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How Hiring a Life Coach Is Like Dating

It's exciting & life-altering, but can be complicated and traumatizing, if you're not careful

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”


“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”

Carl Jung

The moment you decide you want to hire a coach is an exciting one. 

Like dating, you’re pumped for the possibilities. 

But like dating, you soon realize it can be complicated and tricky to figure out what’s what. And depending on who you ask, you always get a different answer on the “rules of the game.” ​And just like dating, some people love it and have great stories of success that change lives for the better, while others get burned. 

So, if you’re in the process of hiring a coach or might in the future, you’ll want to stick around as what I’m about to share will save you time, money and potential heartbreak (again, just like dating).

Ok, let’s rewind. Let me congratulate you for deciding to hire a coach. Congrats! It’s a big step to admit that you want more and you need help getting there.

It’s even cooler when you realize that there are people out there who exist to specifically help you in that particular area. 

Maybe you heard about coaching through a friend who’s had great results with a coach. Or you’ve seen ads on social media and have always wondered about it. Perhaps you’ve read enough self-development books to know that there are great coaches who can help up-level your life. 

So you go out and look for a coach. How hard can it be, right?

But very quickly you find yourself muddled in confusion. A simple google search for “coaches near me” presents you with results that don’t speak to you and decisions you’re not ready to make like:

  • What do I look for to find a reputable coach?
  • How do I know if my coach is “qualified”?
  • What’s the difference between a Coach and a Mentor and a Therapist? 
  • I’m a millennial- should I hire a millennial coach?
  • How does text-based coaching work? 
  • Will I like a retreat? 
  • Do I really need a course?
  • Can this goddess-like Instagram celeb who quit her job to travel the world and works on the beach- help me?

I get it, hiring a coach can be tricky. I’m a certified professional coach and it’s even tricky for me cull through the options when I’m hiring a coach!

We’re going to dive into all of that right here. I’ll break it down bit by bit. Starting with…


1. Coaching is still an unregulated industry largely around the world but particularly here in the U.S. 

This means anyone can call themselves a coach, which is also the case with titles such as speaker, consultant and trainer.

In a world where standards don’t exist, the best thing you can do is to find a certified coach. 

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the closest thing to a governing body for coaches. 

This organization’s top priority is to uphold professional and ethical standards for coaching.

Practically speaking, this means a certified coach is trained to assess if coaching is right for you and lets you know if someone else can better help you (like a therapist). Certified coaches also follow privacy policy around coaching relationships and turn away clients when conflict of interest arise. 

What is a certified coach?
Coaches are deemed “certified” after completing a rigorous coaching training program recognized by the ICF (more on that later).

Upon completing coaching school, coaches can obtain even higher levels of certification through ICF based on experience level. 

It’s 100% up to the coach to either enroll in coaching school or to complete any levels of certification. 

This isn’t to say that you can’t find a gifted coach who isn’t certified – because they do exist. But unless they come as a personal referral, vetting coaches who haven’t been certified is like mining for a gem – it’s time consuming and risky.

I’ll give you an idea of the difference between a certified and a non-certified coach. 

Take my coaching school for example – it’s an ICF-recognized, reputable coaching school. Being certified means completing ~400 hours of training that includes weekly practice coaching and being coached in both one-on-one and group settings. Receiving feedback from mentor coaches and peers. Successfully coaching a Master Coach and passing a written test. The training is a 6 months process and you have up to a year to complete your final exam. Some people take the test multiple times until they pass. Needless to say, for most, coaching school is a transformative experience for any coach that pulls through. 

Having a master’s degree in psychology, I thought it was going to be a formality to “check the box.”

​I was not expecting to be blown away, not to mention having my life transformed by the process. However, personally I have gained so much through the certification process that allows me to be a more powerful coach for my clients. 

In comparison, a non-certified coach can be anyone who wakes up one day and decides to call him/herself a coach. It’s that simple. 

Which is why you’ll get coaches of different flavors with different credentials and business models. 

Because of this, some people have transformative experiences with life coaches while others leave coaching feeling anticlimactic or slightly traumatized. ​

2. The responsibility and burden is on the client to do her/his research before hiring a coach.

Because coaching is not regulated, the burden is on the client to get clear on her/himself and the coach before entering into a coaching relationship. 

First and foremost, in order to select the right coach for you, you need to be crystal clear on what you need help with for two reasons. 

One, the best coaches are specialized. A public speaking coach vs. a nutritional coach vs. a business coach will provide very different services. 

