Can counselling and coaching work together?

When I first trained as a psychotherapist almost 30 years ago, coaching as a practise didn't really exist in the UK. Several years after completing my psychotherapy training, having been running workshops with many large organisations, I also branched out into coaching, becoming one of the early coaches in the UK, after seeing the many benefits it can offer. Back then, coaching trainings were very clear that coaching is not counselling or psychotherapy and the two things were to remain separate. Similarly the viewpoint has been not to mix coaching with counselling.


Back to the present day, where I've been lecturing on a MSc in Counselling and Coaching, where we teach people how to use coaching as part of their integrative practice. Rather than seen as areas that shouldn't be practiced together, we acknowledge that coaching can become an important part of the client's journey.

Why do people choose counselling? 

People tend to choose either counselling or coaching for different reasons. Frequently someone will seek counselling because there is an experience of some issue in their life that they want help with. This could be for example:

  • Difficult life events - such as bereavement, losing a job, addiction or abuse.
  • Mental health issues - where counselling can offer a supportive environment that can help with issues such as anxiety, depression, fear and worry.
  • Life transitions or decisions - with areas such as getting married, becoming a parent, starting a new job, retiring or transition to becoming an adult.
  • Self discovery - where someone may seek counselling or psychotherapy because they want to learn more about themselves or work on their own personal development.

With many of these areas, counselling or psychotherapy may explore events or experiences from the past or present that are unresolved or where there is internal conflict. Through working through these unresolved conflicts or other issues, the individual may experience change and transformation.

Of course, different therapeutic approaches vary on whether the focus is mainly on the past or present, however the general time frame is frequently more focused on dealing with past unresolved experiences or conflicts to help the person feel different

An integrative approach to counselling and coaching can offer clients an empowering framework to make changes and continue to move forwards in a direction to have a life that is lived well now.

Why do people go to coaching?

People tend to seek coaching because they want something in the future. This could include:

  • Personal life - for example, someone wants to achieve some goal in their personal life such as finding a partner, improving their concentration or being more in control of their finances.
  • Business/Career - for example, someone wants greater success in their own business, get a promotion at work, improve their presentation skills or start a new career.

The focus in coaching tends to be more future based, exploring areas in life that are important to the individual and setting goals to help the person achieve what they want to.

Therefore the integrative model that includes coaching with counselling/psychotherapy brings together these different elements. This can help the individual explore and resolve conflicts from the past and then look towards setting goals and outcomes to improve their life in the future. 

In coaching, internal conflict or unresolved issues may frequently be an obstacle in the path for the individual achieving what they want, so an integrative approach can be an essential element in coaching to help resolve these areas before moving into coaching.

In counselling/psychotherapy, this approach helps people to move forward and achieve greater fulfilment in their lives in the future with the transition to coaching.

An integrative approach to counselling and coaching can offer clients a empowering framework to make changes, and continue to move forwards in a direction to have a life that is lived well.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Enfield EN1 & London N14
Written by Tom MacKay, MSc, ADHP(NC), Dip EHP(NLP), UKCP
Enfield EN1 & London N14

I am a dedicated therapist working with individuals presenting a diverse range of issues. My approach is integrative to help find the best way of working with the person.

I have been working as a psychotherapist for almost 20 years, and am a lecturer in Counselling and Coaching on the MSc/PGDip course at the University of East London.

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