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Life Coaching is a field that has been expanding since the 1970s with the growth of the Human Potential Movement. Life Coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coach Federation, n.d.)
Life coaching is frequently performed by counsellors and therapists but also by trained paraprofessionals. Although Life Coaching is an unregulated field there is accreditation through organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) or the International Association of Coaching (IAC).
Life Coaching vs Counselling/Psychotherapy
Life Coaching is often confused with counselling or psychotherapy. As coaching is unregulated and counselling/therapy are, coaches must proceed carefully to ensure their work does not cross over into the regulated activities of counselling or therapy with clients.
Life coaching focuses on achieving specific, concrete changes in someone’s life that are skill-based. Counselling and therapy are based around the idea of achieving normalcy or recovery from a mental health issue, while coaching clients are seeking superior performance. (Nelson-Jones, 2007)
Goals of Life Coaching
The goals of life coaching are as varied as the goals of psychotherapy clients or any other situation. For example, mid-career executives seek out life coaching to help make them better public speakers. Some will get a Life Coach to help them achieve their educational goals. Basically any part of your life (academic/educational, relationships, money, career, or others) can be fertile ground for life coaching.
When you see a Life Coach, you will participate in an assessment process to help you better understand your goals.
Life Coaching Model
Life coaching books, like counselling books, teach phase models of intervention to help you structure your contact. The Nelson-Jones (2007) Model is a four-stage, several phase model
Stage 1: Relating
Phase 1 – Starting the Initial Session
The goal in the relating stage is to build a strong working relationship, and to identify what the client wants out of coaching. The first session is the opening conversation: why is the client here?
Phase 2 – Facilitating Client Disclosure
Open-ended questions and strong empathy and rapport-building will help facilitate client disclosure. This will help the coach get a sense of the client’s resources (strengths) and weaknesses, in order to make a plan.
Stage 2: Understanding
Phase 1 – Reconnaissance, Detecting and Deciding
This involves exploring the client’s issues, to understand where the root of the problems is. Skilled questioning, reflecting back at the client what they are saying and probing to find out how they really want their life to be different is key here. The Miracle Question can be useful here: if you woke up tomorrow, and all your problems were solved (but you didn’t know they were solved), how would you know? What would be different?
In this phase, you have a shared understanding of what the causes of the client’s problems are, and you’ve developed goals together to fix their problems. Then you’ll move into the intervention stages.
Stage 3: Changing
Phase 1 – Intervening
In the Changing Stage, the clients will implement the plans you’ve developed together. For example, your client may begin a journal and using a planner to improve their organizational skills, or may start taking classes in college to improve their education. The client may complete “homework” between sessions or do other work to help them stay on track, while the coach keeps track of their progress towards their goals.
Phase 2 – Ending
In the Ending phase, the formal coaching wraps up. The client and coach look together at the progress they’ve made and begin the process of tying up loose ends.
Stage 4: Client Self-Coaching
Phase 1 – Maintenance and Improvement
The Maintenance part of Maintenance and Improvement involves the client and coach making plans for the future and discussing what the client will need to do in order to maintain the improvement they’ve made.
Phase 2 – Self-directed Growth
The final phase of the model involves the client taking the progress they’ve made until now, and without the need of the coach, continuing to develop themselves.
This is a very brief introduction into a field in which many books and other resources have been written. Do you have anything to add? Write in the comments.
International Coach Federation. (n.d.) “Coaching FAQs – Need Coaching – ICF”. Retrieved on June 14, 2017 from https://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=978&navItemNumber=567
Nelson-Jones, R. (2007) Life Coaching Skills: How to Develop Skilled Clients. SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.