Help Me! – Counselor vs. Mentor vs. Coach

Help. We all need it in some way, shape, or form.

When we finally decide we need it, determining the type of help needed gives us pause. Then the questions ensue:

“Who should I call?”

“What do I ask for?”

“Is that what I want or need?

“Do I even know what I need?”

That’s when an expert can help. Depending on your needs, a counselor, mentor, or coach can prove pivotal in making major decisions leading to your next step or big leap of faith. Which one will best serve your needs?

With personal services, especially those geared to women, knowing the difference can make all the difference in your journey. Mentoring has been a huge topic (take heed, millennials) lately, coaching is the buzzword of choice, and counseling has been offered as a resource and solution. Again, the question arises: Do I need a counselor, mentor, or coach?

The difference between the three may surprise you.

A counselor (outside of a family member or friend) is a trusted individual, preferably certified or licensed, such as a psychologist. The relationship with a counselor is usually doctor/provider/practitioner-to-patient, with the professional looking into one’s past personal history to gain perspective before offering insight. In some instances, they may not give a solution. Interaction with a counselor usually happens in a traditional, and somewhat stringent environment (a doctor’s office, for example) with limited times.

Mentoring is more relationship-oriented and usually involves a seasoned or more experienced professional helping a less experienced (usually younger) professional within a particular career field. The older professional has a certain level of expertise that the younger professional wants to obtain. In many (not all) instances, the mentee is in the dynamic for the intel, acquired skills, contacts, and job opportunities. The interaction can be at times very loose, in short spurts based on a specific need like an introduction or work reference. Anyone can be a mentor as there is no certification or licensure necessary. People may have several mentors over the course of one’s lifetime.

Which brings us to the coaching relationship. This is a very important partnership that focuses on tasks. The coaching relationship is symbiotic, which contributes to the more tailored structure and flow that the service provides. It is initiated by a specific goal. A coach can be certified (or not), but has an expertise that clients can gauge whether they are the right one for them. When working with a coach, some past history may be needed to determine how to move forward but not as much as a counselor. Coaches may exhibit qualities of a mentor but the coaching dynamic pushes the client to think critically and move effectively and efficiently, thus building themselves and their passions.

As a professional who coaches and has received coaching, be mindful of whom you choose to fill any of these roles. In professional circles, the term “coaching” is being used as draw for social media likes and click bait. The coach you choose can prove the difference between being where you want to be in months to starting all over again years later with no progress. Here are three tips that can help you determine the right coach for you:

  1. Everyone. Is. Not. A. Coach. Repeat this to yourself 10 times.
  2. Interview your coach. You are making a huge investment. Make it count. Make your coach each your trust.
  3. Don’t just look to social media. Do your research. A coach can have a great Instagram page, but a horrible approach to helping you. Get the picture?


Ivori Nicole, a Certified Professional Coach, has coaching programs in the areas of fertility, life, and business that may be able to help you find your way to purposefully designing the life you will love. Form more information on our programs, click here.





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