Number two, your coach is going to ask you what your agenda is for coaching. Meaning you’ll have to articulate your current challenges, what you hope to gain and what success looks like for you. 

Only when you know exactly what you need help with can you find the right coach.

More on this later. I’ll show you exactly what to look for. 

3. Life Coaching or Coaching is a super broad term.

“Life Coach” or “Coach” are not protected titles, meaning while ICF can define the role of a coach, there is no one enforcing this in practice. 

This makes shopping for a coach difficult because there are many types of coaches, and you might be confused by which type of coach is best for you. 

When you look closer, this umbrella term catches different types of services ranging from:

  • Sports & Fitness
  • Business & Entrepreneur
  • Career & Resume
  • Spirituality
  • Relationship & Marriage
  • Corporate & Leadership
  • Productivity
  • Wellness 
  • Mental Health & Wellbeing
  • Child-raising & Family
  • Nutrition
  • Transition

And many more.

And within each area, there are even more eccentric niches.

Wondering if there is a coach to:

  • Bring out your inner goddess? 
  • Teach busy moms self-care? 
  • Help you get keto-adapted? 
  • Help you get keto-adapted through a vegan lifestyle? 
  • Help you practice intermittent fasting to lose loose skin? 
  • Teach you how to get more productive while only working 4 hours a day? 
  • Help you recover from adrenal fatigue? 
  • Help you heal from childhood trauma? 
  • Help you heal from adult trauma? 
  • Help you heal from intergenerational trauma? 
  • Help you write the perfect copy for your new website? 
  • Help you write your first book?
  • Help you clear the noise and gain clarity? 

Yes, yes and YES (and that last one is me if you’re looking for help clearing noise)!

There’s a type of coach for pretty much anything you need help with.

And you’ll find that most of these “coaches” aren’t operating in the coaching role as defined by ICF. More on this later. 

4. Coaches can make up their own approach, process & methodology.

By now you’re starting to see a pattern. I keep referring back to #1!

Because coaching isn’t a regulated industry, it creates many down-stream impacts that you will want to consider, and approach is definitely one of them. 

If you go to an accountant or a nail technician or a psychologist, here in the US, there is a standardized approach, methodology or process that has to be followed based on the industry. Otherwise, service providers can get fined or sued. 

In contrast, there is no such thing for coaches. 

Certified coaches from a reputable coaching school learn effective approaches, processes and methodologies. Many of these approaches and tools are based on behavioral, cognitive and social science and positive psychology. Coaches will layer on their own techniques, other trainings, and intuition when working with clients.

Non-certified coaches, are on their own to develop their own approach. 

This isn’t necessarily bad if it’s an awesome approach. But it does open up the coaching experience to a lot of inconsistencies across different coaches.

5. Life Coaching is more than an expert sharing knowledge with you. 

ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Coaching is a very specific skill to help you reflect inward and tap into your truth. The coaching process reframes and shifts your mindset so that you gain your own insights, solve your own problems and pave your own unique journey with your own wisdom and brilliance.

Because of this philosophy, the coach does not assume the expert role of your life – you are the expert at your life. Your coach is there to guide you through what’s keeping you stuck and facilitate the process.

6. Coaches can take on various roles. It is your responsibility to find the right coach for what you need help with. 

Even though you and I both now know a coach’s role is to guide you through your process rather than give you the answers and tell you what to do, there are others out there who haven’t been informed.

Because the title “coach” isn’t regulated, it takes on various definitions ranging from “sports coaching” to “motivational speakers” to “career coach” that might be assigned to you at work. You can imagine each of these types of “coaches” assumes a very different role. 

But I’ll simplify the different types of coaches into four models:

  1. Mentorship 
  2. Consulting 
  3. Whole-person 
  4. Large-scale movement

Most coaches are trained in or gravitate toward one of the four approaches. Some coaches work purely with one approach, other coaches use different approaches to achieve different results with different clients. 

For example, I offer coaching for a few different areas of life, and I’ll use different approaches for different topics.  

When I’m helping clients de-stress and find their calm, I use a hybrid of mentorship, consulting and whole-person coaching. I’ll incorporate an assessment, share my own experience with stress and healing from stress-related illnesses, share science-based strategies and tools to help my clients develop resilience to stress. We’ll also explore the root cause of what’s causing my clients’ stress mentally and emotionally. 

Compared to when I’m helping a client clear the noise, get unstuck or design a life vision, I lean heavily on the whole-person coaching model. 

So what do these four major coaching approaches mean? 

