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Wendy Buckingham  /  Creator, Life Coaching Professionally

Which Life Coaching Association Is The Right One For You?

Page Summary

Learn why it's a good idea to join a professional independent life coaching association. And check the list of associations to see which one is going to offer the best memberships benefits for your coaching?

FYI: I may receive commissions at no cost to you. Please see my affiliate disclosure for more.

Why Join A Life Coaching Association?

Being a new coach, out on your own can be lonely, especially if you work from home and do lots of Skype, Zoom or telephone coaching.

Different doors to choose life coaching associations from.

You may feel a lot less lonely if you join an independent life coaching association where you will be able to connected with other coaches and take advantage of membership benefits.

These associations create a coaching community for their members as well as, in some cases, offering a path to credentialing of coaches and accreditation of life coaching trainings.

Most associations have a good online presence, so even if you don't live near enough to go to meetings or conferences in person, you can still be visible and involved.

Some have local chapters that meet regularly in person. Others hold online meetings by conference call,  or hold annual conferences.

This gives you the opportunity to make contact with other coaches and keep up to date with the latest methods and innovations.

Get very clear on the benefits you want to receive by belonging to a life coaching association before you commit to membership as membership benefits can differ considerably from one life coaching association to another.

Some offer credentialing whilst others are purely forums to bring coaches together to exchange views and information.

 Understand Certification, Accreditation and Credentialing

There is often confusion and inconsistency about the differences between Certification, Accreditation and Credentialing apart from semantics. If you are not sure this formal definition will help although some schools and associations still mix them up.  

Certification is what is offered at the end of a coach specific training to show you have completed and maybe taken a test within the training offered. Certification can be offered with any course, regardless of the quality. 

Accreditation generally applies to a coaching training not a coach. The training has been accredited to comply with the criteria and standards of an independent coaching organisation.

Credentialing is when coaches who reach a certain level of proficiency and coaching experience can apply for a credential from some of the independent coaching associations such as the ICF where it carries a lot of weight as an endorsement of coaching proficiency.  However some coaching associations accredit rather than credential their members.

Six Tips To Finding The Best Life Coaching Association For YOU!

These six tips will help you decide the benefits you need from a life coaching association and make a good decision about which one you should join. 

Please note that I do not recommend or endorse any of them although I have been a member of the ICF and support what they stand for. It's up to you to do the research to find which is the best for you by asking the right questions. 

1. Is it a truly independent life coaching association?

Independence is the key! Make sure the organisation is truly "independent" and is not not just a front to lead you to a specific coaching school. Just because it has the authoritative sounding "institute" "federation" or "association", in the name, there is no guarantee it is actually an independent association for accrediting courses and credentialing coaches.  

Some coaching schools use these words in their name to give them status and credibility which can be misleading. The clue is that they will try and enrol you in one of their trainings, even if they offer free information.

Having said that, some independent life coaching associations do offer the occasional trainings but it is not their main focus, more like for extra skills.

2. Do they help market you as a coach?

For instance, some associations do not give members the opportunity to have their detailed profile listed in the coach referral section of their website, unless they are are credentialed as a coach through them.

Other associations may allow you a profile as a coach without their credentialing so you do at least get a chance to be seen and contacted by prospective clients as soon as you join. 

3. Is there a referral or "find a coach" system to bring you clients?

Leading professional coaching associations often have a system for prospective clients to be given as leads to member coaches.

The person looking for coaching submits their coaching requirements (personal, business, corporate, health, etc.) and maybe the fee they are prepared to pay, and the system automatically sends their information to several coaches who match those requirements. 

It is then up to the coach to contact the prospect to see if they are indeed a good coaching match.

Several qualified prospective clients came to me through the ICF referral system so belonging to a professional life coaching association that has this benefit can be an effortless way to get good leads.  

4. Does the association offer mentoring or supervision?

A great benefit of an association is to have a list of members who are qualified mentors or supervisors. These are experienced coaches who coach candidates to achieve their credentialing aspirations.

Many experienced credentialed coaches specialise in running affordable groups to prepare coaches for credentialing by the association to which they belong. 

5. How restricted is the membership?

Is the membership you are considering open to associated disciplines such as training or counseling at any level, or even to people or organisations who simply have an interest in coaching?

This can be a real advantage in broadening your contact base, maybe for networking, alliances and cross referrals. However, a downside of this expanded membership is that it can also make you a target for unsolicited marketing from those non-coach members.

6. Are the community or education benefits what you need?

What sort of community benefits does the life coaching association offer that are important to you? For instance The Christian Coaches Network will join you with other coaches with a similar coaching focus.

Are you interested in taking part in chapter meetings with speakers, chat rooms, blogs, conferences, ongoing skills training or free or discounted indemnity insurance?

Attending  chapter meetings (in person or online) and coaching conference can be a wonderful way to learn and make great connections with other coaches.

Connecting arrows wrapped around the globe

This is especially important if the professional coaching association you are considering has its base in a country other than where you live.

Find out if the association caters for an international community with webinars and online communications.

