Despite the fact that the field of life coaching has experienced enormous growth in the past decade, many people are still toeing with the idea of a Life Coach. Many are now aware of the positive outcomes of coaching, but when it comes to the process; it’s a different story.

Thus, as a Life Coach, you need to develop a concise 30-second message that will tell your prospects (1) what you do for a living and (2) what is it that you do. To assist you, this article will attempt to answer the big question:

What is Coaching?

Coaching (or life coaching as it is sometimes referred) is a general term for working with an individual (or company in some cases) to improve and enhance aspects of an area which, for the client, they may need or want to change (Grant & Greene, 2004).

Zeus and Skiffington (2000) have identified the coaching relationship to be one that focuses on change and transformation. The coaching relationship is:

  • Essentially a conversation
  • About learning
  • More about asking the right questions than providing answers

Another way to look at coaching is that it helps maximise an individual’s performance (Gallway, as cited in Whitmore, 1996).

Grant and Greene (2004) have identified the origins of coaching to have started in the 1960′s when the business world used techniques from the discipline of sports coaching. Such techniques, for example utilising pressure and stress and setting performance targets were used in staff training and development.

Coaching has also incorporated techniques from a number of other disciplines such as human resources, mentoring, counselling, training, and consulting which have helped make it the discipline it is today (Grant & Greene, 2004; Skiffington & Zeus, 2005).

Coaching focuses on the different areas of an individual’s life. Grant and Greene (2004) have identified seven main themes in life coaching. The themes are:

  1. Clarify what the individual wants from life
  2. Set effective goals
  3. Monitor progress on the journey of change
  4. Stay focused and challenged
  5. Stick to commitments
  6. Continually reassess and re-examine ideas, plans and strategies
  7. Identify values

General Roles of a Life Coach

The coaching relationship (or coach-coachee relationship) plays a large role in determining the success of the coaching process. It is thus crucial in the initial stages of coaching that the coach joins with the coachee to establish a relationship based on mutual trust and rapport.

For trust to develop, coachees must feel safe and comfortable with the coach. Coachees must sense that the coach is being genuine in his/her dealing with them, that he/she is competent and able to assist them in achieving their aims.
There are many roles that a coach performs. These roles include:

  • Increasing the individual’s self-awareness.
  • Modelling desired behaviours.
  • Getting to the core of the issue.
  • Giving instructions.
  • Targeting behaviours to be changed.
  • Giving feedback.
  • Insuring practice rehearsal.
  • Keeping the coachee focused and on track.

These roles are generic across coaching situations and can occur throughout the coaching relationship in no particular order.

Coaching and Counselling

The following reading provides an understanding of the differences between these professions:

“Before suggesting some differences between counselling or psychotherapy and life coaching, I stress that there are many similarities. Both counselling and life coaching aim to help clients lead fulfilling lives. In addition, they leave the client with the right to choose what sort of life to lead. Some counselling approaches, in particular the cognitive and cognitive-behavioural approaches, contain a large coaching element within them.

Though they do not emphasize the word skills, approaches like rational emotive behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy aim to teach and coach clients in key mind skills and, to a lesser extent, in communication skills so that they can deal better with the problems for which they came to counselling. Life coaches can gain much from being familiar with theories of counselling and therapy”. (Corsini and Wedding, 2005; Nelson-Jones, 2006a)

“Now let’s look at some ways that life coaching differs from conventional counselling and therapy. The goals of life coaching are both positive and stated in the positive. There is an assumption of seeking mental wellness rather than overcoming mental illness. Though an exaggeration, there is some truth in Peltier’s comment: ‘High performance athletes are coached; sick, weak or crazy people get therapy’ Peltier, 2001: xix).

Life coaching is not geared towards those whose problems are best described by the latest version of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Such people require psychotherapy. Coaching clients are not worked within psychiatric hospitals. Often very competent people seek life coaching; they want to be even more effective in leading their lives.

“Normal” people also seek life coaching to maximize aspects of their potential and get more out of life. Life coaching does this by bringing psychological knowledge to address everyday issues and problems such as relationships, health, career, finances and spiritual concerns, among others.

Though there is some overlap, the clients for life coaching differ from those for counselling and therapy. Clients come for counselling very often because they are suffering and in psychological pain. They want to feel, think and act at a level that they regard as normal for the society of which they are a part. At the very least, they want to stop continually feeling very low.

