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Life coaching is a practice of assisting clients to determine and achieve personal goals. A coach will use a variety of methods, tailored to the client, to move through the process of setting and reaching goals. Coaching is not targeted at psychological illness, and coaches are not therapists (although therapists may be coaches).

Origins and History[]

With roots in executive coaching, which itself drew on techniques developed in management consulting and leadership training, life coaching also draws from a wide variety of disciplines, including sociology, psychology, career counseling, mentoring, and numerous other types of counseling. The coach applies mentoring, values assessment, behavior modification, behavior modeling, goal-setting, and other techniques in assisting clients. Coaches are to be distinguished from counsellors, whether counsellors in psychotherapy or other careers.

Writing for the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, Patrick Williams states:

It is helpful to understand that both coaching and therapy have the same roots. Coaching evolved from three main streams that have flowed together:

  • 1. The helping professions such as psychotherapy and counseling.
  • 2. Business consulting and organizational development.
  • 3. Personal development training, such as EST, Landmark Education, Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey seminars, and others.


Williams further states that the movement towards Client-centered therapy in the 1940s and 1950s by psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow helped shift the emphasis in therapy towards the client becoming an active agent in their progress and growth. He credits Maslow's 1968 treatise “Toward a Psychology of Being” with providing the framework for modern life coaching as it is practiced today.

Selecting a Coach[]

Coaches in life should be selected for their proven skill in a given area which would match the arena in which a person would like to improve. This will maximize the effectiveness of coaching. Just as one would hire a basketball coach to improve their basketball game, one would seek a coach who has demonstrated leadership in said skill. It is important for an individual seeking a coach to research the coach's experience in a given arena: business, society, family, education, etc. [explained in further detail below]

A second approach to coaching involves finding a mentor, paid or not, with whom you personally connect and from whom you are able to receive constructive criticism. A coach should be able to give clear, concise directives which stimulate creative ideas by which you can move forward to achieve your goals. If this occurs, then the specific background of the coach may not be as important or relevant as their ability to facilitate focus, maintain hope, and build motivation.

A third approach to coaching involves finding a life coach whom will mentor an individual over the phone or by Skype. This type of life coaching allows for global coaching and is offered to anyone who communicates in English. It is simple and sometimes the anonymity of not seeing your coach makes it even a more successful experience for the client. An excellent life coach will be able to help you gain momentum and move forward in your life so that you are able to get away from bad habits and put your focus on your goals.


There are several different training programs and coaching institutes available, though no official regulatory standard currently exists. There is no governed education or training standard which a person must achieve before they may appoint themselves a coach. Additionally, there is a high degree of confusion around the terms 'certification' and 'credentialing' as used within the coaching industry and there exists a wide variety of certificate and credential designations, the status of which are still in flux. [2] There are currently three internationally recognised standards and self-appointed accreditation bodies, the International Coach Federation, the International Association of Coaching (IAC) and the European Coaching Institute (ECI). There is no independent supervisory board which evaluates these privately owned programs.

ICF, self-proclaimed as the largest worldwide not-for-profit professional association of coaches,[3] in an attempt to self-regulate the coaching industry, has developed a system of credentialing coaches that includes specified number of hours of coach-specific training, number of hours of coaching experience, and proof of ability to coach at or above defined standards for each credentialing level. The credentialing levels defined by the International Coach Federation are Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and Master Certified Coach (MCC).[4] Coaches credentialed by the ICF and members of the ICF, regardless of whether they are credentialed, agree to abide by a code of ethics. [5]

The ICF also provides approval, per their independently developed standards, of coach training programs, when they are deemed to meet the professional standards of the ICF organization and agree to continuing oversight by the ICF.[6]

The IAC [7] identifies itself as an independent, global coach certifying body. The IAC states that "coaches who hold the IAC certified coach (IAC-CC) designation are coaching at the most advanced level the coaching profession has to offer."

The ECI (European Coaching Institute) is now one of the world's largest independent, self-appointed, accreditation and standards bodies, and is regarded by many as the world leader when it comes to setting coaching standards[How to reference and link to summary or text]. They accredit both individuals and coach training companies. They are also responsible for administrating the world's largest[How to reference and link to summary or text] independent register of coaches.


