One of the most frequently asked questions sent to the mailbox at Peer Resources is “What is the difference between a mentor, a coach and a counsellor?” Distinguishing between these three roles may actually be misleading, according to a recent e-mail response from Rey Carr, Chief Executive Officer at Peer Resources. Carr believes that “the language of distinction is at best motivated by a need for clarity or at worst indicative of turf guarding or competitiveness.” In order to distinguish between mentors, counsellors, and coaches, for example, someone has to pinpoint or describe each role. Such descriptions in Carr’s view typically stem from outdated, stereotyped or “straw man” role definitions. Carr reports that it is not unusual for a practitioner in one of the areas (for example, counselling) to read a description of what a coach does and remark,”Hey, I do most of those things too.”
Carr hypothesizes that few experienced practitioners in any of these roles worry about or spend much time on role differences. According to Carr, “experienced coaches and mentors can tolerate considerable ambiguity in their roles. Such acceptance can often lead to more productive, innovative and effective interactions. New coaches (or mentors or counsellors) may be developmentally unready to accept role merging. They may be more worried about where they fit into the scheme of things and how they are going to market their services.” Carr, who has trained hundreds of coaches, counsellors and mentors, believes that moving from a competitive stance, where one tries to distinguish oneself from others to a cooperative stance, where one discovers commonalities with others is a measure of spiritual growth, often ignored in most professional training programs.