Also, check if the member benefits offered apply to the country you live in. For example, I've came across a very attractive discounted indemnity insurance as part of a membership package but it did not apply unless you were a resident of the association's country of origin.


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Have a look at the The Maga Pack which includes 16 packs and products is the best value as it covers just about everything you are likely to need in a coaching situation. 

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Check Out These Independent Life Coaching Associations

Again I would emphasise  I do not recommend any of them although I have been a member of the ICF and really support their work.  It's up to you to do the research to find which is the best for you by asking the right questions.  Click on the title links. Happy hunting!

International Coach Federation (ICF)

Founded in 1995, the International Coaching Federation (ICF), now has over 30,000 members and is possibly the best known of the life coaching industry associations. I was one of the earliest members of the Australian Chapter. 

Its founder, Thomas Leonard, the originator of the modern concept of life coaching, was the first to come up with a code of ethics and credentialing for coaches.

Based in the US, the ICF considers itself to be the global voice of coaching and sets the highest benchmark standards for pure life coaching in the profession (that is no mix with consulting or mentoring) with three levels of credentialing - Associate (ACC), Professional (PCC) and Master (MCC).

The ICF credentialing process is one of the most stringent but really counts for credibility in the coaching market place.  

If a training course is accredited by the ICF, you are pretty safe in assuming that it will deliver the what you need to be a recognised professional. 

International Authority for Professional Coaching and Mentoring (IAPC&M)

The International Authority for Professional Coaching and Mentoring (IAPC&M) has been through several incarnations since its founding in 2004 and is presented as the only British Ombudsman approved coach accreditation body.

It has a broader base than the ICF and has a worldwide membership that includes coaches, mentors and coach/mentor training providers and also works with corporations to accredit in-house coaching/mentoring programmes. 

It was founded by and continues to be run by professional coaches. Its focus is building, maintaining, raising awareness, and working to promote best practices for coaching internationally, while providing value added benefits to its Members..

There are several clearly set out membership options and benefits including credentialing (they call it accreditation, hence the confusion)  for both individuals and coach trainings. It also offers ongoing education opportunities and I was privileged to be invited to present on goal achievement for them.

Association for Coaching

Based in the UK, The Association for Coaching is an independent organisation with the goal to promote best practice, raise awareness and standards across the coaching industry. It credentials coaches and accredits trainings and offers many benefits to its members including a directory of members.

This association also encourages associate membership from individuals and organisations involved in the coaching industry so is not limited to professional coaches.

The Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches

The Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches (APAC) is strongly allied to the ICF and serves coaches in the Asia region including China and India.

It provides a forum, community and opportunities for coaches working in Asia to connect with each other and work towards strengthening the presence of coaching in the region.  The APAC has already held several very well attended conferences.

The Christian Coaching Network

The CCN is aligned with industry-standard coaching organisations such as the ICF, IAC, etc., but it is also faith-based for those who want to include a Christian focus in their coaching. 

A member of the CCN kindly submitted this information to Life Coaching Professionally, for inclusion in this list and I was pleased to do so.

The International Association of Coaching (IAC)

The IAC® says it is different from other coaching organisations in that they assess coaching mastery in the belief that attending coach training or graduating from any specific program is not sufficient evidence that a coach can, in fact, coach.

The IAC® believes that becoming a coach is a transformative process, and honours prior training, education and life experience.

Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (CMSA)

COMENSA is the SAQA-recognised non-statutory professional body for coaching and mentoring in South Africa.

It regulates the coaching and mentoring professions in South Africa through a professional code of ethics and conduct, professional designations, ongoing continuing professional development, professional supervision and access to resources.

It also has a directory of coaches and mentors and protects the rights of users of coaching and mentoring through an enforceable code of ethics and an ethics complaints procedure.

European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC)

EMCC is made up of Affiliated Country EMCCs and their membership plus direct members where a local EMCC does not yet exist.  

It is made up of delegates from each of the following affiliated EMCCs – Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom , and Asia Pacific Region. 

Their website has a pull-down menu of flags so you can learn about the  operations of the EMCC in your country. Several levels of membership are offered to coaches and mentors.

The Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC)

This association claims to be the first global professional association to exclusively represent the business coaching industry. Since its inception in 1997, WABC has dedicated itself to raising the profile of business coaching and to differentiate it from life coaching in general. 

The Association for Professional Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS)

This one is for the corporate coaches as APECS has the stated mission "to ensure that in a complex world, organisations are enabled to use coaching and supervision to deliver ethical and sustainable growth".

It has two levels of membership and offers events and resources for members.

Association of Coaching Supervisors

The mission of this association is to add value to the industry by exclusively focusing on coaching supervision as compared to mentoring and to actively promote the role of the supervisor. Its founder Edna Murdoch has published a book, Full Spectrum Supervision, that is really useful if you get to the stage where you feel you have the experience to supervise other coaches.

I have also written more about how supervision has become an important coaching niche for experienced coaches. 

Have I missed a quality Life Coaching Association?

That's  my list so far.  If you know of a genuine life coaching association that should be included, please contact me via this link.  

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Created and written by Wendy Buckingham, Class One Productions P/L. Sydney

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