The truth is, anyone can call themselves a professional 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 coaching is more accessible and isn’t gated behind layers of qualifications that 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 many, many hours of practice.
Where things get a little murky for me is when someone is offering advice and labeling it coaching. Coaching believes that the client is on their own, unique journey through life, so it doesn’t make sense to tell them how to live it. Consultants and mentors are absolutely valid, but they serve a different function than coaching.
So, what exactly happens in a coaching session and how can it help?
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.
Through a series of deep, purposeful conversations, coaching helps clients set better goals, take more action, make better decisions, and learn to embrace their natural strengths. Ultimately, this means individuals and organisations develop faster and produce better results.
The act of untangling things away from the day-to-day with someone who is completely unbiased can be transformational. We don’t often take time to think about 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.
Coaching can help with:
- Life and career planning
- Developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence
- Developing confidence
- Developing creativity
- Emotional regulation and stress management
- Leadership and managing teams
- Returning to work after a break
- Managing tricky colleague or client relationships
- Improving organisation
For organisations, coaching can be used to upskill individuals, support new leaders, prepare people for succession, and show investment in teams.
Organisations that engaged with coaching observed that –
“Their employees were more focused, enthusiastic about their work and felt that they had been given the opportunity to lead their own personal development.
Their voice had been heard.”ICF Global Survey, 2015
What is the role of the coach?
As the coach, it’s my job to hold space for my client to explore thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I hold up the metaphorical mirror to help my clients become aware of thoughts and patterns sitting beneath the surface. When something feels confusing or difficult to talk about, I guide clients to use drawing or movement to support their communication.
I also act as a tennis partner, batting back phrases the client has used or short questions to help them clarify a concept they’ve described. There is so much power in the words we use, and hearing them reflected back can help us find new perspectives.
It’s my job to challenge my clients to look deeper within themselves in a way that feels comfortable. We do a lot of work around boundary setting, ensuring that the way we work together respects the client’s needs.
As an ACSTH ICF Approved Coach, my work is bound by the ICF Code of Ethics. This means that everything discussed in the coaching space is confidential – including from line managers and sponsors in the case of workplace coaching. The only time confidentiality is broken is if I’m required to disclose information by law or I believe there is a risk of harm to you or others. In these scenarios, the situation is always discussed with the client first.
What is the role of the client?
In short – it’s the client’s job to do the things. It’s up to you to decide how to implement what is discussed in the coaching sessions, and to create your own physical, mental and emotional well-being.
To get the most from coaching, it is the client’s job to communicate honestly, be as open to exploration as possible, and create the time and energy to fully participate.
What is coaching not?
There are many different types of support professionals, from coaches to counselors to mentors to consultants. It’s important to make the distinction between them and set expectations upfront so clients know what they’re getting into.
Where counseling focuses on untangling past trauma, coaching is based around future goals. There may be times where past experience is relevant and can help us spot behavioural patterns, but the focus of coaching is in the present and future.
As a coach, it’s important to work with other support professionals, particularly counselors and therapists. If the client is under the care of a mental health professional, I always recommend they let them know that they’re working with a coach. Coaching can be used alongside therapy but is not a substitute for it.
If a client keeps coming back to past trauma or has withdrawn from social activities, I’ll always open a conversation about whether their needs might be better met by a therapist. It’s the client’s choice how to move forward, but I’ll always ask the question.
Like counseling and mentoring, coaching is tailored to the individual. The coach might use a framework to structure the sessions, but everyone’s journey is different, so the content is completely unique and driven by you.
Coaching is a partnership, which means it’s non-hierarchical. Where a trainer or mentor is someone more experienced sharing their knowledge, a coach is your equal. A coach will help you to form your own strategies and solutions, rather than giving advice or referring to their own experience.
If you think coaching might be right for you, book your free consultation now to find out how we can work together.