A question I often get asked is the difference between therapy, mentoring and coaching. Knowing and understanding the difference in each one’s approach to working with you is important to ensure your needs are met.
The roles of therapists, mentors and coaches are complex. I’m not going to go into the intricacies that each one offers, as that could take years! Instead, I will look at how they may approach working with you and some of the benefits I have found from each.
Imagine you are struggling to learn how to ride a bike and you ask each one for help:
A therapist would have you approach the bike and ask how it feels, what prior associations you have with bikes and find out what your past experience with bikes is and suggest strategies to help
A mentor would have experience riding bikes, would explain how they learnt and write a ‘how to’ guide for you to follow
A coach would ask you to get on the bike and walk alongside you until you could do it on your own
When considering which of these might suit your needs, there can be crossover and they are not mutually exclusive. There may be times in your life where you may want to use the services of more than one and other times when your needs are more specific.
For example, as a qualified coach I would never attempt to provide therapy and would suggest a client seek a professional if those services were required instead of or alongside coaching.
Over the years, I've been lucky to work with all three with some of my experiences shared here:
Therapy has given me a greater understanding of why I feel a certain way and why I react to different situations based on my past. It has given me reassurance knowing that other people go through similar experiences and that there are processes and techniques to help me deal with challenges I face, particularly relating to my mental health.
Mentoring has helped to guide and push me in my previous roles where I had managers who also acted as mentors. I also had a mentor whilst training to be a coach and building up my business. The greatest value, for me, was learning about their different approaches and experiences. It allowed me to take their wisdom and advice, try myself with space to make mistakes and have their support to keep me on track throughout.
Coaching always leaves me feeling empowered and motivated to move forwards, both in my professional and private life. I value the space it provides to focus and reflect and the ability to come up with solutions that are right for me. Working with a coach has helped me to look at problems from different perspectives. I can then think about how I want to be and what I want to do in order to tackle those problems directly.
Here is a quote from one of my clients sharing her experience and how coaching and therapy have complemented each other:
“Therapy helps me reflect on why I feel or react the way that I do, whereas coaching helps me think about what I want to do in the future, and how I want to achieve it. Both therapy and coaching have been, and continue to be, really helpful tools for helping me identify and stay true to my core 'self' - which is something that I feel is pulled in all sorts of different directions as I take on more roles personally (daughter, wife, mother, friend) and as a curious & evolving leader professionally.”
There are useful places to help find the right service and person for you to work with. The important thing with all three is that you find someone you trust and are comfortable with.
Mentoring is traditionally provided through the workplace, although depending on which area you are looking for a mentor, your best friend here will be Google, Linked In or asking colleagues.
If you have had therapy, mentoring or coaching, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the benefits you've experienced in the comments below!