What is Coaching?
The truth is, anyone can call themselves a life coach. Unlike a psychiatrist or a dietician, who has to be registered with a governing body, the term “coach” isn’t protected. This means anyone can set up shop, offering any selection of services, and call themselves a coach.
This is great, because it means life coaching is more accessible and isn’t gated behind layers of qualifications which cost money – not something everyone is privileged enough to have going spare. On the flip side, it means the onus is on the consumer to suss out who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t.
Personally, I have no problem with coaches practicing without qualifications. Having done a certification with the International Coaching Federation, I can confirm there’s nothing in there that I couldn’t have learned by downloading a reading list and getting stuck in. Plus, I have faith (maybe too much) that the public can weed out anyone lying through their teeth.
Where things become a little murky is when a coach is also offering training or mentorship. Where advice is being offered in the same breath as coaching, that’s where things slip into “here’s how you can make 6 figures from home” MLM vibes for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for diversifying income streams and I offer training as a service myself, but I keep things very separate. You won’t catch me giving hints and tips in a coaching session, no siree.
So, what exactly is coaching and, more importantly, what isn’t it?
What is coaching?
Coaching is a safe space to figure out how you want to experience life and what you need to do to get there. It’s a place to explore emotions, patterns of behaviour and things that might be holding you back.
The act of untangling things away from the day-to-day and with someone who is completely unbiased can be transformational. We don’t often take time to think about the bigger picture and what we want from life, so dedicating this time and working with an accountability partner means clients are able to make changes that wouldn’t be possible when working alone.
What is coaching not?
There are many different types of support professional, from coaches to trainers to counsellors to mentors. It’s important to make the distinction between them and set expectations up front so clients know what they’re getting into.
Where counselling focuses on untangling past trauma, coaching is based around future goals. There may be times where past experiences are relevant and can help us spot behavioural patterns, but the focus of coaching is in the present and future.
Like counselling and mentoring, coaching is tailored to the individual. Everyone’s journey, life and priorities are different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all. Your coach might use a framework to structure your sessions, but the content is completely unique and led by you. This is why I never offer advice as a coach, or bring my own opinions and feelings into a session. What’s right for me won’t be right for my client, so any outcomes must be driven by them.
Coaching is a partnership, which means it’s non-hierarchical. Whereas a trainer or mentor is usually someone more knowledgeable or experienced sharing ideas with more junior team members, a coach is your equal. It’s up to you to put in the work, but I’ll be by your side throughout the journey.
As a coach, it’s really important to work side by side with other support professionals, particularly counsellors and therapists. If a client keeps coming back to past trauma or has withdrawn from social activities, it’s my duty to open a conversation about whether now is the right time for coaching and if these needs might be better met by a therapist. It’s the client’s choice as to how we move forward, but I’ll always ask the question.
What are the roles of the coach and client?
As a coach, it’s my job to hold space for my client to explore feelings, behaviours and potential outcomes. I guide my clients through a tried and tested goal setting structure and help them to become aware of thoughts and patterns sitting just beneath the surface.
I might challenge and ask tricky questions at times, but the boundaries are always set by you. I act as a mirror, reflecting back what I see and hear to help you get clarity. There is so much power in the words we use, and hearing it reflected back can help us find new perspectives.
Your coach should be your biggest encourager – celebrating your wins, inviting you to honour yourself and challenging you to explore deeper and reach further. Does that goal stretch you? Is there something else we’re not talking about? What else is important here?
If you think coaching might be for you, my (metaphorical) door is always open. Book a free chemistry call and we can see if we’re a good fit.
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