Life coaching has been the second fastest growing industry in the world for over ten consecutive years, behind only IT. The market’s value is expected to reach $1.34 billion by 2022 — a 6.7% average yearly growth rate from 2016 to 2022. Globally, the number of life coaches went up by 33% from 2016 to 2020. The relative newness of life coaching means many people have questions about what life coaching is and what it isn’t, as well as how to choose a life coach, and what benefits they can expect to receive from working with a life coach. Let’s take a closer look at some of the answers to these questions:
What Life Coaching Is Not
It may be easiest to start by discussing what life coaching is not. Mainly, life coaching is not psychotherapy, and it should never be used as a substitute for mental health care from a licenced mental health care provider. While some life coaches may also be trained and licensed as psychotherapists, life coaching is not psychotherapy, and even licensed psychotherapists are often advised to keep their coaching and therapy practices separate.
This means life coaching should not involve an attempt to diagnose or treat any mental health condition. Life coaches are also often discouraged from delving into clients’ pasts to try to explain or remedy current issues clients may be experiencing.
Many life coaches are reluctant to give their clients direct advice; this isn’t your life coach trying to give you a hard time or withhold help. Instead, many life coaches will tell you their goal isn’t to try to solve their clients’ problems for them, as much as their goal is to help their clients solve their own problems. For this reason, you may find your life coach guiding you to find the solutions that work for you, rather than telling you what they think you should do. Of course, this isn’t an “always/never” type of rule. You may find life coaches who will offer you direct advice from time to time, especially if you ask them directly to give you some advice.
What Life Coaching Can Be
So, now that we’re discussed a little bit about what life coaching is usually not, let’s talk a bit about what life coaching can be.
It’s helpful to use an analogy of an athletic coach to help explain what life coaching is. Just as an athletic coach helps an athlete explore their full potential in a sport, a life coach’s goal is to help people explore their full potential in many areas of their life.
The International Coaching Foundation, one of the most prominent professional organizations for life coaches, defines life coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Some life coaches have explained what they do as:
-Helping their clients focus on their present situation
-Helping clients identify problems and goals
-Helping clients come up with a plan to address those problems and move towards their goals
-Supporting clients by providing encouragement and accountability as needed as the clients move towards their goals
Some other specific ways life coaches might be able to help their clients might be by providing an outsider’s perspective on a client’s life situations. For example, a client might work in a workplace with a boss who is a bully, but if that is the client’s first job, or the only type of boss a client has known, the client might not recognize what the boss is doing as bullying. A life coach might be able to point out that the boss’s behavior is inappropriate and then help their client figure out what to do about the situation — like finding a new job or unionizing their workplace.
Life coaches generally seek to support their clients as much as they can, and often that support might take the form of challenging some of their client’s assumptions, habits, or choices which might be standing in the way of their client reaching their goals. As an example, a client might tell their life coach how much they hate all forms of exercise, but the life coach might suggest in response that maybe the client just hasn’t found the type of exercise that is right for them and encourage the client to try out some forms of exercise that they haven’t yet tried.
How To Choose A Life Coach
The International Coaching Federation offers several tips when it comes to choosing a life coach.
Finding the right life coach to work with is a very personalized thing. Different coaches have different styles, and each client has their own unique goals, concerns, and preferred approaches. So finding a good fit for both coach and client can be a tricky process of trying out a few coaches to find the style you prefer as a client.
The International Coaching Federation recommends people seeking to work with a life coach interview at least three coaches in their initial search to get a sense of the differing approaches various coaches have and the range of approaches that are out there.
The International Coaching Federation also points out the need to vet potential coaches carefully in terms of their training, qualification, and experience. Since life coaching is fairly legally unregulated, pretty much anyone can hold themselves out as a life coach, regardless of their qualifications or ability to actually help clients. There are many life coaches out there who have extensive training, certification, experience, and a record of helping clients. But it may take some time and work on the part of a prospective client to determine a life coach’s qualification and experience. A good prospective life coach, though, should make this easier for a potential client by being upfront about their qualifications and experience.
The ICF also recommends prospective life coaching clients do a little homework beforehand to understand the basics of what life coaching should look like and what they can expect from a good life coach. To that end, the ICF offers access to its Research Portal.
The ICF also offers this list of questions to ask when interviewing a potential coach:
-What is your coaching experience?
-What is your coach-specific training (an ICF-accredited training program, other coach-specific training, etc.)?
-What is your coaching specialty or areas in which you most often work?
-What types of assessments are you certified to deliver?
-What are some of your coaching success stories?
(Source: ICF Hiring Tips)
Does Life Coaching Really Work?
Although life coaching is a relatively new field that is still building up a body of research around it, there is some emerging evidence for life coaching’s efficacy.
An article on Verywellmind.com points to both subjective reports of life coaching clients and a few studies that may speak to life coaching’s helpful results for at least some people. The Verywellmind.com article mentions life coaching clients reporting:
- -Better work/life balance
- -Elimination of long-held fears and anxieties
- -Enhanced creativity
- -Greater financial security
- -Improved communication skills
- -More satisfying work life
- -Stronger relationships with friends and family
The Verywellmind.com article also summarizes some of the research on life coaching:
While people may report subjective benefits after seeing a life coach, there have also been studies that have shown that life coaching can be beneficial in a number of areas:
- One study found that both individual and group coaching was helpful in reducing procrastination and improving goal attainment.1
- One review of studies found that health and wellness coaching showed promise for improving self-efficacy and self-empowerment.2
- A 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that coaching-based leadership interventions could be effective for enhancing well-being and improving functioning withing organizations.3
Research also suggests that life coaching can have a range of other positive effects, including improvements in personal insight and improve self-reflection. It may also help improve overall mental health and quality of life4
So there you have it: life coaching is a new field that may offer benefits to some people. It’s important to go into any potential life coaching arrangement with a good sense of what life coaching is and what it isn’t, a clear idea of what you hope to get out of life coaching, and a sense of how to evaluate and choose the right life coach for you. We hope we are able to connect you with a life coach who helps you make the changes you want in your life and live a life you love.