Coaching 101

When I started my coaching business in 2001, most people associated the word "coach" with someone who led an athletic team or worked as an exercise trainer. Today, while most people have heard of a life, executive, or career coach, there remains much confusion about what coaching is, how it differs from psychotherapy, and the circumstances in which coaching can be a valuable resource.

What is Coaching?

Coaching is for people who want to improve their personal and/or professional lives, or achieve specific goals such as making a career change, improving business results, creating healthier relationships, or gaining greater self-mastery. Although there are no legal requirements for becoming a coach, the necessary skills are similar to those of a psychotherapist, with additional competencies determined by the specific type of coaching. However, coaching differs from therapy in that it generally focuses more on the present and future than on the past, and is typically more focused on specific goals and results. Below is a list of the most common types of coaching, and the indicators for each type:

Career Coaching: for people in professional transition or who are looking to use their passions, skills, and experience to create a more fulfilling and rewarding career.

Executive Coaching: for business professionals seeking to enhance their leadership skills, accomplish specific business goals, or address performance issues and challenges.

Life Coaching: for individuals seeking to master specific life challenges, or move to the next level of success in one or more areas of their personal and/or professional lives.

Relationship Coaching: for individuals, couples, family members, business partners, or co-workers seeking to clarify the attributes of their ideal relationship(s), assess relationship strengths, identify and resolve points of interpersonal conflict, and bring their ideal personal and professional relationship(s) to reality.

Choosing a Coach

When choosing a coach, it's important to inquire about the coach's training, credentials, and methodology. When you're interviewing a prospective coach, here are some questions you can ask:

Qualifications: What are your credentials? What is your training and professional background? Check to be sure the person has the training, background, and expertise needed to facilitate the specific type of coaching you're seeking.

Experience: How long have you been in practice? What's the primary focus of your work? What is your experience and success in working with the types of issues and/or goals I want to address? Do you have some clients I can speak to, who can tell me about the results of their coaching work? Approach: What's your approach or methodology? What does the process involve and how much time does it typically take? Practical Information: How long does each session last? How frequently do we meet? What are your charges and payment policies?

Most importantly, you're looking for someone who is supportive, compassionate, and non-judgmental. During your interview, look for someone who is 100 percent present, and focused on you and your objectives. Red flags include brusqueness, inflexibility, and a sense of distance. This must be someone you can trust fully. Ask yourself: Do I feel at ease with this person? Will I feel free to disclose personal information? Is this someone who is engaging with me in a caring and supportive way? If not, don't hesitate to find someone else.