Updated: Aug 30, 2022
What is coaching all about? Why would I need a coach? Is it like counselling? Is it like therapy? What are the differences between coaching, consulting, mentoring and training?
I`m glad you asked. People will use the term coaching in many different contexts and it can become very confusing.
Here is the reason why: everyone can call themself a coach. Just like that. You might be good at French and call yourself a French coach. You might have run a successful business and call yourself a business coach. You might have lived abroad a few times and call yourself an expat coach. You might have read a lot of books on personal development and call yourself a life coach. No harm. No foul. And if people are willing to pay for your services, you are good to go. It is that easy.
The term coach/ coaching is not protected and there are no legal requirements to become a coach.
If a coach has gone through some form of education and qualification, he can become a certified coach. But even those trainings vary in what is being taught, how many hours of training you need to have and so on. The International Coach Federation (ICF) sets the highest standard within the coaching community and provides independent certification for professional coaches.*
So if you are looking to hire a coach who is professionally trained, you need to check if he is certified and who issued the certification.
In order to answer the question of how coaching differs from other professions like therapy, training and counselling, we need to define what coaching is. The ICF defines coaching as
- partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that
inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. -
You may now think ´but aren't mentors, trainers, therapists and consultants also trying to maximize my personal and professional potential?` Yes, they are, but they all have a certain way to approach this aim.
Some of them will focus on your problem. For example, a therapist will try to get to the root of the problem and may ask you lots of questions about your past. Others will focus on the solution. A global mobility trainer will focus on how you can successfully relocate from one country to another by providing specific solutions to your move. So the person who is trying to help you can either put the attention on the problem or the solution.
The second distinction is how the person tries to keep you moving forward. Some will tell you what to do, others will ask you questions, so you have to figure out on your own what your next steps ought to be. A business consultant will tell a business owner what to do to reach the next level, whereas a counsellor will ask his client lots of questions. Keep in mind that in order to give valuable advice, the advice giver needs to be an expert in that field. Ideally the person is a professional who has not just succeeded in what they are doing, but has done a lot of research to know what the right way to move forward does look like.
Here is a simplified illustration of the different approaches:
Now where would you put therapy? Next to consulting? Exactly, you are right! Because a therapist will focus on your problem and will then tell you what to do.
As you can see in the picture, a coach should be solution focused and should ask you a lot of questions and he shouldn't be telling you what to do. But keep in mind that that is only true for a professional coach who has credentials. Anyone else is free to call themself a coach and can give you all the advice he wants.
But why should you hire a professional coach?
Because you are you. You have your own story to write and you have to figure out for yourself what you want in life and what you are willing to say no to. You have to figure out what a fulfilling day looks like to you, where you want your career to go, how you want to move forward in the relationships in your life and what legacy you would like to leave.
COACHING because your story matters!
So often in life we don't allow ourselves the time to take a break and look in the mirror and ask the big questions: Why am I doing what I'm doing? What is truly important to me? And once we figure out who we want to be, how great is it to have someone on our side who is committed to help us to live in alignment with our values. That is exactly what a professional coach is here for. For You!
OUR CHIEF WANT IN LIFE IS SOMEBODY WHO WILL MAKE US DO WHAT WE CAN. - Ralph Waldo Emerson -
* ICF Credential-holders are part of a self-regulating group of elite coaches who provide accountability to clients and the coaching profession as a whole. They pursue and complete rigorous education and practice requirements that provide unquestioned legitimacy to their commitment to excellence in coaching.