Questions About Life Coaching:
The Benefits of Life Coaching
The benefits of life coaching are enormous and wide-reaching: Figuring out how to fine-tune your way of thinking, feeling, and behaving in order to get more of the outcomes you want (and less of the ones you don’t) helps you create love, happiness, and success. Whether it’s building healthy relationships, feeling good about yourself and your life, or building a meaningful career, having a good life coach in your corner helps you make it all happen.
What is a life coach? A (good) life coach is a helping professional with specialized training and experience in helping you get clear about your goals, figure out the obstacles and opportunities between where you are now and where you want to be, understand what you have to work with, and then essentially “optimize yourself” in order to get there. When you find a good life coach, you can get clear about who you are, what you truly want, and how to go about getting it — often more effectively than through traditional talk therapy.
Just like evidence-based therapy, there is a ton of great research to support the benefits of life coaching. There are even well-respected peer-reviewed journals devoted to the science of coaching psychology! But you may be skeptical of the benefits of life coaching, given the industry’s dubious reputation.
Those doubts are not unfounded, unfortunately. Unlike counselors or therapists, you don’t need any specific credentials to become a life coach. There’s no state licensing board for coaches, no required education, and no mandatory period of clinical supervision before coaches can begin working with clients. Anybody can set up a website and begin selling their services as a life coach without so much as attending a weekend seminar, let alone obtaining a Master’s degree.
And many do! A quick Google search for “life coach near me” returns dozens of results for online life coach options, or Denver life coaches — most of them self-proclaimed experts with no evident background in psychology, or even certification from an accredited coach training program.
With so many unqualified coaches crowding the field, it’s no wonder that some question whether coaching as a practice has any legitimacy whatsoever. Is there any scientific merit behind the techniques deployed by coaches, or are they just winging it?
Evidence-Based Life Coaching
The good news is that, increasingly, life coaching is an evidence-based discipline. A growing body of research shows that coaching can in fact help clients with personal growth and reaching the goals they set for themselves while building skills to navigate future hurdles.
The bad news is, not all professed life coaches are tuned into the research-backed practices that actually work. Many are only interested in selling one-size-fits-all coaching packages that maximize their bottom line, rather than their clients’ results. Others simply lack the educational background and clinical experience to keep up with the emerging research and apply it to their work.
If you want to be coached with evidence-based techniques, your best bet is to choose a licensed counselor or therapist who has also been trained in coaching too. This ensures your coach will at least have the educational background to understand and apply the evidence-based approaches that can help you get the maximum benefit from your coaching experience, and achieve your coaching goals.
And the benefits of evidence-based coaching can be huge! Numerous quantitative studies show that effective coaching can help clients to set better goals, improve their self-confidence, find greater satisfaction in life, and more.
Here’s a look at some areas of life you may wish to improve, and the measurable benefits that research shows effective coaching can offer.
The Benefits of Life Coaching: Personal Growth
What does a life coach do? Whether you enter coaching wanting to make some particular changes in your life, or from a place of vague dissatisfaction or “stuckness,” the desired outcome of the coaching relationship will be helping you to grow as a person.
And research shows that coaching is an effective way to spur that growth. A number of studies examining the impact of coaching show that the practice can improve clients’ overall sense of well-being, learn how to love themselves, as well as their coping skills, attitudes, and motivation to apply new knowledge. Participants also showed improved self-confidence and self-worth following a period of coaching.
These findings suggest that the benefits of life coaching can not only help you hone specific skills and reach your goals, but that the coaching process itself can leave you on a more secure footing to tackle future challenges.
The Benefits of Life Coaching: Goal Attainment
Life Coach vs Therapist: Coaching, unlike therapy, always begins with an end goal in mind, and studies show that certain evidence-based coaching techniques can be highly effective at helping people reach their desired outcomes.
