A Guide to Life Coaching
This quick go to reference guide aims to introduce all individuals to the concept of life coaching and what is involved for both the professionals and the clients.
It outlines exactly what life coaching is and breaks down various aspects of this useful process for anyone who is considering hiring a seasoned life coach, or those who want to learn more about life coaching as a general.
This guide will address the following common questions regarding life coaching:
What is Life Coaching?
What Are the Different Types of Life Coaching?
What Does a Life Coach Do?
Who Needs a Life Coach?
What Does a Life Coaching Session Entail?
How Long Does it Take for Life Coaching to Work?
When Is Life Coaching Not Suitable?
How Can I Find a Life Coach?
What Should I Look for in a Life Coach?
What Kind of Qualifications Should a Life Coach Have?
How Does Life Coaching Compare to Alternative Treatments?
Life coaching typically takes the form of directed conversations that help people develop a plan of action to reach their goals and put them on a path to success. To facilitate progress, a life coach uses a range of explorative techniques, provides advice and offers support.
One way to understand the usefulness of a life coach is by comparing them to an athlete’s coach, which is something many people will already be familiar with. Most successful athletes have a coach who has guided them toward reaching their personal best. They might be naturally talented, but they often attribute a degree of their success to the efforts put forth by their coach, particularly in areas such as motivation and accountability. A life coach plays the same role in your personal development, helping you find the drive within and focus on your goals in order to reach the height of your abilities.
In essence, life coaches help people to:
- Recognise their skills, talents, and unique abilities
- Acknowledge their dreams or figure out where there passions lie
- Set or refocus their goals
- Prepare for potential challenges and move past any obstacles that they do encounter
- Stay accountable as they navigate the path to success
- Build confidence
- Consider alternative approaches they might not have thought of
Life coaching is a relatively modern type of coaching that has arisen in response to the demands of today’s fast-paced lifestyle and business world. It can trace its origins to concepts such as the human potential movement, sports psychology, and business management. In the 70s and 80s, business coaching and executive coaching started to gain popularity in helping executives manage their businesses and be successful, and this concept eventually extended into people’s personal lives and relationships as well. It is a steadily growing field because nearly everyone can benefit from some type of life coaching. Modern technological advancements, such as the internet, have made it possible for people to access life coaches from nearly anywhere in the world.
Many life coaches are able to give people general guidance for whatever stage of life they are dealing with. People who are looking for overall personal development will typically find that a general life coach might meet their needs. Some life coaches focus their practice on certain types of situations. A few of the most popular include:
- Relationship and Family Coaching. This type of life coach can help facilitate conversation between couples and family members who are having communication issues. It can also help individuals find actionable ways to solve their current problems. They can give direct advice and bring people together to deal with issues. For example, family coaches can help restore harmony to families in conflict. Relationship coaches can help people who are having difficulty finding the right person or have a history of failed relationships. They can also provide guidance to couples considering getting married or divorcing.
- Career Coaching. A career coach is helpful for people who are facing career issues, such as decisions about career changes or retirement. It can also be useful for those who are interested in advancing in their field or starting up a business. Some people turn to a career coach to help them discover what types of jobs would suit their talents and interests and to help determine what direction their career path should take.
- Finance Coaching. A financial coach can help people meet long-term financial goals or help those who are struggling to meet monthly expenses or pay off debts. People with money management or spending issues can benefit from this type of coach.
- Mental Health Coaching. A mental health coach can help people deal with specific issues such as conflict, grief, or anger. They can teach people specific skills related to managing stress and anger or improving communication, but they should not be used in cases of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), depression and other mental health issues, where a psychotherapist would be more appropriate. They can help people find balance in their life and create plans to reach personal goals. Some people turn to a mental health coach to build their confidence or help them find a sense of purpose. Others seek their services to help manage their moods or develop relaxation techniques.
- Health and Wellness Coaching. This type of coach provides direction to people who are looking for motivation and tips when it comes to health-related issues like losing weight, nutrition, and fitness. Some of these coaches might also be certified as personal trainers or nutritionists. They cannot replace a medical doctor, but they can help individuals set realistic plans for dealing with overeating, poor nutrition, compulsive dieting, and other related issues.
