Guidance vs Coaching

Over the last couple of weeks I have found myself in deep debate with my careers colleagues about the differences and similarities between Coaching and Guidance. I myself struggle to differentiate the two practices, so upon much probing a colleague clarified Coaching as “practice focused on goal setting and achievement where as Guidance is all about the past”

This got me thinking, both the Egan 3 Stage Model and the popular Ali & Graham Model contain a clearly defined action planning stage and there isa focus on goal setting. Yes, there is an exploration stage where practitioners are encouraged to help clients reflect on blocks and obstacles to their decision making, identify patterns of behaviour from the past that may impact future choice and hell we even work as catalysts in helping clients define their own way forward. So erm, what was the difference between Guidance and Coaching?

Then the penny dropped. Much of Guidance training encourages the practitioner to use a counselling approach, like me I am sure there are many who struggled to master the mysteries of contracting, summarising and challenging. Perhaps one of the reasons why guidance seems to be about the past is down to us as practitioners. Do we perhaps look for issues where there aren’t any to be had?  Have we taken the use of counselling skills and confused it with the process of counselling itself? Perhaps the issue isn’t about the approach at all. Surely what approach a practitioner uses depends on who is sat in front of them. Maybe there is a bigger question here which is how do we as practitioners decide which approach (guidance or coaching) is right for the person sat in front of us?

  • Why do you think coaching is gaining popularity?
  • Do you think there is a difference between coaching and guidance?
  • What style of practice do you adopt with your clients?
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  1. #1 by Claire Tessier on 23 September 2009 - 10:59

    There is a lot of blurring of terms. Is there a role for information and advice in guidance? Some may argue that counselling also has a place. To me coaching is just a fad that has taken off. Guidance is defined as empowering clients to take control of their career decision making, empowering is a word that features in most coaching books I have read. I agree with you in that what approach you use depends on the client and how perceptive and adaptable you are as an adviser.

    • #2 by David Winter on 30 September 2009 - 19:31

      Hi Claire. Thanks for your contribution. It certainly seems to me that there are as many approaches to ‘coaching’ as there are to ‘guidance’. The Handbook of Coaching Psychology contains chapters on:

      • Behavioural coaching
      • Cognitive behavioural coaching
      • Existential coaching
      • Gestalt coaching
      • Motivational interviewing
      • Narrative coaching
      • NLP coaching
      • Person-centred coaching
      • Conversational learning
      • Psychodynamic coaching
      • Solution-focused coaching

      I can’t imagine a more varied set of approaches. Coaching, like guidance, is not one thing. It has many facets. Many of those facets overlap considerably with what some of us already do under the label of Guidance.

  2. #3 by David Winter on 23 September 2009 - 21:46

    I had a rather enjoyable debate on this subject with Paul Brown (Director of the Careers Centre at St Andrew’s University) and others on the agcas-coaching e-mail discussion list about a year ago. If you are an AGCAS member and you sign-in you can see some of the debate on the website. You don’t need to be signed-in to see my Phoenix article from January 2009 about different approaches to guidance.

  3. #4 by Saiyada Smith on 28 September 2009 - 15:37

    Hi Claire, Thank you so much for your comments. I hope you enjoyed reading the link David suggested. It seems the debate has been going on for a while…!

  4. #5 by David Winter on 30 September 2009 - 19:23

    For those who can’t get on to the AGCAS website, here is part of what I said about my views on the difference between Guidance and Coaching…

    One way of looking at Guidance is to see it as an umbrella term which encompasses a continuous spectrum of activities which may include any or all of: Information Giving, Teaching, Advising, Coaching, Counselling and Behavioural Therapy. However, I’m reluctant even to use these labels because of their ambiguity. There are no fixed definitions of these terms. One person’s advising is another person’s coaching. One person’s coaching is another person’s counselling. There’s an awful lot of overlap between these activities.

    Even more helpful, perhaps, is to see Guidance as a number of different Actions which can be employed to achieve a number of different Intentions with a client.

    The Actions might include: Informing, Instructing, Reviewing, Providing feedback, Reflecting, Exploring, Brainstorming, Evaluating, Reality checking, Goal setting, Action planning, Challenging, Affirming, etc.

    The Intentions might include: Identifying goals, Identifying factors, Identifying strengths and gaps, Generating options, Analysing information, Prioritising criteria, Evaluating alternatives, Making decisions, Understanding consequences, Obtaining new perspectives, Discovering inconsistencies, Motivating actions, etc.

    Particular approaches to or models of guidance often focus on a sub-set of these Actions and Intentions, saying that these are the most important, useful or effective. This may be true for a particular set of clients under a particular set of circumstances. However, it is unlikely to be true for all clients and all circumstances. Following any approach, method or model with too little flexibility means that you can become approach-centred rather than client-centred. As Abraham Maslow said “He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.”

    So for me, when I am working with a client, the question is not “Am I coaching or counselling?” It is “Are my Intentions appropriate for the needs of this client?” and “Are my Actions likely to achieve those Intentions?” (There are a couple of other questions which go along with these: “Do I really understand the needs of the client?” and “Do I have the skills and resources to achieve my Intentions through these Actions?”) In practice, what I often end up doing is starting out in a more counselling-like mode whilst I try to put myself in the shoes of the client – understanding their situation from their perspective. Then I may shift to a more coaching-like mode (or advise-like or informing-like, etc.) once I have a few clues about what is likely to be most effective with this particular client.

    To me that is what client-centredness is really all about – expanding your capabilities so that you can become whatever the client needs you to be: coach, counsellor, advisor, teacher, confidant, sounding-board, etc.

  1. Time travel « Careers – in Theory

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