Life coaching is a rapidly growing field, and more and more people are turning to coaches to help them define and achieve their goals, create balance and fulfillment in their lives, and gain awareness so they make conscious life decisions. Coaching is especially beneficial for people in periods of transition or uncertainty, which is why it’s becoming increasingly popular among 20- and 30-somethings who are establishing careers, forming new relationships, and creating fully independent lives for themselves.

So what is life coaching, exactly?

Coaching is a power process that helps individuals identify and achieve personal and professional goals to create positive, lasting changes in their lives. Life coaches help clients with goals related to their career, personal life, family, relationships, health and wellness, business, or any other areas in which the client wants to grow or make a change. The partnership between coaches and clients provides a nonjudgmental, confidential space for clients to be fully honest, share their struggles and successes, and address their internal and external blocks to growth. Sessions can take place in person, over the phone, or via video chat. While most coaching is one-on-one, there are options for couples coaching or small group sessions as well.

How is it different from consulting? Or therapy?

Contrary to what many think, coaching is not about giving advice or telling clients what to do in order to be happy and successful. Unlike consultants who provide answers, advice, and solutions, coaches encourage their clients to set their own goals and paths to achieve them according to what is reasonable and achievable in their day-to-day lives. Coaches help clients strike a balance between dreaming big and taking practical action.

Similarly, coaching differs from therapy in its overall purpose. In general, the purpose of therapy is to heal the past and help clients move from the past to the present. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on forward movement and helps clients live fully in the present to create an even better future. Note: Coaches are not trained in psychological disorders, so they will always refer to a therapist in cases of mental illness.

In both therapy and consulting, the client sees the therapist/consultant as the expert; however, in coaching, the coach acknowledges the client as the expert. This makes the coaching relationship more of a partnership in which the coach helps the client tap into his/her own awareness, knowledge, and intuition.

How do I know if I need a coach?

The truth is, nearly everyone can benefit from having a coach, but only those who are able and willing to invest in the process will get the full benefit of the experience. You would most benefit from a coach if one or more of the following is true:

  • You have big goals for your life, but you don’t know exactly how to achieve them.
  • You want someone to help you determine next steps for your goals and hold you accountable for making progress.
  • You’re feeling stagnant, confused, or unsatisfied in some area of your life and want to make a change.
  • You’re ready to work through the blocks – both internal and external – that have prevented you from already achieving the life you want.
  • You want to reduce your level of stress, anxiety, and/or fatigue and create more balance in your life.

How do I choose a life coach?

The coach/client relationship is just like any other relationship – if you don’t connect with your coach or don’t feel comfortable opening up fully, you won’t get the most out of it. So take your time and “date around” until you find a coach you’re willing to commit to for at least a few months. Do some research, ask for recommendations, and look for coaches that specialize in the areas you want help with. Most coaches offer complimentary intro sessions, so take advantage! And while you have the coach on the phone, ask questions about their qualifications, coaching style, commitment periods, prices, etc.

How can I become a life coach?

There are currently no regulations on becoming a coach, so technically you don’t need any specific training or certifications. However, getting trained and/or certified will help you learn skills, gain confidence through experience, and charge more for your expertise. There are several options for coach training programs, including in-person sessions, virtual classes, and combinations of both, so consider all your options. Note that, while many programs offer certifications, not all training schools are accredited by the International Coach Federation, so if that’s important to you, check out the ICF website. Most life coaches are also entrepreneurs who set up their own coaching business, so you may want to take a class, read articles and books, or find a mentor to help you understand how to start your own company.

Whether you want to hire a coach, become one, or simply learn more about this growing field, contact author Kristen Walker for more info.

Photo Courtesy of Lighter Portions