How do you find the right coach for you?
If you have a goal, an intention or a dream, a life coach is the person who can help you map out your path to make it happen.
But if you feel confused by all the options available and need help decoding it all, this is completely understandable since there are so many different styles, niches and terminology used in the industry.
To start with, coaching is a skill. Styles and niches are how it’s applied.
Job titles can reflect these things, but not always.
Let’s unpack it all now.
Do life coaches need training and accreditation?
The coaching industry is currently not a regulated profession, whereas others, such as the medical or building professions are. This means that anyone can call themselves a coach and they don’t need to have any specific training or accreditation.
There are, however, self-governing professional organisations where representatives of the profession proactively create the standards and codes of ethics to preserve the integrity of the coaching industry.
Perhaps the most notable one is the International Coaching Federation (ICF). You can search for accredited coaches through their website. You can also verify ICF coaches. In some countries, coaching education also has national government recognised certification. In Australia this is the 10864NAT Certificate IV in Life Coaching. There is some overlap with ICF accreditation requirements, but they are still two separate things. You can often find Life Coaching courses that offer both.
If someone is an accredited ICF Coach, this tells you that they have had thorough training and passed standardised assessments with the ICF. They are accountable to the ICF Code of Ethics and in order to remain an active member, they must also maintain their credentials which ensures they continue to coach according to ICF professional standards.
If you are looking for a life coach, then you can feel confident that someone with ICF accreditation will be highly professional and accountable.
Is a coaching certificate is the same as accreditation?
No, it’s not. Don’t be fooled by a coaching certificate. Anyone can create a certificate programme because there are no regulations about this. These days there are thousands of coaching certifications advertised on the internet, but having a certificate doesn’t actually mean much in and of itself. It simply means someone bought a course. It doesn’t necessarily tell you if the organisation is legit, the quality of training, if they had to do any live training, any practice or assessments.
If you want to ensure your coach has had professional training that includes practice and assessments and are accredited by a professional coaching organisation, check to see if they have ICF accreditation or are Board Certified.
This is a great starting point in your search for a life coach, but what other considerations do you need to make?
What are the different coaching styles available?
Generally speaking, you can look at different styles of coaching through the lens of being either Directive or Non-Directive.
There is no “correct” style as we often need to move between them depending on the context and circumstances.
As you read through this breakdown, you may notice that this can also be applied to teaching, leadership and parenting.
Sharing Knowledge & Expertise
- Involves a subject matter expert such a teacher, instructor, sports coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, mentor or consultant.
- Clients with little or no knowledge of subject matter
- Giving advice, perhaps also a programme to follow.
- A largely one-sided, instructional conversation.
- “I want to achieve this”
- “Then you need to do x, y and z”
Drawing out knowledge & wisdom
- Coach does not need to be a subject matter expert
- Coach excels in asking relevant questions, listens deeply and picks up on the client’s verbal and non-verbal cues to help them unlock their own wisdom and solutions.
- Clients with personal and professional experience.
- An empowering approach that enables a client to take greater ownership and responsibility.
- Communication is two-way and ongoing, constantly being refined.
- A conversation might sound something like:
- “I want to …..”
“What will it take to achieve it?”
“It will take x, y and z”
“What’s holding you back right now?”
“I don’t have enough ___”
“What else could you do to make it work?”
- “I want to …..”
Can a coach be both directive & non-directive?
ICF accredited coaches are trained to be non-directive in coaching sessions. It’s part of their code of conduct. The focus is on empowering the client to tap into their own inner wisdom.
Coaches may offer both non-directive coaching as well as directive offerings – but not at the same time.
For example, they may offer non-directive coaching sessions and have add-ons such separate 1-2-1 mentoring and courses relevant to their particular niche.
Both these approaches are valuable depending on the context.
Can you share examples of directive & non-directive coaching?
Directive coaching (or instruction) is used when learning to drive or scuba dive because it’s important to get the process right. Passing the test, getting your licence, obeying the law and maintaining physical safety depends on your ability to do exactly as you are taught. In this case directive teaching or coaching is an appropriate way to progress. You may be asked to practice and repeat a task, receiving feedback and supervision until you get it right.
Mentoring is also directive because a mentor shares their expertise and processes for you to adapt, copy or follow.
Non-Directive coaching is used when there is space for your individual freedom, expression, creativity and personal growth.
A valuable part of non-directive coaching is that you figure things out for yourself, but are guided away from distracting thoughts and beliefs, towards what actually supports you in your journey. A life coach can help you move away from the things that hold you back, which are often our thoughts, beliefs and habits.
This is an empowering process because you tap into your own inner wisdom and truth, rather than rely on what and how others say you should do something.
What are niches?
Life coaching is the broadest term that encompasses all aspects of your life.
A niche is a speciality. The number of niches available, or possible, is infinite. Some coaches define themselves by a niche and focus on helping individuals with very specific goals. This can include:
- Executive coaching
- Wellness coaching
- Spiritual coaching
- Relationship coaching
- Career coaching
- Parenting coaching
- Trauma coaching
The list goes on.