Approximately 10 per cent of the population will need counselling at some stage of their lives. However, even normal people can feel unfulfilled. Clients seek coaching to gain ways of or skills for becoming even more successful and happier than they already are. Rather than being motivated by pain, they are motivated by gain. 

Their problems are often more to do with achieving their positive potential than dealing with negative issues. They may realise that, during their upbringing, they were not systematically trained in many of the skills for leading a successful life. In addition, they may want coaching to face new challenges in their lives.

There is a vast potential market for life coaching in the 90 per cent or so of people who do not need counselling. In addition, many who have been counselled may not need counselling. Also, many who have been counselled may later want life coaching to become even happier and more skilled at living.

There are many broader reasons why there is a need for disciplined life coaching. With the increase in economic affluence in the Western world, there does not appear to have been a corresponding increase in overall happiness. For example, the divorce rate in countries like Britain, Australia and the USA is about 50 per cent of first marriages, with many also failing at subsequent marriages.

In addition, the increased mobility and time spent at work by both sexes has contributed to a breakdown in traditional support systems, such as the extended family and local church. People are bombarded every day by information that often causes them to question how they are living.

Arguably, this is a more challenging time in which to live. Not only are the former sources of support in decline, but there is a whole new range of problems with the rapid increase in changes brought about by technological invention.

Alongside the difference of life coaching goals to those of counselling and therapy, the ways of attaining them also differ. With its main emphasis on working with non-disturbed people, life coaching is less likely to be conducted with a psychodynamic approach. Mutual goals are established quite quickly in life coaching. If anything, life coaching directly encourages and trains clients in how to deal with and improve their present and their futures, rather than to understand their past.”

Source: Nelson-Jones, R. (2007). Life coaching skills: How to develop skilled clients (pp. 6-9). London: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Modes of Life Coaching

Technology is constantly evolving and new ways to communicate with people are continually being developed. This being said, technology can influence the way a Life Coach manages and expands his/her business.

When working with different coachees, one may find that some coachees are extremely busy people that don’t always have time to have a face-to-face meeting but who still want to work on their life and career goals. There are other coachees who may travel a lot and a face-to-face meeting is not always possible.

Email, telephone and video conferencing have expanded the ways in which coaching can occur. However, certain communication types suit different situations and a certain amount of creativity is required to facilitate the coaching relationship. There are four modes of how coaching can be conducted:

  1. Face-to-face coaching
  2. Telephone coaching 
  3. Email coaching
  4. Video coaching

Timeframes for Sessions

There is no set time frame for how long a coaching relationship should last. It is very much dependent on the situation and how much work is required of both the coach and the coachee. Therefore, the coaching relationship could last from one session for one hour to longer sessions, and the coaching relationship could even last years.
Skiffington and Zeus (2003) have identified that for management or executive development coaching, the relationship can last up to five years. It has also been identified that for coaching to enhance performance in an organisation the timeframe is usually from three to six months.

For team coaching in an organisation the sessions are also generally three to six months however, the program can run multiple times a week. Business coaching can run from six to twelve months, and in personal/life coaching there are many different issues that come up during coaching and therefore no timeframe has been identified.
Overall, there is no set guideline for the length of the coaching relationship nor is there a layout to how many sessions a week should occur. It would be up to both the coach to make a professional judgement as to how long they work with the coachee and also, the coachee who may feel he or she has taken all they can from a coach. It is important to keep an open, honest dialogue between the coach and coachee.

Why Become a Life Coach?

There are a number of reasons why people want to become life coaches. Coaching is among the fastest growing fields at present and there are opportunities in different areas to work as a coach. It is also a discipline in which professionals could achieve career goals by working for an organisation or for oneself.

It can also be an opportunity to utilise knowledge gained through other experiences to help others. Overall, coaching can be a rewarding and fulfilling career.

Want to become a Life Coach? Then visit


  1. Corsini, R.J., & Wedding, D. (eds) (2005) Current Psychotherapies (7th ed). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
  2. Grant, A., & Greene, J. (2004). It’s your life: What are you going to do with it. (2nd ed.). London: Pearson Education.
  3. Nelson-Jones, R. (2007). Life coaching skills: How to develop skilled clients. London: SAGE.
  4. Skiffington, S., & Zeus, P. (2003). Behavioural coaching: How to build sustainable personal and organisational strength. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.
  5. Zeus, P. & Skiffington, S. (2000). The complete guide to coaching at work. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.