The Coach & Client Relationship

We have many different relationships in our lives, all of which have their own unique value.

In this post, I’ve chosen to look at the unique qualities of different relationships that help us grow, and compare these qualities to the relationship between coach and client.

From my perspective, a great coach embodies many of the characteristics of each of these different people in our lives and not all of any of them. That’s what makes coaching unique.

Friends & Siblings

Unique Quality:
Friendships provide a place where many of us feel like we can completely be ourselves. Connections have been built over long periods of time and many interactions.

How it shows up in coaching:
Similarly, coaching is not meant to be overly formal (at least my style), and a coach does not consider themselves “above” the client. Coaching is a place to completely be yourself, with zero judgment. Coaches also get to know their clients better over time and can adjust their style to create a more impactful relationship.


Unique Quality:
One of the unique things about many parents is their ability to believe in you when nobody else does. Some of us are lucky enough to have a parent who embodies this belief to the fullest extent.

How it shows up in coaching:
Similarly, a professional coach holds a core belief and specifically tailors their approach around the idea that you are fully competent, creative, resourceful, and whole. An honest belief in your capabilities WILL have an impact on you whether you believe it or not. I would argue that great coaches actually believe this more wholeheartedly than many parents because they simply aren’t as invested. Our parents tend to want the best for us, but many consider our achievements to be a reflection of themselves as parents, which can lead to bias in their support.

Teachers & Mentors

Unique Quality:
A great teacher can effectively transmit knowledge when you want to learn a particular skill. A mentor is an experienced and trusted adviser, and the relationship often develops as a teacher and friend. A mentor can be in your field of expertise, or they may just be a life mentor.

How it shows up in coaching:
A coach may teach or mentor you IF this particular relationship is established. For example, if you are pursuing a career similar to theirs, there could be times where pure (and solicited) advice is beneficial. Mentoring combined with coaching is extra powerful, and works best when the approaches are distinguished from one another.

Life Partners

Unique Quality:
Your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, partner, etc. can be critical to your success. We partner with people to be vulnerable and discover ourselves.

How it shows up in coaching:
Clearly, a coach is not your significant other (and it is completely unethical for a coach to enter into this type of relationship with a client), but they can offer support on issues that are as intimate as the ones we share with our partners. Beyond this, a coach is someone you can share things with that you wouldn’t be able to share with your partner.


Unique Quality:
Therapists can play a crucial role in personal development and long-term success. Therapists offer you a chance to heal from (sometimes deep) emotional and psychological wounds. Our beliefs, habits, addictions, etc. usually stem from our childhood. It is possible to unearth the root cause of these things with or without a therapist, but seeing one will usually make the process easier and more productive.

How it shows up in coaching:
While the coaching relationship is future-focused, moving forward often requires us to surface limiting beliefs, assumptions, emotions, and behaviors tied to the past. Depending on the coach and your openness, you might be confronted with these things very quickly! The coaching relationship is about using this awareness to take action and move forward.

Final thoughts…

The highest, and most beneficial, is the relationship you have with yourself. A coach who has developed a strong relationship with themselves can offer you the social and emotional environment to do the same.

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