Coaches who market themselves as a particular niche may be life coaches, but will generally focus only on a certain kind of client and area of expertise.
There are some niches to be careful of, for example, financial coaching. Only licenced professionals can give financial or real estate advice. If advice is what you are seeking, don’t seek a coach, seek a professional licensed financial advisor (or equivalent).
Why do coaches have niches?
Like in many industries, it is possible to specialise in a particular area.
Coaches may have other qualifications, expertise and experience that they can bring to the table and therefore want to put it to good use.
They may have a genuine passion and interest in serving a specific community.
Their expertise in a particular area should, in theory, mean they have a better understanding of your needs and the best questions to ask you.
Another reason that a coach may have a niche is because marketing advice often says it’s easier to reach your audience. From your perspective it is therefore probably easier to hone in on the right coach for you if you are looking for help with something more specific.
What kind of coaching methods are there?
Generally speaking, life coaches are trained to work with your thoughts, beliefs and habits.
In the case of ICF accredited coaches, they will ask you thoughtful questions and hold space for you as you process and untangle your thoughts. Their role is to listen carefully and to expertly guide you through the use of effective questions so that you tap into your own inner wisdom.
Some ICF coaches may use the GROW model but it’s not a necessity.
There are also coaching certifications which use a different methodology, so instead of just talking, it may involve the body, mindfulness or even art as well.
- Embodiment coach
- MindBody coach
- Mindfulness coach
- Movement coach
- Somatic coach
If you would like a coach who can do more than just listen to you talk, check their CV for both ICF accreditation as well as a certification in other fields or niches.
Be careful of anyone who uses the word “therapy” in their job title. For example, being an Art Therapy Life Coach does not mean they are Art Therapists. They simply apply some of the principles to their coaching work.
Therapy and coaching are two different things. ICF coaches are not allowed to introduce therapy or counselling into their sessions as this breaches the Code of Ethics. Because psychotherapists and psychologists are regulated professions you need to be aware of this.
Because coaches can call themselves by so many different names and titles, it’s really best to read more on their website to find out exactly how they work and ask lots of questions.
What kind of coaching offerings are there?
How coaches bundle, package or offer their services is unique to them and could involve any of the following:
- A personalised and tailored offering just for you
- A set coaching package
- A group coaching programme
- Live one-on-one sessions
- Add-ons including online courses, programmes, complementary therapies etc.
You’ll need to think about what kind of coaching would suit you best.
Some questions to consider include:
- How frequently do you want your sessions?
- How long do you want coaching to continue for?
- Do you prefer in-person or online?
- Do you want to be able to contact your coach out of session for extra support? Not all coaches offer this.
Do I need a coaching contract?
It is highly recommended to have a coaching contract. If a coach is accredited with the ICF, they will ask you to sign a coaching contract before proceeding. This is standard practice to ensure both of you are equally committed to the process and understand what to expect from the coaching relationship.
An example coaching contract looks like this, but every coach will have their own version.
Should I book a coaching consultation?
Yes absolutely. Most coaches offer a “Discovery Call” or consultation, in some cases for free. This gives you both a chance to decide whether you’d be a good fit for each other. It is also an opportunity to ask lots of questions and for the coach to explain how they work.
Before your consultation, it’s valuable to ask yourself a few questions so you know what you’re looking for. The coach might have an in-take form or questionnaire for you to fill in, exactly for this reason.
Ask yourself why do you want coaching? In what ways do you hope it will help you?
Jot down some notes and then do some online research to shortlist some potential coaches to book a call with.
So you had the discovery call, are they the right coach for you?
Aside from professionalism and expertise, it’s really important that you work with a coach you have rapport with. You will get so much more out of the process if you do.
Even if someone has an amazing CV and expertise, if you don’t gel well, it will be hard to bring out the best in you.
You want to be able to feel completely comfortable in your sessions so that you can really tap into your truest self. That’s the place from where the magic happens.
Are you actually ready for coaching?
This may sound strange, but a final consideration to make is are you actually ready and willing to be coached?
Sometimes people want the change but are not ready to commit to doing the things to bring it about. There are all kinds of reasons for this.
Perhaps you are undergoing a lot of stress that is affecting your mental health, which would actually be better served with therapy or counselling for the time being.
Sometimes other people want to send you for coaching, such as in your workplace, but you don’t necessarily want it.
It could also be internal resistance. It’s like wanting to get healthier, but refusing to change your eating habits. Or wanting a better relationship without the willingness to take responsibility for your involvement in it.
If there is too much resistance then you might not be ready yet and you’d be better off saving your money until you are.
If you are not sure, try reading a book like Atomic Habits by James Clear to get you started. If you like implementing some of the suggestions he makes and you feel energised by it, then you are probably ready for coaching.
Get ready for transformation