Coaches tend to specialize in one or more of several areas: career coaching, transition coaching, life or personal coaching, health and wellness coaching, parenting coaching, executive coaching, small business coaching, systemic coaching and organizational or corporate coaching. Coaching for women writers and coaching for entrepreneurs with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are examples of some of the newer, speciality niches now seen in coaching. As the internet has grown, life coaching has greatly expanded its online presence. Many life coaching organizations now offer online coaching as well as coaching over the telephone.

Relationship coaching[]

Most life coaching helps people reach individual goals. Coaching can help people to enjoy better relationships with parents, partners and children, or with team members and managers.

An increasingly popular niche of relationship coaching is dating coaching - which focuses on dating singles. Although dating coaches may have different sub specialities, their clients often seek help with issues related to creating and growing healthy, intimate relationships.

Systemic coaching increases the adaptability and survival potential of relationships. Systemic coaching helps people attain relationship goals and their individual goals. Individual coaching can be embedded within relationship coaching.

Coaching vs therapy[]

Coaching and therapy may be considered similar, but they are not the same thing. [8] [9] Each focus on helping one to discover solutions on their own. There are many different types of therapy, some of which may be, in content, quite similar to life coaching. However, some locales require a therapist to have obtained Masters or Doctorate degree in Psychology, therefore undergoing some formal training in the workings of the mind and therapeutic methodology. Similar requirements for coaches do not exist. Some kinds of therapy, such as those aimed at dealing with a phobia, tend to be problem-focused. Treatment ceases when the symptoms disappear or become manageable for the client. Analysis is another type of therapy. It is long term, and works at uncovering the roots of issues—understanding the client's emotional history and possible past psychological trauma—in order to enable the client to move forward. Thus, there are a wide variety of therapeutic options, ranging from quick and narrowly focused to long and broad-scoped and everything in between, but all are regulated.

A therapist will always carry malpractice insurance. This is not a requirement for life coaches, however it is not uncommon. Malpractice insurance is available for coaches through the International Association of Coaches (IAC) as well as the American Counselling Association (ACA).

Coaches come from many different professional backgrounds, and mental health professionals are transitioning into coaching. There are coaches training programs that specialize in working with clinicians. Often, these clinician coaches maintain their licensure status as mental health providers, yet establish clear boundaries and expectations with either their counselling or coaching clients as to what the nature of their work together will (and will not) be.

The evidenced-based coaching movement supports the use of coaching techniques based on proven concepts in clinical psychology/counselling. Coaching techniques, like [10] based on the work of Alfred Adler, [11] Gestalt Coaching is based on Gestalt_psychology and Reality Coaching [12] is based on the work of William Glasser, are emerging based on traditional counselling approaches.

It's very important to remember that anyone can coach and indeed the roots of life coaching as a profession lie in good business management and personal development coaching skills.


There is some controversy surrounding life coaching, primarily because of its current unregulated, unstandardized nature. Critics assert that the practice of life coaching amounts to little more than a method of practicing psychotherapy without any restrictions, oversight, or regulation.

However, the legislatures of Colorado have ceased to pursue this kind of a request after a hearings on the matter,[13] asserting that coaching is unlike therapy in that it does not focus on examining nor diagnosing the past, instead focusing on effecting change in a client's current and future behavior.

Life Coaching was the subject of a Season Three Episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit! on Showtime. Their conclusions were largely negative. They stated in summary that viewers would be better off if the decided to "Skip the therapy & coaching, talk to a good friend"[14]


  1. The Potential Perils of Personal Issues in Coaching The Continuing Debate: Therapy or Coaching? What Every Coach MUST Know! By Patrick WIlliams he International Journal of Coaching in Organizations, 2003 9Accessed April 27, 2007)
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. [3]
  5. [4]
  6. [5]
  7. IAC
  8. [6]
  9. [7]
  10. Adlerian Coaching
  11. [8]
  12. Reality Coaching
  13. [9] Digest of Bills - 2004, Professions and Occupations Retrieved April 3, 2006
  14. Season 3: Life Coaching Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

See also[]

External Links[]

(Do not link to sites advertising services or offering to match perspective clients with coaches, only to sites with information.)

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