What is the difference between Coaching, Mentoring and Counselling? | Tim Parker | Executive Coaching International

What is the difference between Coaching, Mentoring and Counselling?

Feb 16 - min read


Downey, 1999, defines coaching as:

“Coaching – The art of facilitating the performance and development of another – a facilitation approach”

In other words the coach is a facilitator who works with the coachee to allow them to understand their issues better, more clearly define their goals and assist them in the formulation and development of an action plan to achieve these goals. The most common type of coaching widely known and understood, is sporting coaches who coach sports teams to perform and achieve results. This type of coaching has now been adapted with coaches working with individuals either as personal coaches or career/executive coaches focusing on work related issues. 

executive coaching international (eci) provides executive coaching which is dedicated to improving executive performance and building outstanding teams.


The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (2011) described mentoring as follows:

“Mentoring can be described as a developmental process which may involve a transfer of skill or knowledge from a more experienced to a less experienced person through learning dialogue and role modeling and may also be a learning partnership between peers”

To undertake mentoring the mentor needs to have the core skills and experience associated with the area where they are providing the mentoring whereas this is not a pre-requisite for either coaching or counselling. An example of mentoring would be an experienced engineer working with a younger engineer passing on technical and engineering knowledge to assist them in their engineering work.

eci coaches also often act as mentors due to their deep subject knowledge and experience.


As Carol Wilson and Galdene McMahon in their article (TJ September 2006)  ‘What’s the difference?’ explains, counselling is focused on helping people with emotional distress which also stops them being able to function as well as they would like. Counselling is undertaken by trained and licensed professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists who use a range of techniques and processes such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to assist their clients address their emotional issues.  The relationship is strictly between the client and counselor whereas often organisations are part of the relationship for both coaching and mentoring.


In summary the differences between coaching, mentoring and counselling are: 

  • Coaching is a facilitating process to allow the coachee to find solutions to their issues and goals.
  • Mentoring involves the mentor providing solutions and advice in particular knowledge areas, to assist the mentoree.
  • Counselling can be used to address psycho-social as well as performance issues and focuses on helping people deal with emotional issues.

Tim Parker is an executive coach with executive coaching international and has strong commercial and technical experience in the development and delivery of major infrastructure projects gained from over 25 years of leading and developing project teams on some of the world’s largest projects.

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