Category Archives: maturity

Counseling or Coaching? Which Is Best For You?


Although there are a lot of similarities between counseling and coaching, there are also some distinctions that are important to understand as you seek a counselor or coach.

  • Counseling helps you move through the pain, struggles, or challenges of the past.
  • Coaching is about results – moving forward with growth – realizing your dreams.

Sometimes we are needing both – it requires healing the past to be able to move forward with our goals. Pastor and author Peter Scazerro in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality says that it is impossible to become spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. His advice is that we must go backwards and deal with our past before we can effectively move forward with maturity. For some that might be a priority.

But for others who have already taken an introspective journey, strategizing for the future might be their greatest need. In this case some different tools are required to achieve goals. What’s desired may be defining a clear direction, breaking it down into manageable action steps, and having accountability to follow through with the steps. This is the realm of coaching.

Just like there are general counselors and specialty counselors, there are a diversity of coaches. Do you need a life coach, a business coach, a spiritual coach, a parent coach or some other more specific help? Most coaches can help in a variety of ways without having detailed specifics of a particular field. They can ask great questions and get you thinking on a particular track. But sometimes the assistance you need is very specific. In those cases finding just the right person is invaluable. Have they walked the road you want to walk? Have they been successful?

Coach or Counselor?

Can a counselor also be a coach and a coach be a counselor? Well, yes and no. A counselor can certainly function as a coach, especially if they know that is your primary goal. But a coach is generally restricted to dealing with the present and future. It would not be helpful to assume that they are interchangeable roles. The training for each is different and counselors are often licensed whereas coaches may have various levels of preparation and certification – or not.

Whereas most counseling takes place in person or by video, coaching may not require that kind of connection. Much of some kinds of coaching can be done over the telephone or email. That’s because reading body language and making emotional connections is usually less critical. Coaching requires doing assigned homework and reporting back results. Sessions may not to be as long, but perhaps more frequent.

What may be the most important factor in choosing someone is the person themselves. Do you trust their character as well as their knowledge? Can you be honest with them? Whether being coached or counseled, can you walk with them confidently for a season?

The Problem With Disagreement

One of the perspectives I seek out in counseling is what I call “continuum thinking”.  It is my resistance to all or nothing, either/or, polarized viewpoints.

This morning I was thinking about what annoys me so much about a lot of the discourse that takes place on social media, other public or private settings and with couples on the counseling couch. And it is this: the vehemence with which some people will hold their opinions. I have been guilty of this, and if you are honest, you probably have been too.

The continuum I am referring to in this case is based on the intensity that is exhibited during one of these “discussions”.

Disagreeing ____________________ Argumentative _____________________ Abusive

I would judge the level of maturity as declining from left to right on the above chart.

I have observed that people will often hold their opinion as “Truth or Fact” when it is simply their perspective, or they are repeating someone else’s. There is objective truth, but our emotional connection to certain issues will sometimes confuse or blindside us. We must be very careful that we hold our opinions gently so that we do not create relational distance and chaos.

When it comes to social media, there is a lot of hearsay, as well as sound bites that are taken out of context. We can become victim to these repetitions and become part of the problem if we are not careful. Once we put our words out there, they are hard or impossible to retract. They might follow us around for a long time after our opinion has changed. I would ask you to consider carefully before posting anything in anger or haste.

Nan and I have both experienced people that have not been able to accurately place their behavior on the above chart. I have seen some believe they are disagreeing when they are really being very abusive – and others who will label their partners as abusive when they are really just not agreeing with them. This is one of the reasons why an outside perspective can be so helpful. The way a person sees things can be a huge blindspot. We need others to lovingly confront us at times. And it should be our goal to lovingly present our disagreements to others.

Power and Responsibility

There are those who believe that they have a right to express themselves to others anytime they desire. It may be true that they have the ability or power to do that, but I would suggest that along with that power comes responsibility. That responsibility is to keep the positive goal in mind. It is very unlikely that someone will be convinced by negative, argumentative, defensive or hostile communication. Rather they will probably withdraw or become more resistant. If your need is to be heard, then process your feelings alone until you can present them in a receivable way.

I’m feeling pretty passionate about this right now because I have seen some real relational ruptures lately. Friends turn on one another, people leave the church, and couples split up. When this happens we have not displayed the kind of unity that Christ has called us to as a believing body. We have let politics, social issues and specific theologies divide us from our ultimate purpose. How would you respond?

The False Self

young woman holding smiling face

I just finished reading the chapter entitled “The Impostor” from Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning.  It is about the false self — the shadow personality or projected self that we all have.

The false self always wants to look better than it is – better than it feels. It wants to project an image of being more successful, smarter, more courageous, more confident, more competent, and more emotionally healthy. But it is hiding behind an illusion of its own making.The ability to present our true selves is critical in dating and marriage. How can I really love you if I don’t know who you are down deep. If I don’t really know you, then who and what am I saying “yes” to at the marriage alter? This is one of the reasons why taking a reasonable amount of time before becoming engaged is essential. Can you really say you have gotten past the projected image to the real person?

It is always unpleasant to be confronted with our failings and dishonesty, and harder yet to admit them. It is an even more difficult task to actually dig for them. Is the purpose of that kind of exercise to lead us down a path of self condemnation?

Not at all!

Honest self examination should lead us to humility and to self forgiveness. It should bring us to a place where we can accept the reality of our flaws without becoming overwhelmed by them. The failure to do so will often result in hostility towards others and/or hatred or some other form of violence towards our self.

Accepting the existence of our false self does not mean becoming resigned to living out of our false self.  Rather, it means being aware that there is an internal tug-of-war going on that wants to put image ahead of honesty. Let’s face it; it is painful to let others see our uglier, but more honest side. But will they truly know us until they do? Can we accept others’ imperfections until we make peace with our own or will we just become judgmental and harsh with them?

Again, the key is in self forgiveness just as God has forgiven us.

We can move towards maturity and growth and honesty and away from fear, anxiety and self protection when we know that we are acceptable and loved. Intimacy with others grows as we reveal our true selves. Vulnerability with safe people produces closeness, and closeness lets us experience love and acceptance.

Drawing near to God may be our first step in shrinking the false self. He accepts us just as we are, and He loves us unconditionally. And He does so knowing us completely. When He is our focus, we begin to lose some of the need to hold on to our insecurities and defenses. We realize that He protects us and validates us and our identity shifts.

If there are obstacles in the way of your growth, there is always help available by reaching out.