Counselling, coaching, mentoring and consulting

Clients sometimes ask me about counselling and coaching; coaching and mentoring and consultancy. Here are my top level understandings of these processes.  


  • Counsellors explore personal issues and problems through discussion in order to increase understanding or to develop greater self-awareness.
  • The aim of counselling is to lead the client toward self-directed actions to achieve their goals.

Coaches and counsellors share many core skills. However, professional counsellors work with personal issues in much greater depth than would generally be explored within a coaching context.


  • Coaches and mentors activities are designed to suit client’s personal needs (whether aspiration or performance related) and the individual’s learning styles.
  • Both coaching and mentoring fine tune and develop skills.
  • They can focus on interpersonal skills, which cannot be readily or effectively transferred in a traditional training environment.
  • Coaches and mentors may provide their clients with contacts and networks to assist with furthering their career or their life aspirations.
  • Coaching and mentoring may be performed in the ‘live’ environment or off-line or virtually/remotely.
  • Each can be highly effective when used as a means of supporting education and training initiatives to ensure that key skills are transferred to the ‘live’ environment.
  • Coaches and mentors transfer the skills to the client rather than doing the job for them.


  • In consultancy the focus is on developing organisational practices, processes and structure.
  • The consultant’s role generally is more strategic and often used to instigate, design and/or support broad ranging change programmes
  • Consultancy frequently involves expert advice about specific issues and organisational processes.
  • Consultants are often brought in to provide specific ‘solutions’ to business problems and needs
  • A consultant leads the job for the organisation: whilst up-skilling the employee or client may be a contractual part of the service, it is not generally the primary goal.

The term consultant coach is often used when the coach is external to the organisation and therefore offering services on an ‘external’ or ‘consultancy’ basis. This is not, however, the same as consultancy per se.

Coaching and mentoring has been offered by consultancy companies for many years, even though it is not specifically ‘consultancy’. It is only recently that people have begun drawing a distinction which in some cases, like the distinction between coaching and mentoring, is not useful in distinguishing between them.

Author: Vitas Consult