Just like there are many different kinds of therapy, there are many different (and effective) methods of coaching too. One of them, Intentional Change Theory (ICT), is a psychological approach aimed at minimizing the gap between who we currently are and who we would like to be, or our “Ideal Self.” Some coaches apply the stages of ICT to coaching, leading clients through five “discoveries” that bring them closer to their goals, Discovering: 1) The “Ideal Self,” or who you want to be; 2) The real self, or who you currently are; 3) What “learning agenda” is needed to reduce the gaps between the two selves; 4) New behaviors, thoughts, and feelings to practice; and 5) The supportive friendships and relationships that make change possible.
A study of 44 tech workers in Athens, Greece who received coaching that drew on ICT, as well as from “person-centered” counseling, which focuses on creating a non-judgmental space for self-discovery, found that participants successfully reached their definition of “Ideal Self” by the end of the study. Specifically, there was a significant improvement in the participants’ scores on three “Emotional Social Intelligence” competencies that had been identified as necessary to move forward and reach their professional development goals.
The Benefits of Life Coaching: Relationship Goals
The study on Greek tech workers shows that it’s possible to boost emotional intelligence through evidence-based coaching, which has major implications for relationships beyond the workplace, particularly romantic relationships. Evidence-based practice in couples and family therapy tells us that systems theory (understanding how you impact others and vice-versa) and attachment theory (building and maintaining bonds) are essential for healthy relationships.
The benefits of life coaching for relationships, particularly when you work with a true relationship expert, are huge. Let’s face it: When you don’t know how to handle yourself or how to help your partner feel loved and respected, relationships can feel confusing and difficult. Having a good relationship coach in your corner helps you understand yourself, your partner, and what to do in order to have positive interactions that help you both feel happy and loved.
Whether you and your partner grow together or grow apart depends on your respective abilities to show each other love and respect, solve problems productively, be more vulnerable, stop invalidating feelings, and learn how to create emotional safety for each other. Improving your emotional intelligence can boost your empathy, conflict management skills, and sense of teamwork — all hugely important for building a stable, loving connection with a romantic partner.
Relationship coaching is often the fastest and most effective way of helping couples learn how to be better partners for each other. Learn about the differences between relationship coaching vs couples therapy here.
The Benefits of Life Coaching: Professional Growth and Goals
In one study, clients showed enhanced self-awareness, and a greater sense of responsibility at work, both essential steps to reaching professional goals and leadership development. Another study found that clients who underwent coaching were more prone to self-reflection, clearer on their roles within the organization, more likely to consider new perspectives, and better at setting priorities.
Even better, multiple studies found that clients felt greater satisfaction and empowerment in their careers after coaching, and that their “self-efficacy,” or their belief in their own ability to reach their goals, was higher.
Overall, research shows that evidence-based coaching techniques can help you get the outcomes you want at work, while feeling more satisfied with what you do in the process.
Why Effective Coaching Is Important
Getting connected with a good coach is priceless. Coaches can specialize in different things, ranging from healthy relationships to personal growth and goals, to career success. Finding the right coach can help you understand yourself, and figure out what to do in order to create healthy relationships, career satisfaction, and authentic joy in your life. There is evidence to support the efficacy of coaching, and many methods of coaching.
It’s also true that not all coaching is the same: Coaching is a billion-dollar, unregulated industry, and it attracts practitioners from all walks of life. Some are well-equipped to help you grow, while others may deliver less-than-satisfying results. That can mean the difference between attaining happiness and your life’s most important goals — like starting a business, retiring on time, or finding a life partner — and staying stuck where you started.
Given the stakes, it’s vital to choose a coach with the education and skills to help you get the most out of the coaching experience using evidence-based techniques. I’m a huge believer that “knowledge is power,” and that by educating yourself, you’ll be able to make informed decisions. In that spirit, I’ve put together a number of informational articles to help you learn more about the art and science of coaching, so you can continue developing your understanding of your options and make wise choices for yourself. (All here for you at the bottom of this page).
I hope this discussion helps you learn about the benefits of life coaching, and whether it’s the right fit for you.
Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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