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What is coaching?

For centuries, the term “coach” has been applied to a person who helped another person accomplish a goal or improve performance.  In modern times, coaching has been primarily associated with sport and athletics, but since the early 1990s the term has been increasingly applied to improving human performance and wellbeing more generally, and the number of practitioners has multiplied dramatically.   

Coaching is a collaborative solution-focused, results-orientated systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of goal attainment, performance, self-directed learning and personal growth of other individuals.
— Dr. Anthony Grant

The process of coaching has been defined as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance” and a coach has been defined as “a person who facilitates experiential learning that results in future-oriented abilities.”

I define coaching as the process wherein I act as an expert facilitator to help you, my client, move toward your goals.  I serve as the expert in the process, while you are the expert on your career and your life.

Below you can read more about how coaching is different from therapy and learn more about different types of coaching:

Coaching vs Therapy

Generally speaking, therapy is focused on helping clients relieve distress and address dysfunction, and tends to be about their past and present.  Coaching, on the other hand, typically assumes a client to be “healthy,” and is focused on helping the client improve performance and satisfaction in the present and future.  

The definition of “healthy” may be debatable and would technically require a psychological evaluation, but I believe in coaching any client who can benefit from my coaching, even if s/he could also benefit from therapy.  I am happy to coach clients who are in therapy, and I am trained on referring clients for therapy or other psychological help.  

This table can be helpful in understanding the differences between coaching and therapy:



Client is considered to be generally healthy and desiring change

Embraces a medical model in which the client needs treatment for mental health issues

Client is expert on his/her own life

Therapist is the expert

Does not diagnose or treat

Diagnoses and treats pathologies and disorders

Collaborative relationship

Patient/provider relationship

Coaching plan is designed by coach and client in partnership

Treatment plan is designed by therapist



Focused on goal achievement, performance improvement, improving work/life satisfaction.

Focuses on healing, addressing trauma, dysfunction, psychological pain and distress.

Future oriented

Past oriented

Asks “How?”

Asks “Why?”

Types of Coaching

There are many different types of coaching, as are listed below.  My practice tends to focus on Developmental and Executive Coaching, but varies based on client need:

Developmental Coaching

Development coaching involves increasing one’s self awareness to facilitate behavioral change and develop a deeper understanding of one’s meaning-making abilities. It involves engaging with new perspectives, new interpretations, and new behaviors.  

Executive Coaching

Executive Coaching focuses on leaders of organizations and most often involves developmental coaching.  Executives often need support in developing their teams, improving their leadership skills, coping with stress, developing work-life balance, and practicing better self care. Often an executive coach can serve as a trusted advisor, helping the client ensure s/he is thinking and leading as productively as possible.

Career Coaching

Career Coaching helps an individual explore career options and move toward a goal of finding an optimal career or job. It may involve some deep diving into the client’s vision of their ideal self and discovering how to match their skills and passions with their options.

Performance Coaching

Performance Coaching, in my practice, refers to helping a client be at their best for a specific performance, like public speaking or presentations, sports and athletics, performing arts, and in some cases high-risk, performance-critical professions like surgery or law enforcement.  Performance coaching focuses on increasing concentration, building mental toughness, improving confidence, and specific approaches to performance preparation. 

Transition Coaching

Transition Coaching deals primarily with the issue of ambiguity and how to manage or prepare for change at work or in one’s personal life. Instances where someone may benefit from transition coaching involve returning to work after maternity or paternity leave, preparing for retirement, moving overseas, changing careers, or returning to school. It can also be useful in managing organizational change and preparing employees for a new workplace paradigm.

Personal Coaching

Personal Coaching focuses on personal goals and development for the purpose of improving one’s quality of life, health, or to help one live out their vision of the ideal self. Clients often seek personal coaching because they desire to make significant change in their personal life. Some examples of change may include: quitting smoking, living a healthier life, managing stress, reducing chaos and improving time management, relationship transitions, improving communication, finding one’s life purpose, and work/life balance.

Remedial Coaching

Remedial coaching is typically used when an individual is failing to meet expectations, especially in the workplace, and needs to significantly improve their job performance or face the possibility of losing their job.  Remedial coaching can be effective, but it is often a last ditch effort and a precursor to out-counseling or transition coaching.

Business Coaching

Business Coaching is actually more consulting than it is coaching, because in this case the coach is a domain expert on the client’s business, not just on the process.  A business coach or consultant typically focuses on coaching the client to run a more successful, profitable business.

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