Life Coach | The Definitive Definition
Updated: Dec 14, 2020
What is a Life Coach (Lifecoach)?
A Life Coach (Lifecoach) is a paid professional who uses their acquired experiences, skills, & expertise to advise people how to identify goals, create an action plan, & overcome obstacles in areas of relationships, career, health & wellness, business, & daily personal life with the intent of a more advantageous future.
Life Coaching is about teaching you to manage your time, skills, habits, and experience to achieve the best quality of life. A lot of things have happened to you during your life so far. You have gone through ups & downs, bad & good times. You have managed to make it this far, but maybe you feel lost. Maybe you are lacking confidence or the right type of motivation. Possibly you feel like you are running in place or spend way too much time scrolling through your phone. You know there is something more productive you should be doing or perhaps, you have it all together and want to help people achieve what you have been able to accomplish.
Whether you are considering a career as a Life Coach or looking to hire one, understanding the training, certifications, services offered, cost to hire one, and how much can a life coach make should be of interest to you. If you are like me, having a clearly defined definition of what something is, is of importance before committing to it. I want to share with you some of the ideas, concepts, and philosophies I have developed on my path to becoming a Life Coach. If you have ever had questions about this profession, I hope you find this article interesting, informative, and entertaining.
What is the difference between a Life Coach, Counselor, Therapist, Psychologist & Psychiatrist?
First, I want to get out of the way, what a Life Coach does not do. A Life Coach is not in the mental health care industry. Some mental health care provider calls themselves Life Coaches, but that means they are providing two very different services.
A Psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (MD). They graduate from medical school, have a year of medical internship, and have three years of residency in the assessment and treatment of mental health disorders. Psychiatrists are trained to talk with their patients about their problems (psychotherapy). Psychiatrists focus on biology and neurochemistry. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication because of their medical training.
A Psychologist is not a Medical Doctor (MD). Psychologists study the mind and human behavior. Psychologists have a doctoral degree. They also can have a Ph.D. in philosophy or a PsyD in clinical or counseling psychology where they do 1-2 years of internship. They are trained in giving psychological tests (like IQ tests or personality tests). Psychologists, like psychiatrists, are typically trained to practice psychotherapy as well.
Therapist & Counselor are broad terms use for professionals that are trained to provide practical treatment and rehabilitation. Some therapists do not treat mental health disorders. A therapist generally does not diagnose disorders or disabilities. They provide guidance and support to help their clients deal with their feelings, make decisions, and deal with any trauma caused by past experiences.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) gives a list of mental health disorders, which include (but are not limited to) stress, depression, anxiety, mood disorders, phobias, bipolar disorders, PTSD, schizophrenia, among others. Mental health disorders and disabilities are treated by psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists.
Life Coaches do not diagnose or treat any mental disorders, illnesses, or disabilities. They focus on your goals. Life is made up of little individual moments, and we help you plan for the success of those moments. A trustworthy life coach will not attempt to work with someone who requires help that we are not trained to provide.
If you feel you require treatment for any of these mental health issues, please contact The American Psychological Association (APA) to find a professional mental health care center near you.
An Examination of Words, Life & Coach
Socrates stated that "The unexamined life is not worth living for human beings". Being a teacher and one of the founders of Western philosophy, he understood the importance of clearly defining definitive within an explanation. Next, I want to do just that by reviewing and defining what is ‘Life’ and ‘Coach’ plus outlining their place in the mind of a Life Coach.
Long before ever seeing the words, Life & Coach side by side, I understood what they meant when existed apart. Being able to classify the gravity each of these words has in our vocabulary helped me appreciate the significance when they are together. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What can we determine from analyzing each one alone?
Wikipedia describes ‘Life’ as “a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that have biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (they have died), or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate.”
In all these definitions, it is construed that there are perceived experiences that exist for a finite amount of time. As predominantly rational creatures, we try our best to control or manage our reactions to the experiences that take place within our daily lives. Unfortunately, sometimes we are held captive by bad habits that have been acquired at a young age. This occurrence generates a "need" for us to modify our reactions and habits. Once that happens, the "need" for a coach to guide us through the process of creating new habits now has a reason to become a part of our experience.
A coach helps us to develop the habits and skills needed to perform and succeed in a sport, a test, or in this case, ‘Life.’ Coaches are typically experienced in a particular area of expertise, but in rare cases, they guide a multitude of different skill sets. Regardless of mastery, all coaches focus on putting in place a process that creates actionable goals for achievable results.
Most notably, coaches are known for training groups or individuals to win at sporting events, but coaches work in many different service industries. Coaching takes place in the performing arts where singers get vocal, acting, or drama coaches help them deliver a more memorable performance. Some coaches focus on business, education, health care, and relationships, or even dating. Coaching may happen in informal situations, or settings between two people, one of whom have cultivated a more keen insight and expertise than the other, but there are times when larger groups are coached in a professional business setting as well. In any case, a coach would put together a game plan aimed at achieving success in a specific task or set of objectives for the benefit of a team or individual.
Ultimately, Life Coaches transform the existence of the person or persons being coached by teaching new habits that benefit the client's future experience. The habits that are developed will also affect the lives of the people that the client interacts with as well. So, Life Coaches are not just developing one person, but in a small way, every person their client will encounter for the rest of their life. It becomes a plan of evolution.
What qualifications do you need to be a life coach?
There is no such thing as a Certified Life Coach. Life coaching is a non-regulated industry. There is not a governing organization over the profession of being a Life Coach. There is not a degree, nor a license required to be a life coach. The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not require any formal education for an individual to list themselves as a Life Coach. There are not any local, state, or federal licenses or certifications Life Coaches are required to attain before practicing their craft.
Academic institutions (such as Universities) are accredited by a governing body. Organizations providing Life Coaching certifications do not need to be accredited because no accrediting institution exists in the field of life coaching. Aspiring Life Coaches can choose to take a course or earn degrees in Life Coaching, but these courses or degrees are not accredited under any governing body.
There are requirements associated with calling yourself a counselor, therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist because a governing body exists and is regulated through an official license or certification.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) offers three credentials if you desire to have a stamp of approval to verify that you have been coached on how to coach. They allow you to attach their designation to your name if you maintain membership and complete the continuing education guidelines.