What is a Life Coach And What Is Life Coaching?

Your Questions Answered

What is a Life Coach and what do life coaches do? It's a question that's going to pop up all the time and  here's how you can learn to  answer for yourself and others, with confidence.

So this is to help you answer  them with clarity and not fumble trying to get it right. 


What Is A  Life Coach?

The best answer to the "what is a life coach?" question is that it he or she is a trained professional, who help the client achieve  their goals and outcomes, in personal and professional life.  

Having extensive training myself in the profession, I believes it is not OK to call yourself a professional life coach, unless you have some training in the specific skills which differ from mentoring, counselling or consulting.

That said, a coach, who can bring another personal development tool to their practice, may have a distinct advantage in what they are able to offer their clients.

The professional life coach will also operate within the guidelines of a professional code of ethics, such as the one created by the International Coach Federation.

What Is Life Coaching

A formal definition:  "Through a properly delivered and understood process, life coaching takes the client from where they are to where they want to be."

But you might want to develop your own more "user friendly"  and personalised description and there's help in doing this not only for casual questioners but for maximum appeal to prospective clients so....... 

Take advantage of a free webinar offered by renowned niche expert,  Cindy Schulson. Cindy takes you on a journey to find the key within your own passion that you can use to in your answer that enables you to stand out from the crowd.

It often fills the gap between what is learned from books and seminars by creating a customised path for the client to help them identify, set and achieve their goals and outcomes in all areas of their lives.

You  can learn more how coaching works  by reading about the concepts founder Thomas Leonard in History of Life Coaching and  reading his ground breaking book The Portable Coach. 

By becoming a coach you will help your clients make the best choices and develop behaviours that will enable them to operate better wherever it is needed, be it at work or at home.

The coaching process is about supporting the client, guiding the client and holding the client accountable to do what they need to do to have life as they want it in life and work.

What Is A Life Coach Compared With A
Mentor, Counsellor Or  Therapist 

More and more pure coaching, where only questions are asked and no advice is given, is becoming combined with therapy, consulting and mentoring.  So read on to understand the comparisons and differences.

Life Coaching vs Therapy

Therapies such as psychiatry, psychology or counseling mainly focus on healing the past whilst coaching is about enhancing the present, looking at possibilities and building the future.

Coaching doesn't depend on resolution of past issues to move the client forward, although a skilled professional may use information volunteered from the client's past to clarify where the client is today.

Therapy practitioners such as phycologists, counsellors, NLP (Neurolistic Programers  who have also studied coaching methods find they work well together.

As a coach it is also really important to learn and understand those situations when you are out of your depth and it is best to recommend a prospective or existing client to an appropriate, and qualified therapist.


Consultants are usually employed to assess situations, provide solutions, identifying and guiding role.

One of the most important answers to the question what is life a life coach is that Life Coaches generally don't evaluate a situation or come up with solutions unless they are specifically asked for or given permission to make suggestions.  

Coach/consultants can appropriately offer the best of both worlds, especially in small business coaching.


A mentor is usually, but not always, defined as someone skilled specifically in the area where the client needs direction and advice. Someone who has 'been there - done that'.

For example, an aspiring author might seek out a someone who has written and published a best seller to mentor them through the writing and publishing options of a book.

The mentoring would be limited to the field of expertise (in this case writing and publishing) and would generally not get into anything deeper unless the mentor was also a coach and felt comfortable and qualified to do so.

Some businesses appoint mentors from their senior staff to help those less experienced.

Similarly, many experienced coaches undertake Mentoring or Supervision to guide new coaches in consolidating their skills, gaining a credential and building their practice.

The lines between life coaching and mentoring have become increasingly blurred: 
It's is becoming more and more acceptable even for "purist" life coaches to venture into the realms of mentoring with their clients.  Also many associations now embrace mentors as well as coaches in their memberships.

When is mentoring not mentoring: A confusing issue when iyou get into a discussion about the difference between  Life Coaching and Mentoring, is that many business networks and organisations offer “mentoring programs” that use coaches as mentors. These coaches often do not have any experience in the business or career field of the Mentee (as they are becoming know) but can still do a good job - but, to be pedantic, it's coaching not mentoring .

That said, a coach, joining a mentoring program as a mentor can be great for raising your profile, honing your skills and,possibly meeting prospective clients.

In summary, because coaching is often taken up by other professionals as a valuable 'add on' to their skills there can be a natural and often beneficial crossover of those skills during the course of the coach/relationship.

The main thing to understand is that professional coaches  have trained at a recognised Life Coaching School to obtain a separate skill-set from say, psychology, NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), Practitioners or business consultants.  Here are the questions you should ask to find the best life coaching certification program for you.

Coaching also differs from training and teaching in that it is client led, with the client needs setting the agenda rather than a set program.  

What A Life Coaching Career Can Offer

You can read more about Becoming a Life Coach  the various Opportunities and Jobs in life coaching and how to go about deciding where you fit in.  

You may also want to find out how to develop a Coaching Niche, that is a specialty that stands you out as an expert coach in a particular area to attract clients.  

Whatever you decide, I wish you all the best for your life coaching career and do consider subscribing to my Coaching Accelerator Newsletter.

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