The confusion of coaching and friendship.

4 min readJul 30, 2022

This is an almost unavoidable thing, as a coach, or a therapist.

Since we’re in the human-connection business, there are all kinds of emotions involved, and everybody can start feeling particular things towards the other person.

Everybody, so it can happen on both sides.

I’ve seen this play out quite a few times, when clients fell in love with me.

Or, to be more accurate: they fell in love with the dedication and interest and patience and fun I brought to the conversation.

It’s not really uncommon to experience this, let’s call it ‘professional love’, and confuse it with the appreciation you can start to feel for a person outside this kind of formal relationship, where it’s more of a natural and spontaneous happening.

I believe this confusion is officially called ‘transference’, and it means that you’re seen by the client or patient as the divine helper, the person who knows it all and maybe sees the other human in the equation on a level that they’ve never experienced before.

This almost saint-like appreciation can be very infatuating.

I guess it’s hard to avoid, even if you talk about it before and turn it into some agreement, but with a bit of experience you can become aware of the first signs and keep it fairly light-hearted, and that generally works quite disarming.

The feelings themselves are not harmful, and most certainly not bad or wrong.

Don’t forget that they arise within the blossoming of a unique and powerful connection, and that part is absolutely beautiful and essential.

But we are people, we have preferences and convictions and needs, and for most of us, it’s quite normal to project our stuff, ANY stuff, on others.

Besides this specific situation, where the magical sense of ‘this person finally gets me!’ gets mixed up in the relationship and evokes something that might feel like romantic love, there’s also a more common one.

Let’s talk about friendship.

It’s very normal to start entertaining feelings of friendship in a coaching relationship, and I guess that’s just…


Marnix Pauwels. Author. Transformative Coach. Slowly getting to the place he never left. Exploring awe. How about simplicity?