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Coach, Mentor, or Counselor—How are They different and Which Do I Need?

This is one of those questions that can truly change a client’s outcome. Coaches, mentors and counselors can have similar impacts on the person they are working with. However, the training is for each the educational level can vary, and the issues in which they work can also vary. So I truly understand the confusion and today hope to help clarify the three.

Counselor: If you refer to your clients as patients … you’re a counselor. (On the flip side if your client sees themselves as needing therapy, then they need to see a counselor.)

Counselors tend to have additional training in a field of expertise for two or more years and hold an advanced degree (Master’s Degree or higher), and log hundreds of supervised contact hours while attaining their degree. Many states require state certification where they practice. They also tend to utilize past actions, issues, or behaviors to reflect upon your current behavior. Their focus is clinically based, and can fall under: depression, anxiety, sever life changes, and other diagnoses.

A counselor tends to meet their clients face to face in an office.

You need a counselor if:

You are dealing with depression or anxiety

Are in a crisis situation

Are having serious personal problems

Resolving marital issues (marriage counselor)

Fees: vary and usually can be covered by health plans.

Coaches: Coaching is a relatively new field and tends to be more action based rather than diagnosis based. They are more like a thinking partner and create a synergistic or co-creative relationship with their clients. They too specialize, however, the training is more life-based training. A client can find coaches who are relationship, life, transition, and/or career focused. Those who specialize in leadership, executive, and business typically come from a strong business/leadership background as well as have an educational background in that topic. The degree level can also vary as leadership and executive coaches typically are Master’s level or higher; those in life coaching can fall anywhere.

Coaching typically takes place on the phone either weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.

A coach is ideal if:

You are looking to set goals and be held accountable to them

Are in career transition (career coach)

Have a hard time staying motivated and focused on task

Looking to learn effective ways to enhance your current position

Making changes in your life

Fees: can vary are based on weekly coaching sessions or monthly retainers- remember you get what your paying for...

Mentors: If you are looking for career advice, are new to a field, or are looking for the hand to guild you, then you are looking for a mentor. Mentoring is a co-creative relationship that can jump-start your career and help you succeed faster. This relationship is more like a partnership. Your mentor coach is focused on getting you the knowledge you need to succeed NOW. Anyone who has enjoyed great success in their life typically had a mentor of some kind. You can find mentors either in the place you work or outside your company, however, a note on mentor coaches: If you are in finances, hire a mentor who also is in finance, in other words, find individuals who are excelling in their own career and look to help you get ahead.

Mentoring can take place on the phone or face-to-face.

You would benefit with a mentor coach if:

You are looking for a career role model

Need an advocate in your corner to help you further your career

Are new in an industry and are looking to move ahead faster than your peers

Need a helping hand to guild you along your path to success

Fees: can vary based on weekly or bi-weekly mentoring sessions

Regardless of which of the three you work with, the relationship is key. It should be open and honest and free of presumed biases. I implore you to select the right fit from the beginning and ask as many questions as you need until you get the fit you need to achieve your desired outcome.

It is also important when looking at coaches and mentors that they are trained and certified—even if not required, as this show a commitment to ongoing education.

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