Questions About Life Coaching:
Find A Life Coach
Deciding to get involved in life coaching can be the first big step in a transformative journey of personal growth. When you find a life coach, especially the right one, they can help you with so many things: make a big career change, improve your relationship, navigate a challenging life transition such as a breakup or divorce, or make progress in another important area of life. Having a great coach to help you, can be the difference between remaining stagnant and getting unstuck.
But the life coaching industry is huge — and entirely unregulated. “Unregulated profession,” meaning there are no educational requirements to be a coach, or oversight of the coaching industry. You do not need a license to be a coach, or register anywhere, or even read a Tony Robbins book. You can just decide to be a coach and start accepting clients. There are, therefore, tens of thousands of self-proclaimed “coaches,” all happy to take you on as a client. Some have taken the trouble to get formal coach training from legitimate programs. Most have not.
So, how to find a life coach — an online life coach or a Denver life coach — that’s actually qualified and able to help you? And how do you avoid working with a coach who doesn’t have the training or experience to help you grow? Or worse, getting involved with an online life coach who won’t be able to recognize signs of serious issues that may be the true impediments to your progress?
This article will help you identify the credentials to look for, the questions to ask, and some of the pitfalls to avoid when looking for a life coach. Let’s dive in by first seeking to understand a very important question: “Who is life coaching for?”
Who Is Life Coaching For?
When you’re trying to find a life coach, it makes sense to consider whether you’re someone who could benefit from one. Coaching is for people who are interested in personal growth, and who would like to work with a helping professional to better understand themselves, their values, and how, specifically, to achieve the outcomes they want. (Aka, “coaching goals.”)
While both coaching and therapy involve increasing your self-awareness and identifying areas where you may be feeling dissatisfied or unfulfilled, coaching will help you apply the insights you gain to a clear, actionable plan of growth and real change. Traditional talk therapy, in contrast, may not go much further than this process of self-exploration. For high-functioning people who are ready to learn some new skills and put them to use, coaching can be a more direct path to improving your life than traditional talk therapy.
But unlike therapy, coaching is never intended to diagnose or treat mental health problems. There is no benefit to working with a life coach when the true obstacle to your happiness is a serious medical condition, like major depression or severe anxiety. It can be a waste of time and money, delaying you from getting the help you need and possibly making your symptoms worse.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to know whether or not you need coaching or therapy before you begin to work on yourself. A basic coach with no education or training will not be able to help you figure that out — they don’t know either.
To avoid this trap, it’s helpful to get clear about your intentions for coaching and whether or not there is a mental health condition that needs to be resolved in order for you to move forward. If you aren’t sure, your best bet is to seek out a licensed mental health professional who has also acquired post-graduate coach training. When you are working with a coach who is also a therapist, they’ll be much less likely to miss any serious mental health problems you may be struggling with, and will know to direct you to the appropriate treatment if that is the case. If not, they’ll be able to serve you as a coach.
For some very preliminary guidance in this area (not to be substituted for a professional assessment), here’s a free questionnaire you might be interested in: Our “Do I need therapy or coaching?” Quiz
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What to Look For in a Life Coach
As I mentioned previously, unlike therapy or counseling, coaching is an unregulated profession, meaning that literally anyone can call themselves a life coach and begin selling their services to clients. This means it’s incredibly important to choose wisely, and to avoid coaches who lack the training or experience to support your growth.
That’s why trying to find a life coach who has a background as a licensed therapist is a smart move for a few reasons. Not only will this ensure they can catch any mental health problems that may be at the core of your struggles, but they are usually much more qualified and effective helpers because of the extensive education and training required to become a therapist. Because of that, they have a depth of understanding and usually they’ll be familiar with evidence-based practices that can serve as a foundation for your coaching work.
This makes your work in coaching much more valuable and effective.
Evidence Based Coaching
Another strategy to find a good coach (or to find a good therapist, for that matter) is to look for one that uses evidence-based strategies. The coaching profession is newer than the field of clinical counseling, but many of the most effective coaching techniques have their basis in evidence-based forms of therapy. What are the differences? Learn more about counseling vs coaching here.
Coaching that draws on well-established psychological research, like family systems theory, solution-focused therapy, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, should serve as the backbone for an evidence-based coaching plan. A coach with a solid background in evidence-based therapy will be well versed in the coaching models based on these systems that will be most genuinely helpful to you. You can learn about all the core components of evidence based practice in both therapy and life coaching, if you’re interested.
Life Coach Qualifications
If you are not able to find a therapist who provides coaching services, the second best choice is to look for a coach who has earned a credential from a reputable training program. Look for a “Board Certified Coach” or a “Certified Life Coach” credential to ensure you’re working with someone who has at least completed a legitimate coach training program. ICF (International Coaching Federation) and CCC (Certified Career Coach) are other recognized credentials you may encounter.
