Someone asked me recently what the difference was between being in therapy or working with a consultant. That is a great question because there are significant differences in my view. Therapy is first introduced to an individual at an early age as though something is wrong with you or your behavior and we are going to take you to someone to get it fixed. For example, schools often tell parents that their child is not functioning in an appropriate manner for their age group and they suggest that you take your child for an evaluation by a therapist. The motivation for change in behavior is coming from a source outside the identified person. Likewise, very often when a couple decides to go to therapy, one person in the marriage is unhappy or wants things to change and they often persuade (coerce) the other person to go to try to get them to change or behave differently. Similarly, in both examples, the potential for change is not self-directed or motivated but rather is coming from pressure from someone else. The so-called “identified person" is not requesting help. That's not to say that some people will seek therapy on their own because they see some behavior or concern that is causing them stress and unhappiness and is blocking them from what they really want in life.

On the other hand, a person enters consulting with a more positive and self-directed attitude. There is usually no outside source pushing you. It is more like, “I know that I can be a better person, have more joy in my life, be more committed to my values, and more determined to produce results than to utters excuses. It is very much about commitment and responsibility for self that motivates the individual. It usually doesn't come from an outside source telling you that there is something wrong with you or the way you're doing it.

For example, when you buy a business, you might hire a consulting firm known for acquisitions; if you are going through a tax audit, you might hire a consulting team of accounts & lawyers; and if you're going through a divorce, you would probably hire a consultant who is an attorney and a mediator. These are just people who have more experience and have been through similar situations a few more times than you have been; and, you just want to consult with them, bounce ideas off of them, and then, make YOUR decision.

The therapy process is sometimes met with starts and stops. Inconsistency. Why? It is all about motivation and if you have more than one person setting the tone and pace for the work, there's always the opportunity for distraction, cancelled appointments and foot dragging. “I didn’t want to be here anyway.” Consulting is more often than not entered into by a single individual who realizes their part, their responsibility and their ownership for the situation. Try to force an adolescent into therapy, attempt to drag your spouse to therapy in order to produce change, or force any therapeutic process and it will most likely backfire. You don't have the most important ingredient which is individual commitment and responsibility. This is the strongest element I find in consulting. You call yourself into account for your behavior; you are answerable to yourself.

I believe, there are some basic questions that everyone needs to answer whether you are in therapy, consulting or neither — starting with: why am I here, and while here, what am I doing to accomplish “why am I here?” Questions, like the following, might bring somebody into consulting: “Am I living my life with purpose and passion? What really turns me on and what are my highest priorities? What is limiting and preventing me from accomplishing them?

I think the biggest emphasis in consulting is that it is totally your choice; you know that you can do and be better; and you are committed to making a consistent, determined effort to break the family patterns that are holding you back from living “more fully alive!”

One of the major reasons why I call myself a relationship consultant rather than a therapist is because I am tired of trying to change the overall stigma that there is something wrong with people who go to therapy. Even your health insurance company will pay something for your therapy because they believe that therapy helps solve mental health problems. There is no insurance reimbursement for consulting because it is not viewed as a mental health situation.

As your consultant, I am interested in helping you build your best self…to communicate more fully and effectively…I hold up a mirror for you to clearly see your behavior and help you to hold

yourself answerable and accountable for it… it is a partnership towards success…it is a regular, ongoing process…geared to help you show up as the best version of yourself. Let’s continue the discussion at:


Tom Power is a family relationship consultant and the author of “Family Matters: A Layperson’s Guide to Family Functioning.” You can check out his website at or email questions to

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