- Spiritual Coaching. A spiritual coach can help people who are seeking enlightenment or looking for a deeper meaning in life. This type of coach will use spirituality to help people find motivation and ways to deal with issues. People who want things like intuition or a higher power to play a prominent role in their life’s choices may consult this type of coach to help them get in touch with their spirituality and make choices that adhere to the protocols of their particular religion. They might advocate techniques such as mediation and prayer. This type of coach might specialise in a particular religion/spirituality such as Buddhism, Christianity or Judaism.
A life coach carries out his or her work using two key components: conversations and questions. The questions are designed to get to the bottom of the situation and uncover the individual’s goals, motivations, and obstacles. The conversations help the coach form a connection with the client and move forward toward reaching his or her goals.
Life coaches listen to their clients’ concerns and feelings with an unbiased eye and offer a fresh perspective on various problems. They inspire and encourage their clients to reach their goals whilst also keeping track of their progress and holding them accountable. The on-going and supportive nature of life coaching enables these professionals to help people deal with challenges that arise and adapt their plans to account for unexpected changes that might occur along the way.
Life coaches have a number of tools and techniques at their disposal, but not all of them will suit each particular case. Methods that might be very successful with one client might not work well for another, so life coaches create a tailored approach for each individual based on what the person in question is most likely to respond to.
Some of the processes and techniques a life coach might employ include:
- Neuro-Linguistic Programming
- Asking questions
- Guided imagery
Life coaching can be useful in a number of life situations both big and small. Any time a person is struggling with a change in life or considering a transition, a life coach can prove useful.
A few specific situations that might call for the services of a life coach include:
- If you need some help moving forward in your life or career
- If you are struggling to maintain a good life-work balance
- If you experience a lot of stress and/or have trouble focusing
- If you want to learn how to get the most out of your talents and strengths
- If you need help making a major life decision, such as a move or career change
- If you want to build their self-esteem or need motivation
- If you need help with a pressing situation where the stakes are very high
- If you need to simplify your life in order to be more productive and minimise stress
- If you are having trouble prioritising projects and timelines
- If you need to improve your time management skills
- If you do not have a good support system
Your first meeting with a life coach typically serves as an opportunity to get to know one another and get a feel for how well you will interact. Many life coaches offer a free consultation during which you can get to know one another and determine if you’ll be a good fit. This might be shorter than a typical session because it is mostly about exposition.
Your life coach will give you a questionnaire or ask you a series of questions designed to uncover your goals and the challenges that might prevent you from achieving them. You’ll talk about the steps you can take to reach your goals and outline a plan for how often you’ll meet.
In subsequent life coaching sessions, you and your coach will engage in constructive conversations about whatever issues you are looking to address, whether it’s figuring out your passions, making tough decisions, building confidence, and so on. The interaction is generally very personal and two-sided.
A typical session might last between 45 minutes and an hour, depending on the coach. Many people meet with their coach once per week, but this will depend on your coach, your goals, your timeline, and availability. Some people might meet their coach only two or three times per month, whilst those with very aggressive goals might even have more than one session per week. Your coach might also offer support in between sessions, such as via email or chat, but this varies depending on the coach so it’s an important thing to discuss in advance.
Your life coach might give you homework assignments, such as writing in a journal or making lists of things you want to accomplish. Although your coach can help you change your life, ultimately you are the one who has to make the changes. Your coach can help you accomplish this faster, but he or she cannot actually do it all for you. Therefore, you must be prepared to do your part if you want to gain the maximum benefits possible from life coaching.
You can expect to work with your life coach for a few months or possibly even longer. Some people decide to end treatment once they have reached their original goals whilst others continue to meet their life coach indefinitely in order to stay on top of the twists and turns that life tends to take or to work on additional goals. In general, the time frame will depend on how often you meet with your life coach and the things you are trying to accomplish.
Most people can use some guidance in life, but if you have serious problems, a mental health professional might be a better choice. Whilst a life coach can help you deal with indecisiveness or give you a motivational push, most of them are not equipped to deal with mental issues such as depression, generalised anxiety disorder, phobias or bipolar disorder. Assess your situation honestly. A life coach can be used in conjunction with a psychotherapist but not in place of one!
