What is a life coach?
Life coaches are professionals who work with you to help you achieve personal or professional goals. Some work with clients in person, while others may practice through remote sessions over the phone or online.
Rather than solving existing problems, life coaching often focuses on making good things even better; you might choose to work with a life coach when things are going well but you’re not sure where to go from here.
While approaches to life coaching vary, most coaches focus on personal empowerment, motivation, and strategies to define and reach your goals.
What does a life coach do?
Strategies vary, but life coaching sessions often look outwardly similar to a traditional talk therapy session. However, life coaches are almost always goal-oriented and are there in large part to hold you accountable as you work toward what you want in your personal and/or professional life. A life coach will often incorporate techniques similar to those found in sports coaching, personal training, and/or business consulting, and work with a life coach might include tailored assessments and action plans, structured activities, or homework.
What’s the difference between life coaching and therapy?
Though life coaching and therapy may look similar from the outside, their goals and techniques differ significantly. A few of the key differences include:
Coaching has a narrower focus than therapy. While you might attend therapy with a general goal of healing or emotional growth, most people who work with life coaches have specific goals that they want to achieve in the short term. These goals might be personal (such as finding a romantic partner or improving friendships), professional (such as making a career change or starting a new business), or some combination of the two.
Therapy usually includes some attention to past causes of present pain, whereas life coaching focus more on the present and the future. Generally, a therapist is concerned with why you’re facing your current challenges, while a life coach works on figuring out how you can get from where you are to where you want to be.
Most people who seek therapy have some kind of problem that they’re looking to solve, but this is not always the case for people who work with life coaches. You might work with a life coach when your life is already fine but there’s some change or goal that you think would make things even better. Put differently, therapy often focuses on taking you from from negative to good, while coaching often focuses on taking you from good to great.
How effective is life coaching?
Because life coaching is a relatively new profession, there is little concrete scientific evidence of its effectiveness. Much of the available data comes directly from coaching organizations, which makes it difficult to evaluate objectively.
That said, several studies have found coaching to be effective in organizational contexts and executive settings, and anecdotal evidence suggests that many individuals find life coaching to be a helpful aid in changing their lives and working toward their goals.
Are online life coaches helpful?
Many life coaches offer online services, which tend to be less expensive and more convenient than in-person coaching and can also be a good option if you’re having trouble finding an in-person coach in your area.
Again, there is little hard evidence of outcomes for this kind of coaching, but if working with life coach online is a good fit for your lifestyle, doing so may provide you with helpful support much as an in-person coach would.
You can find more information about the pros and cons of working with an online practitioner in our full guide to online therapy.
What is the life coach certification?
There is no standard system of certification or licensure for life coaches, so anyone can legally call themselves a life coach. Some coaches may have certificates from various training programs, but again, these certifications are unregulated and it’s difficult to be sure of their quality.
The best way to find a life coach who can meet your needs is to go through a network of vetted providers, such as Zencare, to find a coach who has received training and has a track record of success.