A Comparison © Martyn Carruthers

Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Training

Our systemic coaching does not replace classical coaching, consulting, counseling, psychotherapy or psychiatry. Each is useful for different objectives and different problems. Our systems coaching is useful when solving relationship problems with complex emotional issue s and ambiguous objectives.

What results do YOU want?

If something bothers you, probably you seek solutions. If the problems persist – you may seek help. If your problem is mental or emotional, then you may talk to friends and family, and, if that fails, you may consider seeking a specialist. But which one? See Evolution of Coaching Styles.

Perhaps you make a few telephone calls or some online searches. You explore who is experienced in your issue and what they charge. You want to know long it will take to solve your problem, which depends on your goals, motivation and the helping professional’s skill. So you make an appointment …

Coaching, Consulting, Counseling, Therapy & Psychiatry

It can be difficult to differentiate between advertisements of helping styles. Most helping professionals seem to claim they can help you do the same things – during rather expensive conversations:

  • learn or acquire life skills
  • become happier and more productive
  • better function within your family, community or culture
  • experience personal growth / develop your human potential

A problem is that credentials may not signify valid experience. The experience of sitting in classrooms and libraries for five or ten years or more may not support maturity, experience nor competence.

It’s them letters you get to put after your name,’ he whispered. ‘They are very expensive letters! It might not cost much money to become a witch, but when you want them
letters, oh, don’t you need that money!
Terry Pratchett on credentials

Coaching, consulting, counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatry are conversations about attitudes, feelings, interests, goals, self esteem and behaviors. If your problem appears solvable, all may offer you solutions, although some solutions have consequences which may be worse than the problems. The following general descriptions may help you compare and choose:

Types of Conversations

Coach Coaching is about helping you achieve your goals using life coaching, accelerated learning, etc to resolve emotional and relationship blocks to your success. Coaching began as a way to accelerate skill acquisition in university, then in sports and then in business. It is now a popular way to accelerate human development and potential.
Consultant Consulting is usually about helping you with specific expertise such as financial, legal or medical advice. Consulting is often associated with corporate and organizational goals. A consultant is often a specialist in specific technical, financial, legal or medical specialties.
Counselor According to the Committee on Definition of the American Psychological Association; the objectives of counseling are to “help individuals toward overcoming obstacles to their personal growth, wherever these may be encountered, and toward achieving optimum development of their personal resources“. Specialties include pre-marital, marriage, post-abortion and family counseling.
Therapist Psychotherapy is about changing personality and coping with strong emotions. This includes individual therapy and systemic family therapy. A psychotherapist may help you re-arrange your personality and integrate insights into your behavior, to control negative emotions and behaviors associated with neurosis and emotional problems.
Psychiatrist Psychiatry is about controlling emotions and inappropriate behavior, often using drugs such as stimulants and anti-depressants. Although psychiatry is medicine, a psychiatric diagnosis is usually an opinion that cannot be verified in a laboratory. A psychiatrist can prescribe drugs to help control negative emotions and behavior.
Compare & Contrast Conversations & Interventions

Treatment time differs between coaching, consulting, counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatry. Systemic coaching is often measured in hours and classic coaching in days. Consulting often follows a contract of a few weeks. Counseling sessions are often over months. Psychotherapy sessions may last for years. Psychiatry treatment and medication can continue for decades.


Professionals offer different focus. A coach asks “What do you want?” A consultant asks “What is the problem?” A counselor examines “What is happening now?“. A therapist enquires “What happened in your past?“. A psychiatrist may ponder “What drugs might manage or mask your emotions?


Goals are what you want, although few people can specify them. We can help you resolve conflicts that prevent you defining your goals. A consultant may help you solve specific problems. Counselors may help you solve a life crisis and psychotherapists can help you with emotional and personality problems.

A psychiatrist may not ask what you want and instead consider psychopharmacology – which drugs can mask what emotions? As coaches, we have only your goals. Your agenda is the only agenda that matters.


We accept your objections, and use your resistance to help you fine-tune a goal until you are certain you want it. Counselors may regard your resistance as a nuisance and try to reduce it. A consultant may offer logical arguments to counter your objections. Psychotherapists often try to understand your resistance, to help your change your personality. Psychiatrists may rely on their authority, ignore objections or enforce a medication.


Transference is mistaken identity – confusing one person with another. Although called positive and negative, depending on the emotions it elicits, transference distorts relationships. Counselors often want a personal relationship with clients, yet may perceive transference as a manifestation of immaturity. Psychotherapists may use transference to gain authority. We offer simple ways to quickly resolve fixations, transferences and transference loops.

Comparison of Goals and Methods

The conversations used in coaching, consulting, counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatry overlap. I find that coaches, counselors and therapists often appear more eclectic (or heretic) than consultants or psychiatrists, and more willing to think outside the boxes that they learned at university.

A simplified comparison of the styles of some helping professionals.

Time Focus Goals Objections Transference Resources
Psychiatry Decades Biochemical homeostasis Provide mental homeostasis Overcome with authority Use to increase authority Medication
Therapy Years Family of origin Reorganize personality Research causes Utilize Analysis
Counseling Months Reality of life demands Cope with life problems Avoid & minimize Minimize Life Skills
Consulting Weeks Complex problems Solve problems Logical argument Ignore Training & Experience
Classic Coaching Weeks Simple problems Your success Dissociate & ignore Ignore Coach training
Systemic Coaching Days Sense of life Emotional maturity Accept & resolve Dissolve Systemic Coach Training & Expert Modeling

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