Counseling vs. Coaching: How Do I Decide?

Posted on May 17, 2021 by Marsha Molinari, MSW, LICSW

Updated May 17, 2021

Male receiving counseling_small-1How do I know if I need a counselor or a coach?

Your VITAL WorkLife resources offers both coaching and counseling, so it is important to know the difference between the two and what you want to accomplish.

Definitions of Counseling and Coaching

Counseling, sometimes called therapy or psychotherapy, is a process in which the client works with a healthcare professional to look at their past with the goal of resolving beliefs and behaviors that may be problematic in their life. Counseling focuses on self-reflection with the purpose of understanding emotional and behavioral responses to different situations. The goal of counseling is to help you gain an understanding of your behaviors and way of thinking to create a happier, more stable future.

Counselors are licensed professionals that are regulated by the state in which they practice. They can diagnose mental health conditions, and depending on their licensure, some are able to prescribe medications if needed. There is no set “end time” with counseling, but with employer paid benefits there is often a limited number of sessions covered after which insurance may be used to continue sessions.

Coaching is a process that focuses on where you are in the present, and where you want to go with a given area. Coaching is designed to improve your level of performance through goal setting and problem solving. A coach will help you set future goals, develop a plan, timeline and help motivate you to reach those goals. Although some coaches may be trained in mental health, not all are. Coaches are not regulated by a particular licensing body but they may be certified by a recognized industry association - as is the case with all VITAL WorkLife coaches. A coaching engagement is often offered as a scheduled package with a defined timeframe that ranges from weeks to months. Coaching sessions are not covered by any insurance but can be included with employee benefits – such as those provided by VITAL WorkLife.

A counselor would be most helpful if you:

  • Are interested in healing from any past or recent trauma.
  • Have a diagnosable condition such as depression, anxiety, ADD or ADHD.
  • Are looking for insight, understanding and/or resolution of any emotional or behavioral issues.
  • Are struggling in your marriage or other interpersonal relationships.
  • Have trouble with anger.
  • Want to learn strategies to feel less impacted by others.

A coach would be most helpful if you:

  • Want help in setting and achieving future goals.
  • Want to move forward with career advances.
  • Want to move out of “autopilot” and be challenged to break out of your comfort zone.
  • Replace unhealthy habits with healthy alternatives.
  • Want to quiet your inner critic that keeps you from living your best life.
  • Feel confused about career decisions and major life choices and need guidance to piece it all together.
  • Want to hold yourself accountable, whether it be in your personal or professional life.

The answer to whether you should see a counselor or a coach is a personal one. However, it is important to know the differences between the two. No matter who you choose to work with, remember to keep in mind the importance of personal fit and the ultimate goal you have for seeking support.

We Can Help


Counseling and coaching resources are available at no cost to you and your family members on a per incident model. Per incident is defined as a noticeably distinct reason for an individual seeking support, and is defined by numerous factors (time, specific events, etc.). For more information, contact us!

Well Being Resources Members: Access your resources at 877.731.3949 or through the VITAL WorkLife App. You have access to the following counseling and coaching resources:

  • In-the-moment behavioral health support
  • Face-to-face and virtual
  • Peer Coaching

EAP Members: Access your resources at 800.383.1908 or through the VITAL WorkLife App. You have access to the following counseling and coaching resources:

  • In-the-moment behavioral health support
  • Face-to-face and virtual counseling
  • Coaching:
    • Nurse Peer Coaching
    • Educator Peer Coaching
    • Coaching for career decisions, skill building and goal setting & achievement


Are you interested in learning more about our counseling and/or coaching solutions? Visit us online at or contact us.

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