A. Mentorship Model:
The mentor model is based on passing on the coach’s personal experience to the client. Basically, it’s the model of “I’ve been successful in this area before. I know the steps and what works and what doesn’t. So I’ll share my experience with you and you can take what applies to you.” It’s very similar to a mentor you’ve had in your life – except you’re paying for this one.

B. Consulting Model:
The consulting model takes on the role of the expert and will audit or assess what you’re doing then provide recommendations and feedback (including what you’re doing wrong). You chose the option you like. Then the coach will help you get there with tools and feedback along the way. It focuses on solutions and actions/next steps.

The next approach is the true functional definition of coaching amongst certified coaches and coaching schools. But since it’s an unregulated field, many mentors or consultants are calling themselves coaches and no one’s the wiser. See how that can be confusing? For the sake of this discussion, I’ll call it the Whole-person Model.

C. Whole-person Model:
Coaching is influenced by cognitive-behavioral theories and the philosophy of the psychologist Carl Jung. 

This approach is grounded on three fundamental principles:

  1. Your beliefs, thoughts, feelings and behaviors are connected
  2. Each person is meant to experience a unique journey and has a unique path to fulfillment
  3. The coach isn’t the expert in your life – you are the expert

This means the coach won’t ever impose her beliefs or agenda on you. And the coach will be asking powerful questions that will allow you to explore your helpful and unhelpful beliefs and thoughts. 

The coach’s role is to guide you to discover insights and bring out your inner wisdom to lead you to your personal truth. The goal is to empower you to solve current and future problems with the insights gained through coaching. 

D. Large-scale Movement Model:
You know who they are – it’s the Jay ShettyTony RobbinsMarie ForleoGabby BernsteinIyanla Vanzant of the world! 

Your mind might have jumped straight here when you thought about a life coach because that’s what you see in the media the most. It makes sense because these coaches run large-scale business empires. It’s their job to get in your face if they’re trying to create a movement. 

Most of these coaches run large scale retreats, events and programs hosting tens of thousands of people from all around the world. While the coach with the name will appear in these large-scale events, generally, when it comes to 1-on-1 coaching, they employ an army of coaches that are assigned out for those interactions. 

Ok, so now you get an idea of the 4 different approaches to coaching.

Keep in mind, within each of these 4 broad approaches, coaches will have individual philosophies and method that further differentiate their practices

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “so which model’s the best?” Which model should I select if I’m looking to hire a coach?

Well, as a certified coach, you might think I’d say it’s the whole-person model or the official “coaching model” is the best. 

But I won’t. Because I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. 

Here’s what I think.

It depends on what you’re looking to accomplish. 

When to hire a “Mentor” Coach:

  • You want to mimic a similar journey as your coach (ex. Leadership)
  • You want to break into an industry (ex. Entrepreneurship)
  • You want to learn something new (ex. Intermittent Fasting)

When to hire a “Consultant” Coach:

  • You want to create or improve on an output (ex. Website)
  • You want to fill a skill / speciality gap (ex. Business)
  • You need someone to give you a plan or a roadmap (ex. Fitness)

When to hire a “Whole-person” Coach:

  • You want to work on yourself emotionally, mentally, spiritually
  • You believe in taking your own unique path to live your truth
  • You like making your own decisions rather than being told what to do

When to hire a “Large-scale Movement” Coach:

  • You want a fully immersive experience or event to blow your socks off
  • You’ve been admiring their work from a distance and want more
  • Working with a big name is important to you


Your ideal coach is dependent on what you’re trying to achieve. 

If going keto is your goal, my suggestion would be to hire a keto / nutrition coach that will likely use a mentor or consultant approach. They will assess your current macros, tell you what’s worked for them and others and what kicked them out of ketosis. Some of them might even draft you up a 3 months plan. 

Whereas, if you’re looking to experience more happiness in your life, I’d suggest hiring a life coach who uses a whole-person approach that will guide your exploration into your life on a deeper level. Your coach will establish a safe space for you to explore your beliefs, thoughts, emotions and actions that impact your happiness.

Regardless of the type of coach you hire, coaching is action-oriented. Unlike traditional therapy, you’ll likely get some “assignments” for you to play with in between sessions. ​

7. Coaching can be delivered in different modes

  1. In-person
  2. Video
  3. Audio
  4. Text
  5. Individual vs. Group
  6. Training / Self-guided

In-person:
In-person coaching is when your coach meets with you face-to-face.

This mode is great for mentor or consulting-based coaching. Particularly if a demonstration or workshop is required. 

