2021.05.02   |   6 min read

The Importance of Seeking Counsel: 

Counselling, Psychotherapy, Coaching and Mentoring

It’s essential to understand the differences and similarities of Counselling, Therapy, Coaching, and Mentoring to know which professional to seek, cater to the stage we are in, and what type will best help us most.

Counselling Vs. Psychotherapy

We seek counselling and therapy to provide guidance, support for mental, emotional, and behavioural obstacles. The mental health professional providing the service might be the same, however not all the time, since both require different skill sets and the approach, duration, and focus also differ.

When we seek counselling, we are generally seeking a mental health professional for relatively brief treatment focused primarily on a particularly problematic situation, mood, or behaviour. We want to learn coping skills and gain some insight into our thoughts and behaviours. Counsellors often target a problematic situation or specific behaviour and offer support, suggestions, and advice to deal with the behaviour or situation. Examples include healing from a divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, trouble transitioning from a move, etc. 

Therapy is generally long-term with the purpose is to get to the root cause and core issues of current problems to make lasting change and personal growth. We seek psychotherapists if we are experiencing symptoms or issues that negatively impact one or many aspects of ours lives significantly, such as our relationships, work or health, or to address long-term and continuous conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. Therapy is beneficial when we want to gain extensive insight into our underlying feelings, thoughts, relationships, and behaviours. Therapy can often be used in tandem with medication, but this is not always the case.


Counselling Psychotherapy
  • Short term, for a period of few weeks to months, ends after the problem has been resolved or no longer a paramount concern.
  • Long-term can be continuous or intermittent over many years.
  • Focus on present problems and specific situations or behaviours (ex. healing from a divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, trouble transitioning, etc.)
  • Focuses on chronic or recurrent problems which continuously come up (ex. depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation and loneliness, negative thinking, constant self-doubt, etc.)
  • Action and behaviour-focused; works to provide strategies for dealing with problematic situations. Resolving the problem here and now.
  • Feeling and experience-focused; helps us understand ourselves better, including our underlying thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Uncovering many layers of healing.

Coaching Vs Mentoring

We seek coaches and mentors to help push us forward to more outstanding performance and reach our full potential. However, the focus, duration, structure, and relationship type may differ.

Coaching is generally short-term and concentrates on obtaining proficiency in a specific goal or skill. We seek a coach to become more proficient with a defined task, where we would be evaluated and receive feedback. Coaches are often called upon to help us to gain greater skills in a specific task. Some examples include public speaking, time management, project management, relationship building, etc. Coaching usually terminates when we have obtained a particular skill or goal. A coach is someone who knows a great deal regarding the specific goal we want to obtain and requires compensation for their ability and time.

Mentoring is generally long-term oriented and concentrates on building capacity. We seek a mentor to improve upon various overlapping skill sets and gather wisdom from our mentor. Although we might initially focus on learning specific competencies, it will often go beyond a particular skill such as public speaking to improve our leadership, communication skills, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. Mentors are generally experts in the field and provide their mentorship voluntarily.  

Coaching  Mentoring
  • Short-term, for a period of few weeks to months and terminates when the skill has been obtained. 
  • Long term, can be continuous or intermittent over many years
  • Strictly professional 
  • Professional and maybe personal 
  • It is highly structured with scheduled meetings and feedback, typically specific and measurable.   
  • Less structured meetings can happen on an as needs basis. 
  • Experts in the area they coach and generally require compensation for their ability and time.
  • Experts in the field and generally provide mentoring voluntarily. 

Importance of Seeking Counsel

We can’t know everything and find ourselves in a challenging situation or want to enhance our capabilities; seeking counsel can provide us with guidance and support from those who have studied the mind and emotions extensively, have innate capabilities, or become experts in their field. 

Counselling, Therapy, Coaching and Mentoring are all equally important and have their time and place. I have personally participated in all and have significantly benefited.

Counselling and Therapy concentrate on healing and getting reconnected to others and ourselves. Both have brought me insights regarding childhood relationships, development, and influences, which has uncovered many patterns and insights and led to coping skills and immense healing.

Coaching and Mentoring focus on building upon skills, wisdom, and knowledge we already have and cultivating further. Coaches and Mentors provide us encouragement and expertise we may not get from the general population we are surrounded by. They ultimately want what’s best for us, see us thrive and flourish. I currently have a professional mentor, who I keep in touch with even after she has retired. My mentor’s guidance, support and encouragement are great reminders that I’m on the right path.

There’s a time and place to heal, and there’s also a time and place to thrive. We can excel in one aspect of our lives and need assistance in another.  I’ve even overlapped by receiving counselling for one challenge in my life and being mentored to enhance my leadership and project management capabilities. 

When to Proceed or Leave

We have to be aware that no one can do our work for us, regardless of how skilled our professionals might be. Whoever we choose to help us on our journey can show us the doors, but we have to do the work and walkthrough. 


Is our counsellor, therapist, coach, or mentor’s style compatible with our own? I’ve met with counsellors and therapists with who I did not feel at ease. I felt they were unable to provide an insight that resonated with me or did not have the skill set I was looking for. For example, at one point in time, I was tired of telling my story. Talk therapy to me at the time reached its stagnation point. We decided upon EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) as a treatment. If EMDR weren’t an option, I likely would have taken a break or ceased my sessions. EMDR was a powerful, non-verbal tool that helped me rid the negative emotions attached to specific memories when verbal communication was becoming burdensome.  


Are they adaptable? Sometimes, a Therapist is adaptable and can grow with us, such as playing a Mentorship role, or a Counsellor can become our long-term Therapist.  However, that is not always the case because each area requires a different skill set, and it may not be their specialty to provide exactly what we seek for the stage we are at. Sometimes we may surpass or outgrow our counsellor, therapist, coach or mentor. We will know this when we pay attention to how we feel about our general progress and sessions.

Not every counsellor, therapist, coach or mentor will be compatible with us or adapt where we progress to, even if they were highly recommended or compatible with other people. We have to trust how we feel, whether or not we feel more relieved or furthered burdened. If we are vocal about where we are and where we want to progress, our mental health and wellness professionals might be able to meet us at our current capabilities. However, if there is reluctance or we are finding the dynamic is no longer working for us, seek another professional.