Coach, Therapist, Mentor, Consultant--which one do you need?

One thing I find myself explaining on repeat is what a coach does and why coaching isn't therapy. I'm taking a little time out of my Sunday afternoon to answer this with the hopes that it will help you decide what level of support you could use navigating any challenges present in your life today.

I'll start with coaching--that is my area of greatest expertise and where I can speak with the most real world experience.


Baseline, coaches are experts in helping individuals craft answers for themselves that elevate them beyond any thinking or behavior that has kept them treading water in the past.

Coaches use tools that work with thought, emotion and behavior that allow the client to look at themselves from a different perspective and as a result improve mindset, self image, help make constructive choices and change self defeating behaviors.

Skillful coaches are expert listeners and ask insightful questions. They might also help you craft plans and offer accountability.

The real gold however is in teaching you how to use tools that allow you to work through problems on your own. Coaching is a process of enablement.

When selecting a coach, be sure the one you select does an evaluation of what it is you want to work on--getting to know you, what you want to achieve or change and any information about what has separated you from those things so far.

It's also helpful to look at what kinds of clients your potential coach has served in the past (it's ok to ask for references), what kinds of problems they specialize in (someone who specializes in relationships might not be the person you reach out to for help with your career).

If they don't offer one already, ask for a discovery session to determine if you are suited to work with each other. Rapport and trust are extremely important.

Before you engage a coach ask yourself if you are ready for change--no matter how skilled your coach might be, you cannot passively be "coached" to the next level.

There isn't a coach alive that can do that--if they promise that, run.


I had my first coaching sessions with the therapist I worked with when I was an angsty teenager. She was wonderful. I recognize many of the tools I use today are derived from processes my therapist used with me.

But before you sign up to work with a coach there is something important to keep in mind.

Therapeutic expertise and training go well beyond the mastery of tools.

Therapists have specific, clinical training in helping treat issues such as depression, trauma, anxiety, PTSD, and the many other illnesses minor and major that people pass through during their lives.

While people dealing with depression and anxiety can be coached, they can't be coached out of their condition.

Coaching is not treatment and coaches cannot make a determination if a mental health worker such as a therapist is needed.

When in doubt, reach out to mental health worker who can make an assessment and guide you to support that is right for where you are right now.


Having a mentor on your side can be very powerful. The ideal mentor will be able to offer advice, counsel and guidance based on their own real world experience.

They might also be able to offer a level of coaching but the role is largely based on matching expertise and desired outcome between mentor and mentee. Also similar to the coaching model, a healthy level of rapport and trust is needed to have a productive relationship.

Mentors can also help open doors by pointing out opportunities, making introductions and recommendations.

Similar to the coaching model, the mentee is in charge of driving the relationship and needs to be engaged in order for the benefit of the relationship to come to fruition. You cannot be passively "mentored" to success.


If you want expert advice, answers or for someone else to do the work for you, you really want a consultant.

I am so grateful for consultants!!!

Many times we really need something specific--it might be knowledge, to get something made, to shorten the distance between point A and B, to give you an answer, to help with your computer or back office...all these things are best met with a consultant.

Consultants are results oriented--you aren't paying for their process but for what you will get at the end of it. You should get what you pay for--when engaging a consultant be sure you both agree on what the outcome will look like BEFORE you say yes. Mismatched understanding can lead to all kinds of problems. Put it in writing with dates. Everyone will be happier for it.

There are many people who hire coaches but what they really want is for someone to tell them what to do. To avoid being frustrated it really pays to understand what you are looking for upfront.

Even though the consultant is on the hook for providing a result, don't leave it up to them. No one cares about your outcome more than you do. If you aren't present for the process, your outcome might not be what you hoped for.

There is a place for every level of support--knowing what you really need will save you time, money and peace of mind.

Sasha MobleyComment