Coach, Therapist, Mentor, or Consultant? Who Do You Hire for What?

Written by Juli Shulem

Often times we feel we would benefit from some guidance or support --- but which kind? I am often asked, “What is the difference between a coach and a therapist or even a mentor and consultant?” I thought I would answer that here in case you have been asking this same question as well.

So here it is in a nutshell:

Therapists are trained mental health professionals who help individuals deal with various emotional, psychological, and behavioral issues by identifying and addressing problems, developing coping skills, and improving overall mental health and well-being. In general, therapists tend to focus on resolving past traumas or addressing mental health concerns. Counselors do similar work, but typically more short-term care, versus that of a therapist. Therapists are licensed and regulated by state boards, can be covered by insurance, and typically hold an advanced degree in psychology, counseling, or social work.

Coaches are trained professionals who help individuals or groups set and achieve specific goals in various areas of their life. Most coaches have specific areas of focus such as business, career, relationships, health, or personal development, while others may be able to coach in a broader scope of areas. Coaches help get you from where you ARE to where you want TO BE. Coaches may have training in psychology or counseling, but they are not licensed mental health professionals. They are, however, expected to adhere to the Code of Ethics set out by the International Coaching Federation – which is almost identical to the requirements for licensed therapists. Coaches typically work with individuals who are functioning well and who are looking to make positive changes in their lives. They generally ask powerful open-ended questions to help the client find the answers to their questions. Coaches with experience, have the advantage of using various techniques to motivate, inspire, and help hold their clients accountable in achieving their intentions and objectives. ‘Coach’ is a designation requiring education, training, exams, and qualified practical work hours to be credentialed as a professional coach.

A consultant is a professional who provides expert advice, guidance, and solutions to businesses, organizations, or individuals in a specific area of expertise. Consultants are hired to solve problems, develop strategies, and offer and implement solutions to improve performance, increase efficiency, and achieve specific goals. Consultants typically have a deep understanding of their area of specialization, as well as strong business skills, problem-solving, and communication ability. They may work independently or as part of a consulting firm, and they may be hired for various length projects. There is no specific credential to become a consultant it is usually based on a broad base of experience and expertise.

A mentor is a person who provides guidance, advice, and support to another individual in their personal or professional development – often within their specific field. Mentors typically have more experience, expertise, and knowledge than their mentees, and they use these attributes to help their mentees achieve their goals and reach their full potential. Mentors may offer constructive feedback, share their own experiences and insights, provide networking opportunities, and serve as a source of motivation and inspiration for their mentees. There is no specific education or license that someone can acquire to be a mentor and it is usually someone senior to the person being mentored within their specific organization.

While there is some obvious overlap between these titles, each has its place and offers specific assistance to the person seeking guidance. Oftentimes, having more than one professional in place is the most beneficial to the individual --- depending upon the situation. Now, when speaking with those who you are considering working with, you will understand the roles each can play and what you could be getting from each.

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