Differences amongst psychotherapy, mentoring and coaching

In most stages of our life, we can grow quicker and solve problems more easily when other people support us during the process.

Naturally, as human beings, in our process of growth we are always searching for the “magic pill” – the one thing that will solve all our problems straight away without any effort. Of course, this “magic pill” does not exist.

It’s the same when people look for help. They want the silver bullet and ask the question: “What is better: coaching, mentoring or psychotherapy?”. The answer is simple: None of these is better or worse than the other. What you need to understand is that each of those approaches has its own value.

Your choice of method should really depend on the problem that you want to tackle. None of them are the much sought out “magic pill” that will solve all of your life’s problems all at once, but if you pick the right one for particular challenges, you will benefit a lot.


So what is the use of each of these approaches? Let’s start with psychotherapy. The basic idea of psychotherapy is that mental disorders can be cured – or at least improved – through conversation-based therapies.

So fundamentally, psychotherapy aims at shifting abnormal behaviours to normal behaviours. The areas in which psychotherapy is applied are manyfold. They range from addictions to eating disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. The two most commonly used approaches are cognitive behavioural therapy and depth psychology.

In cognitive behavioural therapy, the psychologist helps the patient to develop healthier reactions to a situation that triggers the mental disorder. Depth psychology aims at understanding the root cause of the mental disease and holds the assumption that understanding the cause will help the client to leave the mental disorder behind. One specific form of depth psychology is psychoanalysis, which has been developed by Sigmund Freud.

In practice, many psychologists combine different approaches of psychotherapy to achieve the best results. What is important for you to know regarding the friendship coaching is that there are certain severe challenges that your girlfriend will not be able to treat. Of course the coaching that we offer may support you once you decide for psychotherapy; however, it cannot be a substitute for professional help.


A mentor is a person who has more life experience than his or her protegée and guides the mentee through a particular stage in life. Similar to coaching, mentorship is found in many areas of life such as business and health for instance. The kind of help that a mentor provides can be caring words in difficult times as well as straightforward advice or role modelling.

What mentors also often do in stark contrast to coaches or psychotherapy is to invite the mentee into certain parts of the mentor’s life. The mentor shares his or her network, takes the mentee to certain events or supports the mentee otherwise in having certain experiences for growth. Furthermore, many mentors also support the mentee with particular opportunities that the mentee normally would have never had as the mentee is in a much more junior role as the mentor.

Oftentimes, mentor-protegée relationships form informally through networking or at the workplace. In other instances, universities or companies may assign mentors based on experience as part of a personal development scheme. As a rule of thumb, mentoring is provided free of charge, which differentiates it from coaching and psychotherapy which are commercial professions.

Traditional Coaching

Coaching is a setup, in which the coach supports a client in the achievement of a particular goal. This goal is usually very specific and can take place in different areas of life: there is health coaching, life coaching, executive coaching and many other fields of focus.

Despite being focussed on a particular topic, coaching should not be confused with tutoring. A coach will rarely teach the client content, but rather help the client move on with a problem by asking the right questions and by developing strategies on how to deal with challenging situations. One does not need a formal education to become a coach, but in recent years the number of offered coaching courses has vastly increased.

What is crucial to understand when it comes to coaching is that the coach pushes you to find answers within yourself, as there are many aspects guiding you towards a solution that the coach would most probably not even know about. You are the expert and the coach is your facilitator, your cheerleader and your sparring partner.

These are the functions that your Philia Partner can also fulfil, as your accountability partner in the friendship coaching outlined in the Philia e-learning course, which will be offered soon. The premise is always that you are the expert of your own life, your own path, your own passions, wishes and goals. Your friend stands outside of it and guides you to connect to your own truth.

Friendship Coaching: The PHILIA Project

So where does the Philia Project fit in? When we designed the programme, we included the best of all worlds.

The overall structure of the programme is very similar to a coaching programme. The aim is to gain clarity around your goals, establish alignment with your true self and keep you accountable for the work that needs to be done to get closer towards living your dreams. The Philia method is a lot about learning tools and tricks to deal with everyday challenges.

But, other than in the relationship to a paid coach, your Philia Partner is able to provide you with much more context-specific feedback. They know you! In this respect, the Philia Programme resembles rather a mentorship relationship.

And psychotherapy? Well, we do not claim in any way that the programme can substitute for a psychotherapist. But we have added quite a few insights from psychology into the programme so that you and your Philia Partner will gain a better understanding about deeper reasons as well as neurological processes within your body behind your struggles and how to overcome them. For reasons of simplicity, we will refer to the programme as a coaching programme though.