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Which hat do I wear? It depends on the day

Before spending a drop of energy figuring this out, here’s some good news: The USC Center for Work and Family Life (CWFL) offers all three services, free of charge, to eligible faculty, physicians, and staff. Read on to learn the features and distinctions of these roles and better understand which service is for you.


Coaching is a collaborative process in which participants set long-term desired outcomes, then meet with a coach to explore their motivations, identify values and strengths, discover options and resources, discuss potential obstacles, and develop action plans to make those outcomes a reality. Coaching presumes that clients are whole, not operating at a deficit or struggling with crisis, and capable of setting their own agendas and finding answers for themselves. Therefore, the coach’s role is not to direct, lead, or share advice with participants, but rather to facilitate the participants’ process of exploration, create an optimal thinking environment, encourage action, and promote accountability for follow-through toward the stated desired outcomes. On a global basis, coaching is statistically the most popular form of professional development. If you want to develop your leadership, take your performance to a new level of excellence, or accomplish something wildly ambitious (but with a smoother, quicker path), then you want a coach. CWFL has trained, experienced coaches that hold credentials from the International Coach Federation and support USC faculty, physicians, and Director-level staff. CWFL also facilitates no-cost coaching referrals for management and high performing professional staff who don’t fall into the faculty, physician, or Director categories.


Counseling is also a collaborative, goal-oriented service, but unlike coaching, its primary goal is to help participants cope with or overcome a problem or set of problems. Contrary to historical, biased beliefs, participating in counseling does not imply that a person is somehow flawed. On the contrary, it shows good judgment to seek help when challenges are interfering with social/ occupational functioning or lowering quality of life. If you need help managing relationships (work or personal), behavior, strong emotions, work performance, substance use, or overall work-life balance—and your natural support systems and individual efforts have not been sufficient to overcome those challenges—then you need a counselor. Fortunately, CWFL’s licensed clinical staff have been supporting all benefits-eligible faculty and staff with confidential, professional counseling services for over 38 years, and scheduling a meeting with them in a convenient location is only a phone call away.


Consultation is a generic term that refers to sharing expertise or professional feedback. In the context of workplace behavior and relationships, consultation often involves helping leaders and managers better understand how human elements—personalities, communication, emotions, values, and thinking styles—affect their organizational performance. Consultation can also involve helping a team or work group manage a significant change, new challenge, loss, or trauma. If you are a leader or manager whose staff present behavioral challenges, conflict, or performance issues that are increasingly unmanageable and negatively impacting the workplace—or if your organization has been affected by change or tragedy—you need a consultant. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that CWFL has offered specialized management and work group consultation throughout its 38-year tenure.

Hopefully, this article has provided you a clearer idea of the service you need. If you’re still unsure, we are happy to talk it through with you and help you identify the most appropriate service. To get started, simply call us at (213) 821-0800, or send an email to CWFL@usc.edu. We look forward to hearing from you.