Here’s the thing, though — even though life coaching is a billion-dollar industry, did you know that there are currently only 23,000 certified coaches in the United States (and only 71,000 in the world)? How is that possible? For one thing, it’s one field that currently isn’t regulated (although that’s about to change), which is why you see people everywhere — and I do mean everywhere — saying that they are a life coach even if they are more like a media personality, an influencer, a public speaker or someone who just wants to sound like they are an authority on something (even if they technically aren’t).
That’s why I thought it would be important — critical even — to share with you what it means to be a life coach and how it could benefit you to work with one. Because if you’ve been giving hiring one some serious consideration as of late, you need to make sure that you know just what you’re getting into and if it’s actually a wise investment (for you personally).
What’s the Difference Between a Life Coach and a
I won’t lie to you — this first question really is its own article which is why I provided you with the handy chart (above). However, if I were to summarize things, I would say that if you want someone who will help you to dive into your past in order to figure out layers of “whys” in your life, a therapist is who you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you want someone who is trained in how to ask the kind of questions that will assist you in tapping into what you need to do in the present as it directly relates to your future, a life coach can make that happen.
In fact, one of the things that a life coach is taught while getting certified (and credentialed if they decide to pursue that as well) is that when it comes to the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” list of questions, the one that they actually are supposed to avoid (as much as possible) IS the “why.” Why? Because, again, the past is not their job; the present is.
A better way to explain this is, say you want to figure out why you keep dating the same kind of men who only prove to be unhealthy for you. If it’s been years of the same pattern, you should probably see a therapist. On the other hand, if you’re pretty self-aware of your cycle and you’re basically needing some assistance on receiving some ah-ha moments that can help you to put a plan together to date differently in the future, this is where a life coach can help you out.
My opinion? If you know that you need to unpack your past and you want to be proactive about your present and future, it can’t hurt to see a therapist and life coach at the same time, especially since, if a life coach is good at their job, you shouldn’t need to see them for years on end anyway. Solid ones can help you to get the insight that you need, typically after just a few sessions (like maybe 5-7), so that you can feel confident in making future decisions on your own. Or you can look for a hybrid of a therapist and life coach, which is slowly yet surely becoming a popular phenomenon in the world of mental health as well.
How Can a Life Coach Benefit You?
A married couple who I’ve just started working with was just about at their wit’s end before getting referred to me by another client of mine. They’ve actually seen several therapists, yet they feel like it’s been a complete waste of their time and money because pretty much all those people did was stare at them with a notepad and take their coins.
Yeah, it really is another article for another time, how there are some licensed therapists who ain’t really worth a damn (#sorrynotsorry). Hell, some of them are ranting on TikTok as we speak. SMDH. That’s why you should never assume that just because someone has letters behind their name that they will automatically be good at their job. A therapist/client relationship is a serious one and a big investment mentally, emotionally, and financially on your end, so definitely make sure to vet a potential therapistthoroughly before officially signing on to work with them (a therapist’s blog that has a list of 22 good questions that you should ask prospective therapists is located here).
As far as the new couple goes, we’ve been thriving, in part, because my knowledge of marriage has given them some new things to think about. Also, since I’m not the most conventional coach on the planet (which is kind of an understatement), they like that I’m not comfortable with sessions ending without them getting some real clarity and having some short-term goals to work on. More than anything, though, what they have told me is they appreciate how much more confident they feel about their relationship since coming to my sessions.
And why is that? Because it’s a wise person who once said that wisdom lies not so much in having the right answers but in being asked the right questions. And why is that? Because questions help you to slow down and think. Questions help you to gain more internal clarity. Questions take the emphasis off of the person you hired (a lot of mental health professionals will talk more than listen, which can sometimes be super counterproductive) and back onto yourself. Questions can urge you to tap deeper into your curious, creative, and even organized sides of being. Questions can reveal to you the answers that you didn’t even know you had. And a life coach (a properly trained one) can help you to learn how to see all of this by asking you the right — meaning most beneficial — questions.
I mean, just think about it. While there is something to be said for seeing a professional who will just listen to you (if that’s what you’re looking for) and/or can provide you with some solid tips and tools, think about how good you’ll feel after having a session with someone who helped you to see that you oftentimes have, just what you’re looking for, within yourself? It’s all about working with someone who knows how to guide you along the way — and that’s just what a life coach does (or should be doing).
Aside from that, life coaches can:
- Help you to set and reach goals
- Get you to understand what your current needs are
- Support you in becoming a more effective communicator
- Offer up a different perspective on matters
- Boost your self-esteem
- Reframe your negative thought patterns
- Reduce your stress levels and provide some mental and emotional stability
Yep, they can be bomb on a few different levels…as you can see.
What Are Some Questions You Should Ask Before Officially
Hiring a Life Coach?
