What isn’t coaching?

By Marzieh Nezakat-Alhosseini

What isn’t coaching? In the previous note, we talked about what coaching is. In the present note, we aim at talking about what coaching is not.

What isn’t coaching?

As coaching is a newcomer to the Iranian context, it can be confused with other, yet similar, disciplines such as counselling, psychotherapy, mentoring, and even teaching1,2,3. Though the borders are somehow blurry, and there is overlap in both theory and practice between, there are some principles to coaching that can, to some extent, differentiate coaching from the above-mentioned disciplines2.

The first principle is that, in coaching, there is this common belief that clients are resourceful in nature. That is, they have the necessary resources in need to resolve whatever their situation is. Though the coach is there to provide the necessary information to the client, it is of choice on the part of the client to accept or refuse it. Therefore, the role of a coach is to ask good questions, challenge the client, and then provide support to help the client unleash their potential. As a result, giving advice has no place in coaching as it implies that “I know better than you”. Moreover, giving advice leads to emotional dependence which is by no means in line with coaching principles.

The second principle is about the importance of the client’s past, present, and future. Therefore, coaches should not merely focus on the client’s present issues, as not knowing the previous influencing events, limits the coach’s perspective. Here, the difference between coaching and mentoring bolds out since in mentoring, more focus is on the future opportunities ahead of the client. It is worth noting though that coaches are not psychotherapist, so they should not analyze the client’s past, and need to keep the boundaries in mind.

The third principle differentiates coaching and teaching. When there is teaching involved, the teacher sets the agenda, and discusses the issues planned beforehand. However, although coaches might have specific frameworks to go through in coaching sessions, they should not insist on delivering them if they are not consistent with what the client is willing to discuss. As a result, coaching sessions should differ from classrooms.

The next principle is about the place coaching defines for coaches and their clients. In coaching, coaches and clients are considered equal. Therefore, it is very different from counselling sessions or in psychotherapy in which one party is the counsellor or the doctor, and the other is the patient. Consequently, there is mutual respect between the two, and judging holds no place in coaching sessions. Without such respect, it is better to call off the coaching relationship.

The last principle is that coaching is about making changes for the better. This aspect of coaching is much shared with the fundamentals of resilience, and is most emphasized in coaching resilience4. Thus, if a client shows interest in coaching sessions, but does not seem willing to change, it is better for coaching sessions to come to an end.

Now that we provided a more accurate picture of coaching, it is time to talk of different types of coaching in the following notes.


1Hayes, P. (2006). NLP coaching. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
2Rogers, J. (2012). Coaching skills: A handbook: A handbook. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
3Rogers, J. (2016). Coaching skills: the definitive guide to being a coach. Open University Press.
4Pemberton, C. (2015). Resilience: A practical guide for coaches. Open University Press.

Dr. Marzieh Nezakatalhosseini
What isn’t coaching?
Iranian Social Workers
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