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Coaching and Mental Health

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May 14, 2024
CEO, Founder & Executive Coach
3 min read
Coaching empowers personal and professional growth, distinct from counselling, yet plays a key role in recognising mental health needs and facilitating support.

Coaching and Mental Health

Coaching is an invaluable tool for personal and professional development. It focuses on empowering individuals to achieve their goals and improve performance in various aspects of their lives. While coaching and counselling are distinct disciplines, the intersection of coaching and mental health is an area of growing importance and interest.

Coaches, though not mental health professionals play a crucial role in recognising mental health needs and facilitating appropriate support through effective signposting.

Understanding the Role of Coaching

Coaching primarily revolves around goal setting, personal growth, and enhancing performance. Its robust emphasis on the future rather than dealing with past issues, which is more typical of counselling, enables coaches to work with clients to clarify goals, create action plans, and foster accountability, thereby enabling them to make strategic decisions and broaden their perspectives. This can indirectly support mental health by boosting confidence, resilience, and the capacity to handle life's challenges.

The Distinction Between Coaching and Counseling

It is crucial for both coaches and clients to understand that coaching is not a substitute for counselling. Counseling deals with psychological, emotional, and mental health problems, often focusing on resolving past issues and improving emotional functioning. Coaches are not trained to diagnose or treat mental health disorders and must be mindful of the boundaries of their professional capabilities.

However, coaches are often positioned to observe signs of mental health struggles in their clients, such as changes in mood, reduced performance, or altered engagement during sessions. Recognising these signs is the first step in responsibly addressing potential mental health issues.

Ethical Boundaries and Responsibilities

Coaches have a responsibility to maintain clear boundaries to ensure that they do not venture into the realm of mental health therapy. Professional coaching bodies often provide ethical guidelines that include recognising the limits of one's training and expertise. Coaches must ensure that their sessions focus on development and performance while being attentive and sensitive to signs that indicate a need for psychological intervention.

Maintaining confidentiality and trust is paramount in coaching, just as it is in counselling. Coaches should provide a safe environment where clients can discuss their goals and challenges without fear of judgment or breach of privacy.

Signposting and Referral to Mental Health Services

Signposting is a critical skill for coaches. It involves recognising when a client’s needs are beyond the coach's scope and advising them on how to seek appropriate help. This does not imply that coaches are assessing or diagnosing mental health conditions; rather, they acknowledge the need for additional support and guide clients on where to find it.

Effective signposting involves having a good understanding of the available mental health resources, such as therapists, counselling services, or support groups.

Coaches should familiarise themselves with these resources, not only to make informed recommendations but also to ensure that clients receive the best possible support in a timely manner.

Training and Education for Coaches

Coaches need appropriate training to effectively support clients while maintaining professional boundaries. This includes understanding basic mental health first aid, recognising the signs of mental distress, and knowing the fundamentals of how to discuss mental health without providing counselling.

Such training helps coaches remain sensitive to the nuances of mental health and ensures that they are equipped to handle sensitive situations appropriately.


The role of coaching in supporting mental health, albeit indirectly, is significant. Coaches, while not therapists are in a unique position to observe, support, and facilitate the mental well-being of their clients by recognising when to maintain boundaries and how to guide clients towards professional mental health services.

As coaching continues to evolve, its integration with understanding mental health needs will undoubtedly become a standard component of training programmes, enhancing the overall effectiveness of coaching as a tool for personal and professional development.