Coach, Consultant, Therapist or Mentor?

What's the difference between a consultant, coach, mentor and therapist? Read the explanation we have been leveraging in the coaching world for many years.

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Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

As a coach (and former consultant) I am often asked about the differences between a consultant, coach, mentor and therapist.  What follows is an explanation that we have been leveraging for many years in the coaching world. The original source is unknown.

The explanation of the differences between the practices of a coach, consultant, therapist and mentor are relayed nicely through the lens of learning to ride a bike.

A consultant: A consultant is an expert in bike riding. They’ve already mastered the bike riding process and figured out the most efficient way to do it. They will typically assess what you’ve been doing so far and provide you with a detailed plan on how to do it correctly, complete with a step by step process. They get paid to provide you with “how to ride a bike” answers. They focus on the problem.

A therapist: A therapist is most interested in why you are unable to ride a bike. What’s in your past, or childhood, that presents a barrier to your learning? They dig in there and work with you to fix it. They focus on why the problem is there.

A mentor: A mentor has been riding a bike for quite some time and is there to share what they know about the process. They want to see you be successful and are willing to spend time with you. It could be compared to learning by seeing. They most likely have had the problem too.

A coach: A coach offers a different type of relationship altogether. There’s a lot of asking and not much telling. They are your champion. Helping you achieve your goal of riding a bike by asking thought provoking questions and shining a light on your strengths. They work with you to tap into what you already know, and help you break through your limiting beliefs. A coach will run alongside of you holding the bike steady while you’re learning. They’re cheering you on every step of the way, and they let go of the bike when you’re ready to ride solo. A coach is focused on you.

If you’re considering hiring a coach (or a mentor, consultant, therapist) understanding how they each differ will help you make the best selection for your needs.

This article was originally published on the Bright Arrow Coaching Blog.

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