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What is life coaching?


The ICF (International Coaching Federation) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential”.

A coach believes that you are creative, resourceful and whole. They will offer support, challenge and accountability in equal measures and work with you to:

  • clarify what you want to achieve
  • encourage self-discovery
  • find your own solutions and strategies



How does life coaching differ from executive or business coaching?


Executive or business coaching is usually funded by the organisation and so the agenda for the coaching is from a work context and so will address the needs of the organisation as well as your own needs. In this way, the focus is much more about your working life.

Executive coaches work with people who are skilled and competent in their job and who want to become more effective and fulfil their potential.

Life coaches focus more on the entire person, of which work may be a part.  Life coaching tends to be self-funded and so the agenda can be much wider.


What happens during a coaching session?


Firstly, you will decide what you want to discuss during your session, and what you hope to achieve by the end of it. Then you will work together to uncover what drives you, what resources are available to help you, what impact this change may have and what might be the first step forwards.

You will have time and space to explore your thoughts and feelings openly, without being judged. The coach will use tools and techniques which help you find clarity. In this way, the solutions found will come from you and not the coach.

Aside from some legal and ethical exceptions, the coaching sessions will be confidential between you and your coach.


How many coaching sessions will I need?


The answer is it depends, though 6-10 sessions are fairly typical. Factors that may influence how many sessions are required and over what time period include:

  • the type of goals you are working on
  • the way you like to work
  • how often you want the sessions
  • the financial resources available to you

How is coaching different from other ‘helping’ professions?


Coaching is often viewed in a similar way to counselling or mentoring but there are some differences between them.

Counsellors generally focus more on resolving difficulties from the past, which are having an impact on emotional well-being in the present. Coaching is more rooted in the present and in discovering what the future might be.

Mentors are generally sought out because they have experience in the field you are in, or want to be in. You will expect to receive advice and guidance based on the mentor’s own experience and expertise. Coaches are much more focused on helping you find your own solutions.

How can I tell if a coach is any good?


Coaching in the UK is unregulated at present and so anyone can set themselves up as a life coach if they wish. The factors which are going to influence whether you think your coach is any good will be based on the level of rapport established and whether you want a coach who is professionally qualified.

Rapport is about being able to like and trust the coach, feel comfortable in their presence and recognising you are making progress. Coaching should feel like a partnership where you are both committed to your progress. You should not feel pressured into making a decision you are not comfortable with.

What does it mean to be an accredited coach?


Coaches can become accredited with professional bodies such as the ICF, AC, APECS and IIC&M. In order to become accredited, coaches will have a strong level of training and experience approved by the professional body they are associated with, which may also include signing up to a code of conduct and ethical standards, and requirements for regular supervision and professional insurances.

How can the success of coaching be measured?


Some outcomes from coaching are going to be easier to measure than others, as shifts in thoughts and feelings as well as behaviours are likely to occur. Organisations in particular may be interested in the ROI (Return On Investment), relating to indicators of performance and success.

Indicators might be that, as a result of coaching, you increase income and revenue for the business, get promoted or improve performance and productivity in the area you work.

Other indicators could be that you become more self-aware, develop more robust coping strategies, have greater confidence and improve your awareness of the needs of others.

What can a coach help me with?


There are many ways a coach can support you, for example, you might…

  • be at a career crossroads and want to explore the issues with someone completely independent of the situation – A coach will work with you in confidence to discover what is holding you back and support you to move forward with new self-belief, towards the life you really want.
  • have been promoted but are unsure how to get the team working together and be confident in communicating with them – A coach will support you in developing your leadership style and facilitate a successful working relationship between you and your team.
  • think that you can’t be your true self and are always ‘faking it’ with other people so they will like and accept youA coach will support you in a non-judgemental environment so you can hold a mirror up to see the real person inside, learn to accept yourself and begin the practice of living an authentic life.