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Published: June 17, 2024

What Is Life Coaching and What Do Life Coaches Do?

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Everyone needs a little help sometimes to achieve their goals. Whether you'd like to be more adventurous, find love, build up your savings account, or begin your wellness journey, it can be difficult to get started, let alone accomplish your goals. This is where life coaching comes in.

Life coaches can help you overcome personal and professional obstacles to help you achieve your goals. They can help you identify personal strengths and weaknesses to build confidence. Studies have even shown that working with a life coach can improve self-efficacy and self-esteem! But how do you know if you need a life coach, and what exactly do they do to help you?

What Do Life Coaches Do?

Life coaches work with clients to help them achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and make changes or shifts in their lives, from small adjustments to large transformations. Coaches work with their clients to guide them through challenges and changes in their lives, lending tools and giving advice.

Life coaches also empower clients to uncover the answers themselves, which can lead to personal and professional breakthroughs and set them on a path to achieve their goals. Life coaches can assist clients in a number of ways through different forms of communication, including over the phone, virtually through Skype or Zoom, or in person.

Effective life coaches often have a specific niche or area they specialize in – such as financial planning, career support, or health and wellness coaching – that helps them connect with clients who are looking for guidance in those areas. Life coaches can specialize in one or more areas or can focus on life coaching as a whole.

Who Works with Life Coaches?

While anyone looking for help can work with life coaches, they’re most commonly sought out by people who desire unique advice in one area of their lives. Entrepreneurs, executives, creatives, small business owners, and homemakers may all reach out to a life coach to assist with their goals. Essentially, life coaches can help close the gap between who you are and who you want to be.

What Can Life Coaches Help With?

Because life coaches can help with so many things, it can be overwhelming to approach one for assistance. Some common reasons people seek out life coaches include:

  1. Financial planning
  2. Relationship advice
  3. Career support
  4. Health and wellness coaching
  5. Family life issues
  6. Spiritual guidance
  7. Addiction and sobriety mentoring
  8. Mental health assistance
  9. Executive and leadership coaching
  10. Life skills education 

How Life Coaches Help Their Clients

Define the issues

After a life coach gets to know the client in one or two introductory sessions, the life coach gains clarity on what aspects of the client’s life need the most attention and why the client wants to address them.

Make a plan

After determining what areas they’re going to work on together, coaches and clients will plan ways to tackle issues. Depending on the coach, they may write a plan with goals for the client to reach, check in at intervals to ensure progress is being made, set timelines for goal completion, or take a different approach altogether. This step really depends on the relationship between the coach and client, how the client responds and learns, and the issue(s) at hand.

Put in the work

Coaches can only help make the plans – clients are the ones who must implement them! Coaches may choose to meet with clients daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the goals they’ve discussed and problems they’re trying to overcome. The saying “you get out what you put in” really applies here – if you’ve sought out a coach to make changes in your life, it will ultimately be up to you to make them happen!

Differences Between Life Coaches and Therapists

Life coaches are not therapists and are not a valid replacement for a therapist, especially if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis or dealing with more serious mental health issues. However, life coaches can be valuable resources for getting through periods of anxiety or fear related to worries that are outside general mental health concerns.

For example, if you are looking to advance your career and seek out a life coach to mentor you in this area, they may help you work through anxiety over giving presentations and teach you about building confidence. However, if your anxiety impacts your quality of life and negatively affects your job performance, a therapist would be a more appropriate practitioner to seek out.

Unlike life coaches, therapists treat mental health conditions and help people work through trauma and other issues. While working with a life coach may help you deal with certain unresolved issues, life coaches do not treat mood disorders, anxiety disorders, or any other mental health conditions; they do not diagnose any such conditions, either. Therapists – specifically psychiatrists – can provide prescriptions for medications used to treat mental and mood disorders; life coaches cannot.

Life coaches are not regulated by any medical body, while therapists are required to comply with and follow HIPAA guidelines, which include confidentiality regulations and an ethical code, in addition to laws of practice in the state/country they received their license. Therapists have a degree (often several) and receive formal training to assist people through mental health crises. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health problem, like feelings of hopelessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep disruptions, or mood swings, consult a mental health professional as soon as possible.

How Effective is Life Coaching?

Recently, life coaches have become relatively mainstream, and a growing number of professionals, executives, creatives, and everyday folks are working with life coaches to get their personal and professional lives on track. Much of what life coaches do for their clients is intangible; they simply optimize and improve the way clients live. But there have been some measurable successes: A 2020 study found that “coaching-based leadership interventions” enhanced the way organizations functioned and improved the well-being of employees.

More research shows that coaching (both life coaching and health coaching) improved “self-efficacy and self-empowerment,” as well as supported clients to avoid procrastination and improve their ability to achieve their goals. In an article for HuffPost, Tom Castano – CEO and founder of Life Coach Spotter – presented the benefits of life coaching from a survey his company conducted, along with data from the International Coaching Federation. He claims that for people who worked with life coaches:

  • 80% improved their self-confidence
  • 72% improved their communication skills
  • 57% improved their time management skills

Finding the Right Coach

So how do you find the right life coach for you? Are you looking for someone who focuses on financial literacy? Relationship advice? Health and wellness coaching? Researching potential coaches’ backgrounds can give you some idea of the areas they focus on in their coaching practice.

If you’re looking for someone to help you stay on track with your diet and exercise regimen, a coach who specializes in health, wellness, or nutrition should have credentials from a training program, like IIN’s Health Coach Training Program, to ensure they’re well versed in health coaching best practices.

Before you agree to work with a coach, don’t hesitate to ask them questions about their training, education, and experience helping clients overcome the issues you’re looking for guidance on. When it comes to researching a life coach, patience is a virtue. This person is most likely going to influence a large part of your life – take the time to get to know them before signing on completely. Many coaches offer a free introductory session so you can determine if they might be the right fit.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right life coach for your needs is key to getting the results you are looking for. Whether you’re looking for help in your personal life, professional journey, romantic hopes, or anywhere else, life coaches can help.

Interested in learning more about what coaches do, or even becoming one yourself? Download our free Curriculum Guide to learn more about how IIN’s Health Coach Training Program can help you reach your goals.


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