This mode limits you to local coaches in your city, unless you want to travel to your coach or pay for your coach to travel to you.

Video:
Video coaching is particularly popular because it provides flexibility for both the coach and client.  

The coach and the client are able to build rapport and interact verbally and non-verbally. 

However, this mode isn’t always necessary and can be distracting when diving into deep topics. Mainly because technology is still not like real-life, which leaves room for interpretation, which could interfere with deep sharing. 

I’ll show you what I mean.

We’re programmed to build trust when we can look into someone’s eyes and feel that they’re mirroring back our emotions and looking at us in a safe way (however we interpret safe). Well, depending on how the devices are positioned, it may not always seem like the body language is on point on the screen. This interferes with a safe environment that we all need in order to become vulnerable – which is where real insights come from.

If you’re someone who prefers to see your coach, this can be overcome by speaking about the technology openly. For example, when I’m on a video call with a client, I’ll err on over-communicating about anything that the screen cuts off but could impact how my client interprets my attention. Like if an animal wanders into the room, or if I’m taking notes or keeping track of time. 

I’ve found that some people actually prefer not to have the visual aspect when in a whole-person model coaching as that allows their most authentic self to shine through. 

Whatever your preference – it’s totally acceptable. You should let your coach know upfront when you first begin and your coach should accommodate what works best for you. Professional coaches understand and don’t take this personally. 

Audio:
As I alluded to already, the audio-only mode is great for deep discovery sessions. 

It’s similar to how we sometimes we close our eyes when we’re trying to recall something or gather our thoughts. 

We’re limiting the data coming into our brain so that we can focus more energy and attention on the thing we’re trying to dig up.

So having audio-only coaching allows you to fully focus on your thoughts and what’s in your heart. 

In fact, when I get coached, I’ll frequently close my eyes for portions of the conversation to be completely in the moment and in-tuned with my body. 

Coaching calls can get emotional so if you’re not comfortable shedding tears and dripping snot in front of another person, having audio-only could keep you in that safe environment.

Keep in mind that you get out of the session as much as you put in. So without seeing you visually, your coach is fully going on what you share with your words and intonation. If your coach is intuitive, s/he can pick up on your energy and read in between the lines of what you say. 

But know that if you’re an expert at hiding your true thoughts and emotions, then you could miss opportunities by not sharing what’s on your heart with your coach. 

As a coach, there are some clients I prefer to have a video call with over audio and they are:

  • Someone who has difficulty expressing him/herself with words and need more prompting and thinking space. The visual cues are helpful to determine if the person is still thinking and processing or complete with their thought. 
  • Anyone who prefers video over just audio

Also if someone prefers to see me while we talk – it can be a quicker way to build a connection. 

Either way, the client has the ultimate say in what s/he prefers. That’s the start of building a safe and trusting relationship. 

Text-based
In the last few years, there’s been a growing trend with text-based coaching. 

Technology seems to be disrupting every other industry, so why not coaching, right? 

Well, as a certified coach with an advanced degree in Psychology, I might have been skeptical and resistant at first. 

But here’s what I learned in recent years – text coaching can be valuable.

Text-based coaching like BetterUp, Coach.Me, and MindRight amongst others has been a fast-growing trend. 

As someone who now coaches a variety of people from business professionals to students through some of these platforms, there’s definitely value and drawbacks.

The biggest value of text-based coaching is that it’s accessible to many people – both from a time and cost perspective. 

Because of the wider reach, more people can benefit from having a personal coach as a “secret weapon” to winning their day or to lean on when they experience a setback. 

People like the idea of having a coach in their pocket and accessible with a touch of a button.

Text Coaching Value

  • Easy and convenient
  • Best for creating new habits 
  • Great for having an accountability partner
  • Helpful for students to chat with someone about a topic that they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with their family or friends

Text Coaching Drawback: 

  • Communication can be sporadic and unfocused
  • Message sometimes lost in the translation without real-time ability to get more context
  • Set and setting can be unpredictable, most platforms and coaches do not recommend going deeper on a topic with a client using text

As a coach, I love the opportunity to help more people. But there is a limit to the depth you can go with text-based coaching. You are limited to help individuals on a surface level (which many times is a great place to start and has its impact), but at some point, it’s necessary to hop on a call to have the dedicated 60 mins to uncover deeper insights. 

I’d recommend using text-based if you want to “dip your toe” into coaching – but you really won’t experience the thrill of swimming until you jump into the pool.

