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  • Sophie Drechsler

Is life coaching legitimate?

It’s a fair question. And one that’s frequently Googled! As coaching is not currently a regulated profession, it’s easy to understand why people ask this question.


The term ‘life coaching’ itself probably raises more eyebrows than individual specialisms within coaching. Unfortunately, a rise in online life coaches and ‘gurus’ selling self-development and the perfect life has raised suspicion. It’s possible for anyone to call themselves a life coach, start a business and start charging clients.


Coaches can range from having years of experience and qualifications to having no experience or qualifications at all. Similarly, prices can range from being £30 per hour to thousands of pounds per hour.


It’s clear why people can be wary, why it sometimes doesn’t seem legitimate and why there can be mistrust with the profession.


Yet still, coaching is a booming industry. According to the 2020 executive study by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC), the number of coach practitioners globally has increased 33% since the 2015 estimate. Similarly, a growing number of individuals and corporations have adopted some form of coaching.


Below are three questions you can ask yourself so you know if a life coach is ‘legitimate’ and three tips to help find one:


Do they have training?


Despite not being heavily regulated, there are a range of reputable qualifying bodies you can look out for. These include:

These guarantee a person has met a certain amount of training hours and experience within coaching or that the training they have done is through a reputable company.


The ICF for example requires a minimum of 60 hours training and 100 hours of coaching for a credential and 2,500+ hours coaching for their top credential, a Master Certified Coach.

ICF credentials

Along with experience, these qualifying bodies alert you that a coach has undertaken training and exams, has received feedback on their coaching and has agreed to a code of ethics.


What are they ‘selling’?


A life coach is there to facilitate positive changes in your life. Their job is to help you identify what is important to you, what motivates you and what holds you back. Coaching helps you to identify solutions to your problems and is a way of improving your cognitive health.


A coach empowers and ultimately helps you to change your life for the better. For some it’s little improvements, for others it can be transformative.


Picture of feet behind an arrow pointing forwards

Coaching is not someone telling you how to live a better life. They shouldn’t be providing your solutions, selling you a ‘perfect life’ or a quick fix. The perfect life doesn’t exist. If they are, take it as a red flag.


Your coach will be facing their own challenges and their own limiting beliefs. As people, we are constantly evolving and changing. That’s why many coaches continue seeing a coach themselves.


Your coach won’t have it all together - but they are equipped with training and methods to support you to move forwards, grow and develop. They should be providing the space and time to work through whatever is challenging you to help you find your own solutions. They shouldn’t be providing the answers.


Coaching is about how they can help you. So look for a coach that talks more about what coaching can do for you rather than what they have done for themselves. If their marketing is all about them, who they are and what they have achieved then it becomes all about the coach.


Is a coach what I need?


A coach isn’t a quick fix or the holder of secrets to a happy life. They’re also not a mentor or a therapist (unless dual qualified!). If you’re unsure of the difference you can clarify here.


It’s important to understand what coaching can do for you. What it is and what it isn’t. Otherwise, you won’t get the results you were hoping for and it may feel like a waste or a ‘scam’.


Be sure that it is a coach you could benefit from working with.


 

If you’re thinking about coaching and wondering how to make sure it is legitimate then here are three tips:


Tip 1: Check the coach’s background, training and if they have insurance


A Coach usually has any qualifications or evidence of training on their website, or can be found through a directory via a training body.


This will give you the confidence that they have had some formal training and experience and that they work to a set code of ethics.


Qualifications and professional insurance provides a level of comfort that the coach not only has training but is taking their profession and their work seriously.


Tip 2: Do a sample session


Most reputable coaches offer a free sample session and, if you have the time, I'd recommend speaking to a few coaches. The most important thing when choosing a coach is making sure you ‘click’ and would be comfortable talking about a range of topics with them.


This preliminary chat is invaluable as you discover if you’d actually enjoy working with the person and if that person is the coach for you. You can also ask them some key questions to get an idea of whether they’re right for you.


Dude with a sign saying "we're in this together"

If you’re asked for money up front or to commit to long periods without having had the chance to check that you’d work well together, I’d take this as another red flag.


Tip 3: Look at testimonials


An experienced coach will have testimonials - and plenty of them! Read as many as you can. If they are thin on the ground or if you’d like more detail you can always ask if it’s possible to talk to one of them (with agreement of course!).


If you’re ever unsure, or if the testimonials themselves don’t seem legitimate, then look elsewhere. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, for example with newly qualified coaches. At that point it’s a decision whether you’re happy to work with someone with less experience that may come at a cheaper price.


 

A coach will support and facilitate you to build a greater self-awareness from which to build confidence. They will hold you accountable to actions that could potentially have a sustained positive impact on your life.


Coaching is a two way street. You’ve got to want to do the work and want to make changes. It won’t harvest the goods if you yourself are not equipped with the right mindset.


If you go in with the right knowledge, the right attitude and you find a coach that you feel you can trust, you’ll see it’s more than ‘legit’ and the results will speak for themselves!