client. I created the Freedom Coach Model because some clients were stuck and they didn’t know why. As they shared their experiences of meeting with counselors, they said it was helpful to have someone listen, but they wanted more practical tools to move forward. They didn’t want to look back anymore, but they knew the past was contributing to their untapped potential. I join them in asking God what questions He wants to answer for them. Based on biblical truth, we search the heart of God together. Sometimes, it means walking through forgiveness, hearing what He has to say about certain lies they have believed or just sitting in His presence and receiving His love. Then we come up with goals to maintain their freedom. I have seen clients thrive as they meet their goals, enter into healthy relationships, move into promotion, and become all God created them to be.

Many of my clients wanted to go through the process again on their own, so I had the blessing of writing an Amazon #1 best-selling book, Freedom Coach Model. It has 20 different topics for you to talk to God about. I suggest questions to ask in prayer and offer a place to journal as you discover God’s heart. It can’t replace one-on-one coaching, but it has helped people worldwide encounter the love of God. I know I am biased, but I believe everyone needs a coach. I know how it has changed my life and my clients’ lives.

Jill Monaco is the founder and CEO of Jill Monaco Ministries, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has a passion to encourage people to pursue the presence of God and find freedom in Christ. She is a speaker, best-selling author, and CC credentialed coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF). She is also certified as a Strengths Champion Coach and SYMBIS Relationship Coach. As a Bible teacher and speaker, Jill is known for captivating audiences with her high-energy, humorous approach to life’s serious issues. Her faith-filled and transparent stories encourage listeners to become all that God has created them to be. Jill has developed Freedom Coaching®, a model that blends hearing God, prayer, and coaching tools. Her first book, The Freedom Coach Model® went to #1 on the Amazon bestseller list. Jill Monaco Ministries also serves singles by publishing the online magazine, and the program, From Looking To Loving: Find the Breakthrough You Need So You Can Have The Relationship You Want.  She hosts the podcast, The Jill Monaco Show: Conversations that Inspire You to Love Well. Jill has been featured on LIFE Today with James and Betty Robison, the Boundless Podcast (Focus on the Family), and has taught webinars for singles with Christian Mingle. She has spoken on stages at Disney Night of Joy, Creation Fest, and the Experience Conference about the need for Bible translation. Her eclectic career includes 20 years as a professional stage and commercial actress, industrial film narrator, and voiceover talent. She sang backups for Perry Como’s Holiday Tour, performed in tours and theatres across the country, and is the voice on several Disney Kids audiobooks. Currently living in Chicago, IL, Jill looks forward to having her own family someday. Until then, she works very hard at earning the title of favorite aunt to her five nieces and nephews. See more at

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