A life coach is a person who develops a professional partnership with their clients and then uses evidence-based strategies and still to helps their client reach the goals they have in regard to their business, work or personal life. During the partnership, the client and coach will work with one another using the knowledge provided by the client to help and elevate them to their desired accomplishments or help them make the change they desire. The client of a life coach can be an individual, or they may be a group, such as a non-profit or company.
A client can hire a certified life coach to help them make a specific change in their professional or personal lives. These are changes that can revolve around certain themes of success, balance, health or any other goal that the client is dedicated to achieving. One of the aspects that make the career of a life coach so exciting is that you never know the dreams or goals that a client may have they need help with reaching.
What Life Coaching is Not
A life coach will spend quite a bit of their time describing what life coaching is not.
This is not psychotherapy. Most life coaches do not have professional training in the field of mental health. While the coaches may work with individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety and other issues from time to time, they spend time working on the present, rather than investigating and digging into the past.
The main difference between the role of a life coach and a psychotherapist is about helping people overcome their wounds. Live coaching is designed to help a person achieve the highest level of success, happiness or fulfillment that a person has set out – regardless of if they are wounded.
A life coach can work to help a person work to establish a better work and life balance, improve their relationships and even lose weight. The simple explanation is that it will help clients determine what they want out of life and what they need to do to get it by using weekly settings through e-mail or phone.
Who Makes a Good Life Coach?
Individuals who are good communicators make great life coaches. This is because they will be able to help their clients work through their problems and develop a plan of action to reach certain goals. There is no set requirement or academic training for a person to become a life coach; however, with training in the field of communication, teaching and counseling, a person will find they can develop or harness their skills to work effectively in this career.
Work and Education Background
The role of a life coach is to encourage and motivate people to work to reach their maximum potential. While there is not a specific degree created for this career, acquiring advanced training in particular fields can help a person be better prepared for their role as a life coach. Some of these fields including human resource management, teaching, social work, business consulting and counseling. Experience or work history in these fields can be quite beneficial for a future life coach.
Programs that provide training for a would-be life coach will typically focus on teaching various communication techniques, developing the coach-client relationship and goal setting. Regardless of if you choose to attend a workshop on the weekend, or to enroll in a full-time life coach training school, you will be able to receive skills that are invaluable to help with your future career. An experienced life coach will also be able to provide advice in other areas that may need to be strengthened.
In addition to having a desire to help others, a life coach needs to have superior communication and listening skis, as well as a large amount of knowledge in areas that they have selected to cover. For example, someone who has a prior history in social services or health care may decide to provide coaching for stress management.
While there are no official requirements for becoming a life coach, there are some agencies that offer this certification. One is IAC, International Association of Coaching, and the other is ICF, International Coach Federation. The certification from IAC will be based on oral and written exams. The oral exam will require you to submit a recorded coaching session that demonstrates your ability to apply the knowledge you have. ICF certification will take longer to achieve since you have to complete several paid coaching hours. The credential types will be based on the total number of coaching hours that you successfully complete.
Increase in Demand and Awareness
The fact is, the demand for certification is only going to increase as more and more people become aware of the field and the education about certification spreads. There are more and more clients who are seeking a certified life coach who has a solid background, as well as relevant experience to help them work through their biggest challenges. If certification is not had, then a person may run the risk of losing a potential client to a coach who has become certified, before you even get the opportunity to show what you can do.
Credibility of Certification
Earning certification to become a life coach will provide a number of tangible benefits that go much further than just what is on a piece of paper, or even a title. Consider other professionals that may be used – chiropractors, business consultants, massage therapists, etc. Chances are you would not use these professionals if they did not have some type of certification or credential in their field. You want the assurance and peace of mind that goes along with knowing you are getting the most for your money. If you think about it, it makes sense that a client is not going to want to spend their money on a life coach who is not certified.
The Networking Advantage
When certification is achieved, you will not only have the necessary credentials to support your future business, but you will also have the knowledge, skills and a whole network of professionals who you can work with to build your own business. Coaches can work together, share skills and develop relationships that are mutually beneficial.
