Coach, Therapist, Mentor Or Teacher – What Is The Difference?

A coach, a therapist, a mentor and a teacher are enjoying an afternoon off at a Starbuck’s. A woman, who is known to all four of them, walks in and orders a latte.

The teacher exclaims in dismay, “There goes all the grammar I taught her. Her order didn’t even sound like it was in English!”

The mentor nods approvingly, “Atta girl! I told her to always order with confidence.”

The therapist shakes her head vigorously, “Did you see the way she treated the barista? It clearly demonstrates insecurity engendered by suppressing her needs in childhood!”

The life coach sighs, “I wonder… What outcome does she expect? What other options might she have considered?”

Actually, the above scene never happened. But, I could see it playing out, can’t you?

All of us have at one time or another been lucky enough to find a fantastic teacher. Some of us have even been fortunate enough to find a mentor to help us navigate our career.

But how many of us have sought out a coach or a therapist? Have you wondered, “Does anyone really need these professionals? What does each of them do?”

If you are at a stage in your career where you need help to break through your boundaries, consider seeking help from one of these professionals.

Let me assure you that each of these professionals can play a significant role in elevating you from your current circumstances and helping you get ahead.

Over the last year I have been fortunate enough to work with a remarkable coach, a caring therapist and a resourceful mentor. When I write about transformative change, know that those words come from a place of deep understanding and personal experience.

My words ring true because of the help of these amazing professionals!

Are you confused as to who can help you get the most out of your investment? Welcome to today’s post! I answer all your questions and your concerns on this subject.



Let me begin with that noblest of all professions, teaching. Most of my formative years were spent with a truly fantastic teacher, my Mom, who made learning not just interesting but exciting. Up until a decade ago she was a Preschool teacher and at times a Grade Level Resource teacher.

I don’t condone popular censure of educational establishments. I believe that there is tremendous value in a formal approach to learning. Any student can progress towards their learning goals by following a well-developed lesson plan that imparts knowledge and skills. When you are starting out you need the structure that a standard curriculum can bring.

But teaching has its limitations. It is often goal oriented with a specific formal skill as its objective. Depending on where you learn the skill, you may have limited opportunity to apply or test the skill in real world situations.

There is also the question of whether the teacher herself has had any real world experience. Can such a person provide practical examples on applying theoretical knowledge?

No matter how great a teacher is, we learn best by practicing the skills that we are taught. Incremental learning, focusing only on information needed prior to when it is needed, can help us stay focused on our intermediate milestones. It can help us achieve rapid results.

If you are interested in a particular course of study, you might need a teacher. By all means explore opportunities within your company, at your alma mater or online!


Mentorship is defined as “a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.”

I have worked with a couple of amazing mentors in my career. Not only did they encourage me in my goals but they also challenged my perceptions and helped me grow from a green graduate (pun intended) to someone who could lead complex initiatives on her own.

True mentoring is more than just providing help when needed. It is about developing an active and meaningful relationship between the mentor and mentee. The mentor establishes an ongoing interaction with the mentee, transmitting experiential knowledge and providing much needed psychosocial support. The best mentors act as catalysts and trigger transformative growth in the mentee.

Most companies offer formal or informal mentoring programs, from new hire acclimation to cross-functional mentoring.

If you are serious about upward movement in your career, ask your manager or your Human Resources specialist about finding a suitable mentor.

An influential mentor who recognizes your true potential can bring you greater visibility within your organization and groom you to assume leadership roles.


Therapy is the process of exploring thoughts, feelings and behavior for the purpose of problem solving and alleviating mental distress. Therapy increases the individual’s sense of well-being, allowing them to approach higher levels of functioning.

I started seeing my therapist when I went through a period of creative tension last year. I wanted to probe why a competent, intelligent, and successful individual would make the choices I had made and suffer the consequences.

I also wanted to explore my beliefs, my references, and reconcile the glimpses of a different life that I perceived with what I had accepted as my reality.

Unfortunately, therapy has acquired a negative connotation. No wants to admit to having problems or to fixing them. I want to draw attention to this underutilized resource just for that reason.

If you were to read about these great men, you would understand that even the most exalted amongst us experience problems. In fact, facing these trials seems to create a greater capacity for tolerance and appreciation. Perhaps it does take a different kind of mind to grapple with the gravity of unforeseen questions, and to persevere in inventing a new future.

Whatever your problem or dilemma may be, if you want to gain control over your thought processes, and augment your sense of well being, therapy can help you. A good therapist can help you identify and address the root cause of any mental problems and refer you to a psychiatrist for any necessary medical intervention.

Not everyone who wants to achieve transformational change needs a therapist. Conversely not every one who sees a therapist achieves a revolutionary transformation.

When I started this website I couldn’t even bring myself to refer to any issues. But I know do so with equanimity because my breakdown has led me to my current breakthrough.

My therapist has taught me to be less self-critical and to accept small and big achievements in stride. She has allowed me to peel away the layers of false beliefs that I have built over a lifetime to reveal the true colors hidden underneath.

Therapy has helped me decompose aspects of my self that were not serving me to rebuild a being of greater potential. If this is what you desire, contact your physician for a referral to a good therapist.


Last but not least I want to share another amazing yet underutilized resource, you very own life coach.

At the same time as I was seeing my therapist, I worked with a remarkable coach. The closest I had come to having a coach was when I enrolled in a fitness-coaching program. I had never worked with a career coach before and it was a truly unique experience!

If my therapist helped me with the deep work of questioning and understanding my motivations, my coach helped me gain clarity on my values, my beliefs and my true capabilities. To use a corny phrase, she helped me see my true potential. She also helped me discover solutions and build a framework to achieve my goals.

The lines between therapy and coaching can be blurred based on the topic under discussion and your coach or therapist’s approach. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines Coaching as follows:

Coaching supports personal and professional growth based on self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is future focused. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphases in a coaching relationship are on action, accountability, and follow through.

The simplest delineation between the two disciplines is this: Therapy is focused on coming to terms with and improving your capability to function in the present. Coaching is focused on the future, on developing greater self awareness and building strategies to achieve positive growth in your life.

In fact, I recommend that everyone work with a coach to articulate their future vision and create an accountability structure. If you need to identify and fix problems, continue seeing a therapist while executing your vision.

Which brings me to my announcement. My journey over the last 2 years has pivoted me towards coaching.

As a scientist and a consultant I have always been curious about the world around me. Coaching has finally bridged the gap of lack of satisfaction in my work. Many disciplines, science and consulting included are eager to tell you what to do and how to do it. Coaching is truly unique in that encourages clients to connect their own dots and arrive at their own solutions.

I find the view through the lens of coaching to be panoramic! I can see the beauty and uniqueness of every individual; there is so much brilliance, creativity, imagination and bravery on this planet! Each client is an unsolved mystery, they hold the clues in their own two hands. My role as a coach is to help them uncover those clues and find the path to unlocking their potential.

I am launching a Creative Coaching program! I will be using a blend of elicitation techniques juxtaposed against creativity drawn from holistic coaching, drama and visualization to help my clients vocalize their stories.

My goal is to help professionals in all stages of their career to take charge and break through to the NEXT ACT in their lives.

Here is feedback from my very first client who is in the midst of a career transition. After our session, she left with greater confidence in her ability to find jobs that align with her unique talents.

Kay: Thank You! Your advice was spot-on. You helped verbalize my vision in the perfect way for me to convey my passion for my company and my job. You have highlighted the unique strengths that differentiate me from other analysts who are at the same level.

Intrigued? Interested in working with me? Contact me for a complimentary consultation! Because, you won’t really know what awaits you in the next phase until you try.

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