People who think they already know a lot about dating and relationships ask “Why do I need relationship coach training?”
The short answer is that “Coaching” is a serious profession.
The problem is that “coaching” is a common word in the English language that can mean many things and few outside of the coaching profession understand exactly what coaching is.
A profession is commonly defined as an occupation requiring specialized education and/or training. Therefore, a professional coach is someone who has specialized education and/or training in coaching.
Coaching is widely misunderstood by the public and other helping professionals. Coaching is very different from therapy, counseling, consulting, and education, yet many practitioners of those professions call their service “coaching.”
A sex therapist might call himself a “sex coach,” a nutritionist might call herself a “wellness coach,” a business consultant might call himself a “business coach,” a financial planner or investment advisor might call himself a “financial coach,” a family therapist, lawyer, or mediator might call himself a “divorce coach,” and so on.
Here is a billboard spotted in Washington D.C. of Target stores referring to their pharmacy clerks as “Nose Coach” (coaching has hit the mainstream!).
Even more concerning, individuals with no professional training or qualifications are calling themselves “coach” and marketing their “services” to an unwitting public.
I suppose those of us in the coaching profession should be flattered that so many other professionals, non-professionals, and even department stores, want to use the label “coach,” however, this creates much confusion amongst the public about coaching.
What is an UN-Professional Coach?
Coaching is currently an unregulated profession and anyone can call themself a coach. Broadly, an unprofessional coach is someone who is behaving unprofessionally by violating professional coaching ethics, standards, morals, even breaking laws through fraud, plagiarism, copyright and trademark violations, etc. As the coaching profession grows, a consequence of being unregulated is that increasing numbers of individuals see coaching as a way to make a fast buck and market themself as a “Coach” without coaching training, which I define as “unprofessional.”
How Are UN-Professional Coaches Harmful?
- They harm the coaching profession by creating confusion about coaching.
- They harm professional coaches when dissatisfied clients of unprofessional coaches get turned off about coaching and tell others.
- They harm their clients by giving advice, providing “professional” opinions, and other behaviors that are not coaching and do not serve the client’s best interests.
- They harm themselves because they tend to wash out fairly quickly as word spreads about them and they can’t get clients.
Are UN-Professional Coaches Bad People?
Most UN-professional coaches that I’ve encountered are well-intentioned. They are certainly motivated by money, but they really want to help!
They truly have no idea they are behaving unprofessionally and unethically. They often believe that their life experiences qualify them to help others in similar situations.
They do not intend to do harm and are unaware of how their behavior is harmful. Thankfully, I have yet to encounter a truly ill-intentioned person preying on people through the guise of being a coach, though I’m sure they exist.
If they’re well-intentioned, why don’t they simply get coach training? I don’t know, but I speculate that they truly don’t understand exactly what coaching is and enjoy giving people advice (who doesn’t?).
They’re a bit like the delusional bad singer on American Idol who truly believes that they have an excellent voice and that they’re exceptionally talented and should be awarded fame and fortune for sharing their “gift” with the rest of us.
The UN-professional coach doesn’t understand that reading books, listening to audio programs, attending workshops, life experience, and even having a college degree does not qualify them or give them the skills to competently help others with their most important life goals and challenges.
Who Determines What is “Professional” Coaching?
The most universally recognized (self) governing body for coaches is the International Coach Federation
(ICF). Their definition of coaching is here and their stated Core Competencies for professional coaches are here. The ICF Code of Ethics is here. Here’s a good FAQ About Coaching page.
To become a Professional Coach it is highly recommended to choose a training program that has sought and obtained approval from ICF. Their standards for certification and accreditation are rigorous and one of the best indicators a coach or training program is of high quality.
How Can I Be Sure I’m Hiring a Professional Coach?
- Do not hire a coach who lacks discernible coaching credentials. Be sure to verify their credentials by visiting the web sites and contacting the training programs they claim to have trained with and professional associations they claim to be a member.
- Conduct an internet search and learn more about them. What do other people say about them? What have they published? What else have they accomplished? A credible, professional coach should be easy to check out on the internet.
- Ask for references. Credible coaches will have many happy clients that will enthusiastically share about their experience with them. Don’t buy claims of “confidentiality” as this is not therapy or other service that might prohibit this practice.
- If they publish testimonials and/or endorsements, follow up and contact those people to verify.
- Interview several coaches. Shop around and find someone you feel good about who has solid references, credentials, and a good track record of helping people like you.
- The easiest way to tell a Professional Coach from an UN-professional coach is their approach to giving advice. Just as you can’t successfully build a house or a business or a relationship from reading a book on the subject, telling people what they should do just doesn’t work. Information and answers alone are not effective. The Professional Coach believes that you the client are the expert and the best source for your solutions, and will empower you to identify and implement the choices most effective for you. UN-professional coaches believe they know what you should do and that your job is to listen and follow their directions.
- Use your common sense and trust your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
While it’s impossible to find and expose all the truly bad ones, here’s a few resources-
The bottom line is that if you want to be well paid for helping people with their life and relationships you can do so, but to set yourself up for success (as well as your future clients) realize that that Life and Relationship Coaching is a “profession,” not a “get rich quick” scheme, and you need to invest the time, effort and money to get trained and certified as a Professional Coach. There are no shortcuts to success in anything.