Knowing the difference between therapy and mental health and well-being coaching

by | May 23, 2023 | 0 comments

My coaching definition embodies the idea that with the support of a coach every individual has the potential to lead a fulfilling life as they travel the path of recovery to discovery. My definition of coaching is:

“Coaching is connecting and collaborating with a client in a deep and meaningful way that stimulates and encourages the client to learn and live their best life both personally and professionally”.

As coaches, we connect, collaborate, and support our clients to live their best life. Coaching is essentially a journey of deep learning and self-reflection which will ultimately result in change, growth, and fulfilment for the individual both personally and professionally. Whether in the absence or presence of a mental health problem, deep learning and self-reflection will invariably result in change for the individual to start or to continue leading a fulfilling life.

What is the difference between therapy and coaching?

A person may be attending therapy and counselling and seeing a coach at the same time. Therapy is where the individual explores how their past influences their present. Coaching on the other hand is looking at the present and how that can influence the future. Simply put, therapy focuses on the past and coaching focuses on the future.

Therapy can be driven by unresolved issues. Coaching on the other hand is where the client chooses goals and takes actions. Therapy looks to resolve self-imposed limits and coaching explores unlimited thinking.

As mental health and well-being coaches we look at supporting our client from recovery to discovery.

Recovery to Discovery

Recovery to discovery recognises that every individual has the potential to lead a fulfilling life whether in the absence and/or presence of a mental health problem. Anthony (1993) states that “Recovery is described as a deeply personal, unique process of changing one’s attitudes, values, feelings, goals, skills, and/or roles. It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful and contributing life even with limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life….” The support the coach provides their client embodies so much of this definition. Using our co-active coaching skills of global listening, intuition, curiosity, action/learning and self-management the coach can support their client through their journey of transformational change outlined above.

The five pillars that are instrumental to recovery resolve into the acronym CHIME (Leamy, Bird, Le Boutillier, Slade, & Williams, 2011).

  • Connectedness – Being positively connected to other people (peer support, community support and support of health professionals).
  • Hope – Change can happen if you believe a better life is possible and achievable.
  • Identity – This is creating and maintaining a positive sense of self.
  • Meaning – This is about finding meaning and purpose in our lives.
  • Empowerment – Through creating a growth mindset the individual is empowered to take control of their recovery.

I also believe that an additional E can be added to CHIME – CHIMEE. That “E” is education. Knowledge is power. If an individual is educated about mental illness, well-being, self-management, self-regulation, and self-care, this can go a long way on the path from recovery to discovery. By educating oneself you can feel empowered to make change. Education is key in the journey from recovery to discovery.

The principles of recovery and the recovery pillars are broadly aligned with the principles of coaching (Bora, Leaning, Moores, & Roberts, 2010) For example, recovery involves the development of meaning and purpose in one’s life; coaching looks at unearthing what the client wants, awareness of their values and gaining awareness of the resources/support available to them. Recovery represents a movement away from clinical recovery and towards health, well-being, and strengths. As coaches, using appreciative inquiry we support our clients to gain focus on their strengths and opportunities. The recovery process is also about finding meaning and purpose in our lives. As coaches we can support our client unlock this.  People going through the recovery process are encouraged to develop skills of self-care and self-management. As coaches we know our client can generate their own solutions, but we support them in the process through active listening and powerful questioning.

As coaches, we are here to support our client with their own personal discovery journey. Through discovery the client will identify their goals and realize their potential to achieve their goals. The realisation of goals and the potential to achieve change can be accomplished through effective coaching and having an effective coaching relationship.


An individual may be seeing a therapist and a coach at the same time. A therapist will support their client resolving issues from their past and the coach will support their client to move forward into the future.


Anthony, W.A. (1993). Recovery from Mental Illness: The Guiding Vision of the Mental Health Service in the 1990s. Psychological Rehabilitation Journal, 16(4), 11-13.

Leamy, M., Bird, V., Le Boutillier, Clair., Slade, M., & Williams, J. (2011). Conceptual Framework for Personal Recovery in Mental Health: Systematic Review and Narrative Syntheses. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 199, 445-452. Doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.083733.

Bora, R., Leaning, S., Moores, A., & Roberts, G. (2010). Life Coaching for Mental Health Recovery: The Emerging Practice of Recovery Coaching. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 16(6), 459-467. doi:10.1192/apt.bp.108.006536.