You can find life coaches in your local area by contacting a life coaching professional association, conducting an online search, or asking friends and family members for recommendations. Some big corporations or universities might have life coaches on hand for employees or students to utilise. There are also a few large life coaching firms, but most life coaches work for themselves in private practice. Many individuals like the idea of meeting with a coach face-to-face in their local area because they are more comfortable and they feel this helps them build a better bond.
Many life coaches offer their services remotely, and this can be beneficial for many reasons. If you are looking for a life coach who specialises in dealing with a very specific concern, you will have more potential coaches to choose from if you are open to the idea of remote life coaching. This gives you access to many more coaches than you are likely to find in your local area and it also gives you a degree of flexibility if you have scheduling or transportation concerns. It is particularly useful for people who travel a lot.
Remote life coaching is usually conducted over the Internet or on the telephone. If you thrive on person-to-person interaction, you can find a coach who offers services via video chat. This can help you create that personal bond that is so crucial to having a productive life coaching experience.
Both in-person and remote life coaches can be found using matching services that help you find a qualified life coach that meets your needs. Coaching directories are another good source of potential life coaches.
- Personality and Trust: You are going to spend a lot of time meeting with your life coach one-on-one, so trust is essential. You need to find someone you are comfortable opening up to and someone who gives you the confidence that she will be able to help you achieve your goals. Therefore, your coach’s personality is something to consider. Having a good rapport will make the experience much more productive and pleasant. The coach you choose should “feel right” so follow your instincts after the first meeting.
- Demographics: One important consideration for many people is the gender of their life coach. For example, a woman struggling with relationship issues might find it easier to open up to a female life coach. Other people might find age to be relevant. A younger person might feel that a coach their own age can relate to their issues more, or they might prefer to learn from the wisdom and experience of an older coach.
- Length and Type of Experience: Your coach’s experience is also important. Perhaps a potential coach has had ten years of experience, but if the majority of her clients were for career coaching and you’re looking to solve family issues, she might not necessarily be the best fit for you. Plenty of life coaches are prepared to assist people in several areas at once, but this is still something to consider when making your decision.
It can be a good idea to interview a few life coaches before making a decision and committing to just one. You should ask for references, check certifications, and ask how they normally interact with their clients. Some life coaches are also psychotherapists or other types of health professionals; if this is important to you, be sure to find out what other qualifications a potential life coach has.
Anyone can call himself or herself a life coach, so the issue of qualifications can be a bit difficult to navigate. Although many life coaches can gain certification through various types of training, there is no single official licensing body, nor are there any legal restrictions on who can use the term.
If you want some kind of reassurance that your coach is professional and ethical, you can look for one who has been certified by a reputable life coaching agency such as the International Coach Federation (ICF). There are numerous training courses, educational programmes, and certifications that life coaches can obtain, and this can help you identify coaches who are committed to professional development and who have training with specific coaching techniques.
Some life coaches also have training or degrees in other areas. For example, a family coach who is also a developmental psychologist can provide well-informed insight into issues with children. If you’re looking for help with weight loss issues, you might feel more confident in the advice given by a health and wellness coach who is also a certified nutritionist. A career coach who has experience working in the same field as you might better understand the nuances of your job. Be sure to consider whether some other sort of professional qualification is going to enhance your life coaching experience.
Nevertheless, the level of certification a coach has is not necessarily indicative of their quality, particularly when you consider the fact that your personal connection plays such a key role in your life coaching experience. A life coach might have every certification possible but you might not click well with him or her. On the other hand, a less qualified life coach might end up feeling a good fit for your personal concerns, however if they do not have the expertise to really help you with your particular issues, it could end up being a waste of your time and money. Therefore, if you are seeking the best coaching experience, it will be important to ensure your coach has both; the qualifications and experience that are important and the personal connection that feels good for you.
Life coaching is often compared to psychotherapy because it can address some similar issues such as confidence building, career or relationship issues. Psychotherapists tend to help guide people toward reaching their own conclusions about problems at their own pace, whereas life coaches can sometimes give people direct advice and engage in more active checking of client progress via phone calls or emails. Life coaching is often referred to as a partnership. This also true in psychotherapy, however here the client is also viewed as the expert regarding their own experience and the psychotherapist as an expert in their field of knowledge and proven techniques for addressing problems. In some cases, a person might want to consult a professional with training and experience in both the field of psychotherapy and the field of life coaching, for a more rounded approach.
Further Self- Help and Information on Life Coaching