April 19, 2022 - Life Coaching, Mentoring, Therapy, Etc.

Life Coaching, Mentoring, Therapy, Etc.: Which Is Right For Me, Right Now?

Life coaching, mentoring, counselling, therapy, consulting… Most of us have heard these words, have heard that we ought to try one or the other when we’re in a negative frame of mind, when things go bad in our personal or professional lives. But what’s the difference between each of these services? When should we look for one or the other?

It’s so easy to get confused – there is so much contradictory information out there, and then there are businesses that provide several of these services, sometimes even combining them… as well as a lack of regulations for some of these services, such as coaching and mentoring…

And where does all that confusion lead us to? Well, it leads us to wasting time, money, energy, emotions in going through the steps for one or the other of these services, only to then realize that these steps are not the most suited for what it is we really need, at that precise moment in time. A subsequent consequence of this could be us losing our will power to move forward, to make changes, to get out of our comfort zone… and maybe even going down into more negative and darker places in our mind if we feel we’re going around in circle…

So let’s look briefly at what each of these services are, at a high level:

Life Coaching

In a previous article, I referenced the definition of “Life Coaching” by the International Coaching Federation (“ICF”):

“Thought-provoking, creative partnership process between the client and the coach that inspires the client to maximize their personal and professional potential”.

I also explained that life coaching aimed at closing the gap between who we are now and who we really want to be, and at improving our satisfaction with life, reaching for our personal and professional goals.

Other characteristics of life coaching that separate it from the other services discussed in this article are:

  • It’s a “partnership” between the coach and us, the client, meaning that the coach is not “above” or more knowledgeable than us, but is actually at the same “level”.
  • It’s a “thought-provoking and creative” process, which allows us to brainstorm in ways we wouldn’t on our own, thanks to the listening, reflecting and questioning skills of the coach.
  • It’s also based on the principle that we aren’t “broken” nor “damaged, but we’re instead “Creative, Resourceful and Whole”: we are already fully capable of finding our own solutions, deep down within ourselves.
  • It’s about supporting us along our reflection, introspection, brainstorming journey – it’s not about helping nor advising, which implies that we’re lacking something.
  • It’s mostly about looking toward the future, the goals, the person we want to be.
  • Finally, life coaches don’t need to be expert in the topic that we want to focus on. Instead, life coaches are “experts” in listening, reflecting, questioning, and supporting us in our brainstorming and creation process.

I’ll conclude this section with a quote from Geeta Ramakrishnan that I find summarizes what life coaching is well:

“Life coaches focus on creating a new life path to achieve certain goals. They help you introspect and help you find your solutions. They focus on the now and what next.”


I discussed mentoring in another of my previous article, where I referenced this definition:

“the act or process of helping and giving advice to a younger or less experienced person, especially in a job or at school”.

Like life coaching, mentoring is about looking toward the future, toward the goals we, the mentee, want to achieve. But this is where the similarities stop, because other characteristics of mentoring are:

  • The mentor is an expert, or at least experienced, in the topic that we want to focus on, and therefore is more knowledgeable than us.
  • As a result, the mentor provides advice and feedback based on their experience and knowledge, helping us in achieving our goals.
  • However, it is up to us to decide whether to follow or not the advice and feedback provided.
  • The end goal of mentoring is to help us improve our effectiveness by providing us with proven and tested methods to reach specific goals.

Therapy, Counselling, etc.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Therapy” as:

“a treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger, etc., especially after an illness”.

And “Counselling” as:

“the job or process of listening to someone and giving that person advice about their problems”

At first sight, we could thing there aren’t that much difference between therapy and counselling on one side, and life coaching and mentoring on the other: they’re all about making us be and feel “better” in our lives. However, here are a few characteristics of therapy and counselling that differentiate them from life coaching and mentoring:

  • Therapy and counselling are, in most countries, licensed / regulated professions: practitioners must have specific credentials, belong to recognized professional bodies sanctioned by law and governing the profession, and are subject to legal obligations.
  • They mainly focus on healing our past issues (problems, traumas, illnesses, psychological suffering, difficult emotions, etc.).
  • They lead us into reasoning about our past issues, looking at how to resolve them and how to improve our attitude and reactions in dealing with similar issues in the future.
  • Practitioners not only listen and encourage us to reflect, but they also provide us with guidance and advice to help us deal with our issues.

I’ll conclude this section with another quote from Geeta Ramakrishnan:

“… counselors focus on specific problems in hand and look into emotional resolutions to past problems to move forward, finding solutions to those specific problems, while making ‘healing’ as one of the main objectives.”


The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Consulting” as:

“the activity or business of giving expert advice about a particular subject”

So, what differentiates consulting from the other services identified above?

  • Consultants are expert in the matter at hand – very often, they studied and worked in the relevant industry for a while and developed an expertise in specific areas.
  • Consulting is based on the principle that the consultants know more and better than us, the client – one could say that, in the given situation, the consultants is “above” us.
  • Even if consultants listen and ask questions, it’s with the objective to get information about the issue so that they can provide us with expert advice and propose solutions to deal with the matter at hand.
  • It focuses solely on the problem – dealing with problems that occurred in the past and very often also looking at ways of avoiding or reducing the impact of similar problems in the future.

Summary of Differences

Life Coaching

  • Partnership: the coach is not an expert
  • Looking forward
  • Focusing on solutions
  • Clients are “Creative, Resourceful and Whole”


  • Mentor is an expert in the subject matter
  • Looking forward
  • Focusing on solutions
  • Mentor provides guidance and advice

Therapy / Counselling

  • Practitioner must be licensed
  • Looking at past issues
  • Focusing on the problem
  • Practitioner questions and listens to the client, but also provides guidance and advice


  • Consultant is an expert in the subject matter
  • Looking at past issues
  • Focusing on the problem
  • Consultant provides expert advice and solutions

Which Services Do We Need?

I hope that the above explanations will help narrow the search for the type of service needed, in the present situation and for the goal or issue to address. As our situation, goals and issues vary, so will the type of service we require – we may even find ourselves in situations where it’s useful to combine several of these services.

But whatever we decide, we ought to undertake more research to make sure we get the best out of the experience. There are so many different specialties in any of these services, styles of practicing, combinations of services… and we should also remember to check with ourselves how comfortable, safe and trustful we feel with the person that will provide us with the service!