What is a Life Coach?
Updated: Dec 11, 2019
The term "life coach" has been quite the buzz word lately but what exactly is a life coach and how do I know if life coaching is right for me? As an online therapist and life coach located near DC, I am asked this question frequently. Hiring a life coach can feel like a big commitment for many. Not to mention, most people don't want to invest time and money into something without being sure it's worth the investment. With all life coaches being different and with the ambiguity surrounding the term it can be difficult to know if getting a life coach is right for you.
When I first heard the term life coach I pictured a basketball coach yelling things at me such as "stop eating those chips fatty!" or "Stop wasting your life on instagram and do something productive!" However, after learning more and becoming a life coach myself, I know now, this is not exactly what life coaching looks like, at least not for most life coaches. Here are some quick points to help you have a better understanding of what is a life coach, how you know if you should hire one, and what to look for in a life coach.
What is life coaching?
Life coaching is similar to counseling. I like to think of them as cousins. They are not exactly the same but do overlap in many ways. A life coach's main objective is to help you identify multiple goals or a particular life goal and then work with you to help you achieve that goal. I've worked with client's who have been in a slew of bad relationships and they wanted to learn ways to create more meaningful and lasting relationships. Other clients may have felt stuck in a job they were not happy with and wanted to discover a career that they were excited to show up to everyday. They wanted to discover a job that brought them meaning and fulfillment but didn't know where to start.
I have also conducted a one time power session if a client had a very specific problem they needed help processes and coming up with solutions. One client in particular felt they had poor time management skills and partnered with me to unpack his day, see where he was spending his time and create a more efficient schedule he could follow to increase his productivity. The idea of the life coach is that you are hiring someone to help you achieve goals and become the person who want to become. Unlike counseling you don't really delve into your past or work on mental health issues such as bipolar disorder or suicidal thoughts. Life coaching is very solution focused and a collaboration between the client and the life coach where the client dictates the direction they go.
Should you hire a Life Coach?
Are you feeling unhappy with the direction of your life? Are you unhappy with your career or have no idea what your career goals are anymore? Do you feel stuck and have more to accomplish but just can't seem to make lasting changes? Do you struggle in social situations and would like to overcome social anxiety and improve communication skills? If you said yes to any of these questions or ones similar to them then it sounds like life coaching may be right for you. If you have a goal or want to have a goal, a life coach can help you with that. If you feel unhappy with your life and are not sure why, a life coach can help you identify the areas you are discontent with and help you establish practical steps you can take to get you where you would like to go.
What to look for in a Life Coach.
So here is the deal on life coaches. There is no board governing the term life coach and no criteria established for becoming a life coach. Literally anyone can call themselves a life coach. The term actually does not mean anything in terms of education or training. There are hundreds of online courses that a person can take to teach them some basic skills but again most of these courses are ran by people without credentials themselves. There is one main accreditation that has clout in the coaching community and that is the International Coach Federation (ICF). This program is a more intensive program that requires a certain number of education hours and mentoring hours.
There are other accreditations out there but this seems to be the most recognized one. If a coach has successfully completed this accreditation they will have the ICF accreditation after their title. A coach doesn't have to have this accreditation to be a successful coach but is at least a way to know that someone has deemed them appropriate for coaching. Other things you can look for are how many years they have been practicing, what they specialize in, do they have a related degree such as in social work or counseling, and check out their blogs or videos they have posted.
As a life coach, one thing I offer and encourage other coaches to provide is a free consultation. This allows you, the prospective client, to get a feel for the coach's style and personality, ask questions, and learn the expectations and fees. In my consultations I try to help the client get a clear picture of what coaching looks like and what we will be doing in sessions. I know choosing a life coach can feel overwhelming so I take time to answer questions and help clients decide if this is a good fit for them. If there is a particular life coach that you are interested in reach out to them and see if this is something they can provide.
Also remember that if you choose a life coach that doesn't seem right for you, you can discuss this with them and see if they can make adjustments. If all else fails, this isn't a marriage commitment and you can always try a different coach. The most important thing is that you work with a coach that you are able to connect with, trust, and who is able to partner with you and help you achieve the goals and dreams you have. At the end of the day, it is up to YOU to do the work, live your dreams, and become the best version of yourself.