Life Coaching without Official Certification
Even though there are quite a few benefits of certification, there are some situations where you may want to get started with coaching prior to completing the process. If you are presently in a profession where it makes sense to offer coaching services, you may be able to offer these services to some of your existing clients. Some of the profession’s that may be in this category include:
- Medical Practitioners
- Business Consultants
- HR professionals
- Counselors or therapists
If this is the route you have selected, then your services need to be marketed to your current clients, as a type of add-on or even standalone service. If your customers already have a relationship with you, and trust you, then they will be much more likely to take a chance on your coaching offerings. If you do not currently have a customer base to use, then you will likely have to compete with the certified coaches that are available. This can be increasingly difficult because you will not have the experience or credentials to use when attempting to sign up a new client.
If you are ready to become a life coach without first gaining certification, then you can use special discounts or promotions that may help spark some interest. Once a client base has been built and you have a reputation in the community, you can use that for creating testimonials or for recommendations.
Certification with ICF (International Coach Federation)
ICF is one of the primary organizations providing certifications for those who want to become a life coach. With members in over 100 countries, the highest goal for ICF is to provide and facilitate an expansion, around the world, of the coaching profession. This is able to be achieved by setting higher standards, providing certification and building an entire global network of life coaches who have earned their certification.
These are the life coach members who will benefit by being connected to one another and who have a code of ethics they will follow.
One of the main roles of ICF is the accreditation process that is used for schools and program that provide training for coaches or potential coaches. There is a rigorous process in place of requirements and standards that the schools have to meet. This is determined by an application process that will allow them to be designated as an ACTP – Accredited Coach Training Program. This emphasis that ICF creates is related to ethics, collaboration, and integrity, which make it the gold standard for life coach certification.
Finding the Right Accreditation for Your Needs
The current status in your career, as well as your prior experience, will help to guide you in finding the right accreditation for your needs. The accreditation offerings from ICF include:
- ICF Credentialing: this is when individual members of ICF can apply for the credentialing through ICF. There are three levels – Associate Certified Coach; Professional Certified Coach; and Master Certified Coach.
- ICF Accreditation – Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP): The graduates of this program receive a number of core competencies in regard to coaching standards.
- Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH): This is not a full training program, but rather hours that are able to be used for an ICF Credential.
- Continuing Coach Education (CCE): This is continuing education for a life coach that has been approved through ICF.
The experience you have, as well as your existing status in your current career, will help to guide you when choosing the proper accreditation. In most cases, ACTP will be the right choice because you may be starting out in the coaching field. Even for those that have a knowledge base that is in line with coaching, such as teaching or therapy, when you complete the ACTP course, you will have a better understanding of the actual process used by a successful life coach.
If you have already begun your life coaching career or have prior paid experience, then ICF Credentialing may be better suited for your needs. Since the portfolio you have will be mainly based on the previous experience you have, you should have no problem with the ICF Credentialing course.
For those who have prior coaching experience, but still need training hours to complete the credentialing portfolio, then they may decide to pursue courses that offer the Approved Coach Specific Training Hours, versus the full ACTP. This is going to be more affordable than ACTP while allowing you to apply for credentialing with the portfolio route.
The CCE’s have been designed for an existing coach who desires to continue their education or to renew their ICF Credentials. In many cases, the CCEs can be integrated into various coach meetings or into a conference so that the people in attendance can earn knowledge about the coaching industry while applying to learn their set credentials.
Obstacles to Overcome on Your Path to a Life Coaching Career
If you are ready to take the next step in regard to coaching certification, then you should assess yourself, as well as the personal needs you have when it comes to creating the actual certification experience that is best for you.
It is a good idea to speak with potential coaches prior to enrolling in any type of training since there are a number of fears or obstacles that people can face when making this important decision. Much like any other obstacle, they key is to know what they are and then come up with a solution to overcome them.
One of the main obstacles is that there is not enough time to complete the work. The bottom line here is that if you want it bad enough, you will find the time. Work in short spurts and put your mind to it. Another obstacle is not having the necessary support. However, with most of these classes, you can work with others, pursuing the same goal, which can serve as encouragement. Think about the career you want, that too should provide plenty of encouragement to meet your career goals.
The Bottom Line
While there are no hard set rules and requirements for becoming a life coach, being certified can go a long way. Think about your career and if you want to be taken seriously. If you do, then earning certification will put you on your way to becoming a successful life coach.