When you’re trying to find a life coach, be careful about “coaching credentials” too. It is also true that, just like the profession of coaching is unregulated, many coach training programs are as well.
There is nothing preventing someone from creating their very own “coach training program” and even making up a brand new credential. You yourself could make a little website, put some self-made “coach training” videos behind a paywall, and start taking people’s money to attend your program tomorrow. When they’re done you can email them a cute certificate of completion you made yourself on Canva. It’s exactly like those outfits that charge $9.99 to become an “ordained minister.” Buyer beware!
Large credentialing organizations (BCC and ICF for example) require that coach training programs meet their certification standards. While nowhere near as comprehensive as the years long process required to become a therapist, graduates of these programs are more likely to understand the fundamentals of coaching psychology, ethics in coaching, etc.
A Personalized Approach to Coaching
Here’s another tip: Try to find a life coach who is going to take the time to understand who you are, and what you need before designing a coaching plan for you, specifically. Many coaches offer “packages” or “systems” that every client is encouraged to purchase. But this approach is often for the benefit of the life coach and their business model, not your personal growth.
To find a coach who can help you have a truly transformational experience, it’s important to understand what a life coach does. A good, ethical coach will not railroad you into one-size-fits-all program. They will instead focus on understanding you and your unique strengths, challenges, and goals, before taking you through a tailor-made process to move you, specifically, from point A to Z. Asking what this process looks like before making a decision will give you an idea of what to expect from a potential coach, as well as where their priorities lie.
Before you start taking action to reinvent yourself and start a new chapter, you have to understand yourself. The coaching process should always start a thorough assessment to help you and your coach build awareness about the gap between what you want out of life and what you’re currently getting. You might discover that you need more balance in your life, or maybe you are constantly feeling invalidated by your partner, or maybe your core issue is that you’re struggling with self-limiting beliefs. All those issues have very different paths to resolution. Your coach should never jump in and start making recommendations without first learning who you are, what you want, and why.
With the insights gained through this assessment process, your coach should next help you identify the obstacles standing between you and your desired life, as well as the personal strengths you can use to overcome them. They’ll also identify areas where your skillset may need to be strengthened, such as through developing a healthier mindset, building emotional intelligence, or improving your communication.
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Your Personal Plan of Action
Once you’ve identified where you’d like to go and what it’s going to take to get there, your coach should help you create a detailed, step-by-step plan to help you stay motivated, and reach those goals.
This plan will likely involve “homework assignments” that will move you closer to your ultimate goal and develop your skill set along the way. Along the way, your coach should assess what’s working and what’s not, helping you course-correct and build deeper understanding of how to be your “best self” in the process.
A coach will track your progress, help you keep commitments to yourself, and provide encouragement and guidance, as well as an objective, outside perspective as you work your way through your plan of action.
Perhaps most importantly, a coach should be “working themselves out of a job,” focused on helping you to accomplish goals and build a skillset you can apply to future endeavors. In choosing a coach, ask when their work with you will be done, and how they will know when you’ve reached that point.
Choosing a Coach: Don’t Ignore Your Gut!
While it’s important to consider a coach’s credentials, educational background, and coaching model before hiring them, your own feelings about them are nothing to overlook.
Before settling on a coach, ask yourself how you feel after meeting with them. Do they seem happy to answer your questions and eager to learn about who you are and what you need, or are they more intent on steering you toward some cookie-cutter service they offer? Does their demeanor generally put you at ease, or do you find communicating with them taxing? Does your first meeting with them feel like a sales pitch? Or like connecting with someone genuinely invested in your growth process?
Effective coaching requires building a helpful relationship with a qualified professional, so picking someone you feel comfortable with and believe you can trust with sensitive information is essential to getting the best outcome.
Free Life Coach Consultation
How to find a life coach? It’s a process that begins with you educating yourself, like you’re doing here right now. Then you can start looking for a life coach and reading up on prospective coaches. But there is one last step: meeting with them to determine if they’re actually going to be a good fit for you.
An ethical life coach will appreciate that choosing a coach is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. They understand that goodness of fit is essential — both for you, and for them. They’ll offer a free consultation to answer questions about their qualifications and approach, and to help you assess whether they have the skills and expertise to help you grow and move forward.
That is what we do here. If you’re interested in potentially working with one of the life coaches on the team here at Growing Self, we’d love to meet you, and you are welcome to request a free consultation. In that first meeting, you can get to know your prospective coach, learn about their approach, and talk about your hopes and goals for working with them. If it feels like a good fit on both sides, you can move forward into a genuinely meaningful coaching relationship that is devoted to your growth.
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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The therapists and life coaches of Growing Self have specialized education and training and years of experience in helping people achieve their personal and professional goals. We use only evidence based strategies that have been proven by research to help you get clarity and direction, have better relationships, feel happier, and design your ideal life.
This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our “How Healthy is Your Relationship” quiz.
Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation — and, most importantly — your hopes for your future.