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Life coaching is a fairly new, unregulated field. Here’s what you need to know, from the best online certifications to what the job actually entails.
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Life coaching is a relatively new (and fairly unregulated) career path.
You can take short, accredited online certification programs to start your life coaching career.
We spoke to 2 professional life coaches who shared their program recommendations and tips.
If you enjoy helping people push past blocks, fears, and self-limitations to live a more fulfilling life, you may have considered becoming a life coach. A certification can help you transition into a life coaching career or gain some experience to supplement your current job (such as a therapist, educator, or manager).
Life coaching is a relatively new profession, and there are various types of programs available. To learn what’s it’s like to be a life coach and what to know about the industry before taking the leap to become one, I spoke with two successful life coaches:
“Probably the most fulfilling [part] is seeing people make changes they want to make, see them grow, and hear about how those things impact them,” says Burton. “There is a level of appreciation that you get as a coach that is very rare in any other profession.”
Phillips shares a similar perspective on what he loves most about being a life coach: The ability to observe vast changes in his clients. “When I start to work with them and they are lacking clarity on their direction in life or overthinking their decisions, [watching] them start to show up with confidence is truly amazing,” he says.
What to consider before signing up for a life coaching certification program:
Life coaching is a relatively new field and profession, which is exciting — but also means the industry isn’t regulated. “Don’t think that graduating from the certification course is the final step — it is really the first step towards beginning a career in personal development,” says Phillips.
If you’re intrigued by this profession, it’s important to know that coaches also do a lot of personal work to be able to coach others. As such, being open to being coached yourself is fundamental in understanding the process of what it’s like.
“People should know that being a life coach requires you to practice with integrity, authenticity, and remain coachable yourself,” says Phillips. “If you can’t receive feedback from your clients, how will you help them when a certain technique or approach doesn’t fit them?”
Most importantly, life coaching requires humility and the understanding that life coaches don’t have all the answers. “People think that coaching is advising, mentoring, telling people what to do, or cheerleading,” says Burton, stressing that instead, “Your job is creating a safe space for your client to explore their options and get clarity on their vision.”
The most valuable qualities in a good life coach are being able to listen, being open to feedback, and accepting that not every problem will have clear-cut solutions.
5 tips for choosing an online life coaching certification program:
There’s an array of online life coaching programs, so it’s crucial to do your research before making a decision.
Look for a nationally accredited certification program.
The life coaching field isn’t regulated in the way that, say, becoming a licensed therapist is — there is no set degree or diploma required to become a life coach. Phillips recommends ensuring that a certification program is accredited before considering it and moving forward.
Make sure the program strongly incorporates science-based research.
According to Burton, it’s important to consider a program that is rooted in science and research when suggesting behavioral changes. Otherwise, you could be trained to only rely on anecdotal evidence and your own personal biases, which will impact the quality of care you give to clients.
Check the testimonials — and avoid programs that don’t have them at all.
These days, most businesses offer testimonials from clients sharing their experiences, which can help you get a sense of what a program is actually like. If you find a coaching program that doesn’t offer any testimonials, you probably want to reconsider, says Phillips.
Speak with graduates of the program.
Since testimonials can be limiting, speaking with graduates of a certification program about their experience is a good way to get insight and honest feedback. Phillips recommends being able to converse with people who finished the program to get a better idea of whether it’s a fit for you.
“Because the coaching field is unregulated, it’s important for someone to identify with the program on many levels before making their investment,” he says.
Keep an eye on the registration process.
When it comes to signing up (and potentially handing over a lot of cash), pay attention to the requirements to ensure you’re signing up for a legitimate certification program and not a scam. Phillips recommends watching out for programs that have no testimonials and emphasizing the importance of “trust[ing] your gut if you don’t have a great feeling” about the registration process.
The 3 best online life coaching certification programs:
Price: $995, Level 1 life coaching certificate
Length: 3 days
The Certified Life Coach Institute began in 2009, has over 9,000 alumni, and is accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the largest global coaching certification organization for life coaches and life coach programs. The ICF is a membership-based organization that provides a place for coaches to connect with each other, while also offering credibility for a new profession and professional field.
Phillips recommends the Certified Life Coach Institute for its curriculum and personally knows life coaches who have completed training and successfully helped clients.
Price: Starts at $1,995
Length: 30 hours
The Institute for Life Coach Training has been around since 1998 and was designed by Dr. Patrick Williams, MCC, as a resource and training center for psychologists, counselors, and social workers.
As with the Certified Life Coach Institute, Phillips recommends this program because he knows several life coaches who have graduated from it and helped their clients.
Length: 3-day online intensive course and a 6-month online program
The CaPP Institute began in 2009 and was founded by Valorie Burton. According to Burton, the program has trained coaches in every US state, with the focus of all their coaching programs on positive psychology and science-backed research.
According to Burton, the program “[teaches] what it takes to change, what it takes to flourish, what the research [says] about goal setting, happiness, and resilience.” . The CaPP Institute also covers business development because Burton “[doesn’t] think it’s fair to teach people how to coach without having the business component.”
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