What Is a Life Coach?

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You may ask, "What Is a Life Coach?" as part of the process of understanding this as a career choice. Find out more about what's involved in this interesting occupation.

What Is a Life Coach?

A life coach is a partner who helps clients discover latent abilities and assists them in developing existing ones. She guides clients to identify any problems or obstacles that stand in their way of achieving specific goals or resolving conflicts. A life coach often serves as a mentor and sounding board.

Life coaches are trained in various methods of helping clients devise a plan of action for finding creative solutions to specific problems. This process can become a catalyst that inspires a client to reach beyond her present limitations. In addition, client learn how to build on new skill sets and use them in future situations that challenge the client's newfound self-confidence and identity.


You may wonder what is a life coach and what are the necessary credentials to become one? It may surprise you to learn that there is no life coach degree or any formal training required before a person can call themselves a life coach; however, there are numerous programs and coursework you can take to prepare you for a career in this field.

International Coach Federation

In an effort to bring about some professional certification for this profession, the International Coach Federation was formed. The organization offers an educational resources and three certificates based on hours of coaching experience, number of clients and various additional requirements:

  • Associate Certified Coach (ACC): 100 hours experience and minimum of eight client
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC): 750 hours experience and minimum of 25 clients
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC): 2,500 hours experience and minimum of 35 clients

Life Coach Versus a Therapist

A therapist evaluates and then gives the client directions such as you'd expect in a doctor and patient relationship. A life coach leads the client to draw her own conclusions. While a therapist delves into the past and analyzes the client's problems from old emotional scars, a coach isn't focused on the past, but the present and the future. A life coach can't practice medicine and certainly would never coach someone suffering from depression.

Who Uses a Life Coach?

People who wish to make some kind of change in their lives often seek out a life coach. They select a coach who specializes in the specific life area they wish to undergo a change.

Types of Life Coaching

While most people view life coaches as focusing on an entire life situation, there are various areas of specialization.

Some areas of coaching include:

  • Career: Several areas are covered in this direction such as asking for a raise, seeking promotion, building a career, how to interview for a job, and even developing a resume.
  • Communication: This type of coaching focuses on how to improve the way a person communicates in various life situations and relationships such as with spouses, children, friends, coworkers, and all forms of communication.
  • Emotional: A coach helps a client learn how to balance and control emotional reactions. Anger management, self-worth and integrating certain techniques to modify behavior.
  • Health: Desiring to become healthier could mean coaching for weight loss, physical training, body building, and nutrition.
  • Leadership: Developing skills that can support a client in a management or team leader role is vital to achieving the goal of being a leader.
  • Performance: If a client needs help in performing a job or sport, this specialized form of coaching focuses on necessary techniques to help a client build greater skills and expressions of such things as intuition, ability, and assessment.
  • Relationships: Coaching is given on how to date, making a marriage work, getting through a divorce, or how to improve family relationships, especially with your kids.
  • Stress: For anyone suffering from a high-stress lifestyle or job, then a life coach can help define the stress triggers, teach how to cope and also guide the client into making life choices and changes to lessen the stress factor.
  • Wealth: This aspect of coaching includes helping clients with building, managing and setting goals to achieve wealth.

It's a Two-Way Street

While being a life coach means taking the lead, it doesn't mean that the person being coached is going to be sitting on the bench. In fact, that person is the game. The coach must learn how to win the client's trust. This can be the biggest hurdle for anyone undertaking the role of coach. If a student (client) can't accept the process and trust that the coach is competent and dependable, then the process will fail.

Understanding a Life Coach's Role

The life coach is both a facilitator and a teacher.

  • Facilitator: A coach's role is that of a facilitator and must ask the tough questions designed to force the client into thinking about a particular situation from a new perspective. This helps the person discover a new approach to achieving her goals.
  • Teacherr: There may be times when a life coach needs to educate a client in certain areas, especially if the client doesn't have any related experience. The key is to give the client enough information so she can have a good understanding of the topic to use it as a springboard to the next step in the process. This means giving enough information to create a knowledge base. The pitfall for the coach is to get bogged down in educating clients and becomes a balancing act of not giving too much, but just enough to empower the client to take the next step.


The toolkit is basically a form of approach or guide the coach prepares to help the client through a transformation. Some coaches follow preset toolkits while others customize the toolkit to fit each client.

Life Coach Practices

Most life coaches conduct in-person sessions in the beginning. Once a relationship between the coach and client is established, a life coach may incorporate time-saving tools such as phone calls, web-based video conferencing, and text messages. This will depend on the client's progress and need for fewer in-person sessions.

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