Individual vs. Group Coaching:

Individual coaching gives you the focused attention of a coach. You’re able to go dive deeper into any area that you’re interested in. It’s more flexible and customized to your preferences and priorities.

Group coaching offers a sense of community, which can be healing. You’ll learn from other people’s experiences and questions. You’ll meet other like-minded people. However, your questions may not always be answered when you want or to the specificity you want. 

Training:
In addition to 1-on-1 coaching, some coaches will also offer training programs. 

Value:

  • Often training exist because the approach works and has helped many so the coach packages it to reach a bigger audience
  • Training is often more affordable than hourly rates with the coach
  • Training is a good way to see if the coach is a good fit for you If you’re unsure about investing 1-on-1 or other offerings with your coach

Drawback:

  • You generally don’t get individualized attention with the coach
  • You may not have the opportunity to dive deeper on your specific situation
  • Solutions may not be tailored specifically to your situation​

Coaching is part of a growing $10 Billion U.S. personal development industry.

Why is coaching on the rise?

We can’t talk about the successes of the coaching industry without talking about the surge of the need for coaching.

What’s the problem coaching is solving?

There are many reasons including a cultural trend toward valuing self-awareness, self-mastery, growth hacking, growth mindset, integrative health, wellness, and wellbeing.

If we just look at wellbeing, year over year, mental and emotional wellbeing stats are declining, while technology, business and medical “advancements” are exploding.⁠

These stats are happening worldwide, but it’s particularly bleak in the US.⁠⁠

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2017, in the US:⁠

  • Suicide is the 2nd cause of death (ages 10-34)⁠
  • Suicide is the 4th cause of death (ages 35-54)⁠
  • There are 2x more suicides than homicides⁠
  • There are 11M adults diagnosed with major depression⁠

These numbers have all said to have increased since the report. 

What’s important is that these stats tell us that our traditional model for mental and emotional health is lacking and broken. It also shows us that symptom management is not the same as promoting wellbeing and healing. 

⁠Fundamentally, how we’re dealing with stress and life is not working, and it starts with our mind. ⁠

Earlier this year, when I attended the 2019 Integrative Mental Health Conference in San Francisco, I learned from professors, medical experts and researchers that unanimously pointed out the confounding relationship between the increase of prescription medication for anxiety and depression and the uptick of depressed, anxious and suicidal people in the world. 

If medication can treat these disorders – meaning not just a temporary band-aid to numb the discomfort but treat and heal the root cause – shouldn’t we see an inverse relationship? Like we saw with smallpox – with increased vaccination, we saw a decrease in the disease and eventually, it was eradicated. 

Treatment takes time. But the direct relationship between the increase of drugs administered and the rise in mental and emotional disorders should be a clear sign that we’re going in the wrong direction. 

People who aren’t seeing the results with traditional intervention are seeking other means of regaining their wellness and wellbeing – including coaching. 

This is one of the many gaps that coaches are filling. 

Just like people hire trainers and nutritionists to tone and promote physical health, we should be thinking about our mental and emotional health in the same way. 

Summary of considerations if you’re hiring a coach

I recently heard that people don’t read anymore. What people allegedly do now is scroll. 

So if you happen to be a scroller looking to hire a coach, here are my suggestions:

  1. Get crystal clear on what you need help with
  2. Decide if you need a mentor, consultant, coach or a large-scale movement 
  3. Decide if you prefer in-person, video, audio, text or training
  4. Identify the niche that your ideal coach serves
  5. Find out if your coach is certified
    1. If so, which training program did your coach graduate from (not all programs are created equal nor recognized by ICF)?
    2. If not, does your coach come with a referral you trust?
  6. Find out your coach’s approach
  7. Have an introductory call with a coach before you sign up for anything (most coaches will do this complimentary because responsible coaches also want to make sure it’s a good fit)
  8. Interview your coach (see sample questions)
  9. Hire your coach that best fits what you need and get excited for what’s about to happen to your life

Questions to ask when hiring a coach:

  • What’s your coaching approach and philosophy when coaching?
  • What do you do to replenish and grow as a coach?
  • What communities do you belong to/ exchange info with?
  • What happens if you decide you can’t help me anymore?
  • Where did you train to become a coach? Is this an ICF recognized program?
  • What experiences have you had that makes differentiates you as a coach?

Hire a qualified life coach to partner with you to up-level your life and thrive.

Coaches assume an important role that spreads across multiple disciplines and industries. Our one goal is to help you win in the area of life you want to win. 

If this interests you, your first assignment is to figure out what you need help with and research the right coach to help you!

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