Did you notice how on the chart above the first question, it said that life coaches don’t need to be certified or credentialed (which is actually similar to doulas, although some formal training in both fields is a good idea)? While that is indeed true, word on the street is that fact will be changing over the next few years. The reality is that as life coaches are growing in popularity (and let’s be real, they are competing strongly with therapists and counselors), many in the mental health field are standing up and saying that they should be required to have some sort of professional training. Whether their reasons are rooted in jealousy, pettiness, or accountability, this is where we are now, and honestly, there are some benefits to the soon-to-be mandate becoming the case.
Again, because life coaching is still not regulated en masse, anyone with an opinion and a website can call themselves a life coach. And while I won’t name no names (the list is quite frankly too long at this point anyway), a lot of these people aren’t coaches at all. How do I know? Because they don’t do what I just shared that life coaches are supposed to do — ask you the questions that will empower you to find your own answers (in a nutshell).
That’s why, before just paying for a life coaching seminar from someone who offers them on YouTube or TikTok or even hiring someone who was referred to you by someone else, be prepared to ask the following questions:
Are you certified and/or credentialed through an ICF-accredited school? ICF stands for the International Coaching Federation. It’s where the serious life coaches go to get qualified. Although you can find some outstanding coaches who didn’t go through ICF, if you do work with someone who did, you can be confident that they know what a life coach is actually supposed to do and that they’ve been trained in exactly how to do it.
How long have you been working as a life coach? Even if they aren’t certified or credentialed, it helps to work with someone who has some experience underneath their belt. Try not to just take their word for it, either. Ask them if they have some referrals who would be willing to personally vouch for them.
What is your niche? Although a niche is not necessary, it can be beneficial to work with someone who has a “specialty.” For instance, I study marriage on a daily basis, like someone is paying me a million dollars annually to do it, and that has been the case since my 20s. So yeah, my niche is marriage with a subset of dating and relationships, first and foremost. At this point, even though I’ve never been married before (half of all marriages end in divorce, so don’t automatically assume that married folks are full of marriage wisdom just because they’re married…feel me?), there are husbands and wives who will send couples my way because they know how engrossed into the topic of marriage (including intel, stats, books, podcasts, studies, etc.) that I am. Can I also “life coach someone” into making a decision about their finances? Sure, because, again, it’s about knowing what kind of questions to ask. Yet am I better at helping folks with their marriage? Hands down, because it is my “lane.”
Do we have to work together in an office, or are there other options? Most of my clients, we meet by phone. Mostly it’s because many of them are out of town; however, even with the ones who live in my city, I find that a phone call takes some of the pressure off when it comes to them not being stared down for an hour or more at a time. Either way, ask a potential life coach what session options they offer, including in-person, phone, or video chatting (like a Zoom meeting). Sometimes the convenience of chatting from home can make the experience well worth your while (even more so).
Do you plan on getting certified/credentialed at some point? I live in Music City (the real ones know where that is), and so, since Tennessee is leading the charge in people having some formal/professional training, that’s a part of the reason why, even with almost 20 years of experience in working with married couples (and even getting referrals from therapists and pastors), I decided to recently get certified/credentialed as a holistic life coach and trauma recovery coach as well (I will be certified in both by May and credentialed by late fall).
However, if you are working with someone who isn’t certified or credentialed and has no plans on becoming that way, it can’t hurt to ask why. Again, there are some folks who are great without the training — yet knowing the method to their madness can prove to be highly beneficial.
How Much Should You Expect to Pay?
Personally, I don’t charge as much as I should. I know it. My instructors say it. Other coaches in my life berate me about it. I’ve honestly heard it enough that it’ll probably change by the end of the year. And while I won’t put my own rates on blast (email me at email@example.com if you’re curious/interested), what I will say is the current going rate for life coaches typically averages somewhere between $75-200/hr.
Usually, what I will do is charge half of that amount for the first session to see if a potential client and myself would be a good fit but different life coaches approach the initial meeting in a variety of ways. Just make sure that you ask all of the questions that will make you feel comfortable about moving forward, and don’t feel bad about “interviewing” several before making a final decision.
How Long Should Working with a Life Coach Last?
Last point. Remember how I said towards the top of this article that life coaching tends to be a shorter-term type of (professional) relationship? Because the ultimate goal of life coaching is to help you to find the answers within yourself that you need for your current and/or future decisions, oftentimes, you may not need more than a few sessions.
On the other hand, some life coaches will assess your situation (it’s normal for them to either give you an intake form) and then recommend a three, six, or 12-month commitment. Bottom line, life coaching really shouldn’t require a super long dynamic — unless you, as the client, would like for it to be that way (for instance, if you have several different things that you would like to be assisted with/supported in).
Hopefully, I was able to provide you with some insights into the world of life coaching so that you now have a better understanding of what one is and how one could serve you. Plus, now you know that whenever you hear someone call them a coach, you have a proper guideline to go by.
Even though I happen to be one (which does make me a lil’ bit biased), I think everyone could benefit from seeing a life coach at least a couple of times in their lifetime. After all, anything that encourages you to think for yourself in ways that you never had before is definitely not time or money wasted. Straight up.
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Featured image by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images
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