On the surface, it may seem that helping professions are so similar, that precise definitions don’t matter. However, these distinctions are very important! They help you find the right person to support your priorities. At Labyrinth, we are not here to sell you on a service, we’re here to help you find the right resources.
So, what are the differences? Borrowing some of these ideas from Pamela McLean of the Hudson Institute (2012, Handbook of Coaching), and adding a few of my own, here are some distinctions:
- Coaching: Coaching is focused on defining a future desired state, and helping a client move towards that future systematically. Coaches “lead from behind”, assisting to set the direction, brainstorm and select options, and progress the plan. The coach creates a structure of consistency, to support the client. Coaching is usually a fixed duration (e.g., 6 months). It is quite common to identify measurable or documented outcomes. The stance of a coach is as a thought-partner.
At Labyrinth Leadership, our emphasis is coaching. We use the ICF’s formal definition of coaching: partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership. Well said!
- Mentoring: A mentor is an experienced individual who shares experiences and advice, and even takes actions, to benefit a recipient, or “mentee”. There is an element of a mentee being adopted by a sponsoring mentor, so the word “client” often doesn’t fit. Mentors provide guidance and even protection, to a less experienced individual learning the ropes. The stance of a mentor is a caring, more senior practitioner or colleague, sponsoring a less experienced person.
We at Labyrinth can provide mentoring in areas of expertise, such as convening skills for leaders. But we make a clear distinction between when we are mentoring, versus when we are coaching.
- Counseling or Psychotherapy: Counseling is aimed at healing the past and generating insight to overcome troublesome patterns or emotions. Counseling may dive into deep emotional issues to work on personal healing or trauma recovery. Counseling or Psychotherapy aims at developing skills for managing emotions or past issues. The stance of a counselor is as a healer.
If it becomes evident that a client would receive more benefit from counseling or psychotherapy, our approach is to make a referral to qualified professionals in those areas.
- Consulting: Consulting is aimed at fixing a specific problem through expertise, often related to a business matter. Generally, this problem is broader than one individual or team. A consultant shows up to “be smart”, to use his or her expertise to define what is needed, to provide solutions, to lead the way, to fix an issue. Opinions and recommendations are provided. The stance of the consultant is as an expert.
If it becomes evident that a client is really looking for consulting, we will do our best to support the client in finding the right consultant.
Please discuss your thoughts and questions further with your Labyrinth contact. We are here to help you find the right solution. None of us are self-made. We all need help at times. We are here to help you determine the kind of helping professional you need.