Feeling driven to launch to the next step in your career, but not sure of the right path to get there? Or maybe you're ready to take control of your health but need external motivation to get you going.
In key moments like these – when consulting with a BFF or spouse doesn't feel like enough – many people seek a certified professional coach designed to help unlock their own, greatest potential.
Here's an overview of life coaching and what it can help with.
What is life coaching?
Life coaching is a process designed to equip you with the tools, motivation, and inspiration to facilitate self-discovery and make positive changes in your life to maximize your personal and professional development.
Life coaches are typically sought out to help with specific projects, goals, or transitions. They can help you:
- Identify and create a vision for what you want
- Consider things from different alternatives and solve problems
- Build an individualized action plan
- Develop the tools you need to move past any challenges standing in the way of your goals
- Stay motivated
Life coaches won’t tell you what to do. Rather, they work with you collaboratively and give you the tools for self-empowerment, so you can achieve goals based on your personal aspirations.
What life coaching can help with
Life coaches work with clients across a broad range of aspects of their personal and professional lives. Some examples of life coaching topics include:
- Achieving personal goals: Such as creating self-awareness of your values and strengths and using this knowledge to make positive personal development changes.
- Achieving professional goals: Such as identifying a career that suits you and planning how to move in that direction or executive coaching and developing leadership skills to excel in your professional life.
- Relationships: For example, relationship coaching may focus on communication skills for improving your romantic relationship or developing new relationships.
- Managing health: For example, finding a work/life balance, managing stress, or creating overall well-being.
- Improving confidence or self-esteem: Helping you understand your strengths and working through your perceived weaknesses to facilitate your personal growth.
Life coaching vs. therapy: What's the difference?
Key differences between therapy and life coaching include:
- Tense: Life coaching focuses on the here and now; therapy looks to the past to explain current patterns.
- Credentials: The title “Life Coach” is not regulated, so essentially anyone can call themselves a life coach (though some do choose to receive coach training and a life coaching certification from the International Coaching Federation [ICF] or other certification programs). Therapists are licensed mental health professionals allowed to practice by state board certification for mental health treatment and diagnosis.
- Clinical treatment: Unlike a licensed therapist, life coaches aren't trained in clinical treatment and cannot diagnose or treat mental health conditions (unless they were previously therapists or have both therapy and life coaching practices).
Similarities between life coaching and therapy
Therapy and life coaching do share some fundamental overlaps in the pursuit of positive psychology, such as:
- Both aim to help you identify, and move past, self-limiting behavior – such as negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself
- Both are designed to help you make positive changes, tap into and maximize your inner potential
- Sessions are structured and geared towards specific behavioral outcomes
- You do not need to have a mental health problem to benefit from either therapy or life coaching
Effectiveness of life coaching
Studies have found that a life coaching may, in certain situations:
Individuals may find that the right life coach or coaching program can help them figure out their goals and learn to boost their self-confidence in critical areas.
When to consider a life coach
Anyone who is struggling with any aspect of their life or looking to make a positive change may receive help from a dedicated coach. For instance, many life coaching clients look for help with:
- Feeling stuck in their career, and need some guidance on how to move forward
- Are unable to strike a good work-life balance
- Are unclear about what to do about a major life decision, like a promotion or move
- Aren’t as healthy as they’d like to be, looking for motivation and well-being
- Are tired of repeating the same patterns in seemingly all their relationships and situations
- Are dealing with a lot of stress
What it's like to work with a life coach
The approaches used by life coaches are just as diverse as the topics they address, so no two life coaching experiences are likely to be the same. Furthermore, goals and aspirations differ from person to person, so your life coach will work with you in a personalized way to meet your needs.
Depending on what you’d like to work on, your coach may work with you in a particular style:
- Performance coaching: overcoming challenges, finding strengths and learning tools to maximize your potential.
- Holistic coaching: an approach that considers all aspects of a person’s life in relation to the goal.
- Transformational coaching: helpful for planning life transitions and changes, considering beliefs or thoughts that could be barriers to change, or how change could impact on the person’s identity.
- Autocratic coaching: a more directive approach, particularly useful for teaching skills.
- Democratic coaching: an approach requiring active participation by the client, who is encouraged to take control of their situation.
- Solution focused coaching: a structured approach to generating solutions to reach goals.
- Intuitive coaching: a more spiritual approach to coaching.
Session structure with a life coach
The first session is typically an assessment of where you are now, and where you want to go
Like therapy, the first session is usually an assessment. Your coach will ask you lots of questions for a deep understanding of your challenges and to decide what you should both be working towards.
They might be interested in which areas of your life you are unhappy with or ask you questions about what you want to achieve or where you’d like to be in the future. You’ll work together to set specific goals and figure out how to overcome any habits or negative patterns standing between you and the version of yourself you’d like to be.
Subsequent sessions are goal-oriented, with advice and guidance designed to move you forward
Next sessions are likely to be focused on achieving your goals. To do so, your coach will help you to identify and develop your personal strengths and abilities.
They will provide you with advice and guidance, while holding you accountable for reaching your goals.
Because you’ll be working towards specific goals, you may have to do homework assignments between sessions. These might include journaling or doing tasks that bring you one step closer to your goal.
Frequency and length of life coaching sessions
There is no set end point for working with a life coach. The frequency of sessions and length of time in coaching can vary depending on what you wish to work on.
Many clients work with their life coach until they’ve reached their goals or are equipped with the skills and motivation to do so.
In practice, clients might work with a life coach for between eight and 16 sessions, before cutting back to six weeks or less to maintain progress. Sessions are usually up to an hour long.
Cost of a life coach
Coaching services with many life coaches may range from $80 to $300 per session, or $1,000 a month, depending on factors like location and frequency of sessions.
What to look for in a life coach
As with therapy, a good coach isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. Your personal fit with the life coach is often the most crucial factor, so look for someone with whom you feel comfortable working to get the key benefits of their coach training.
The best way to judge this fit is to ask your prospective life coach for a preliminary phone call (you can do this with our vetted Zencare practitioners). Try to speak to a few different coaches before making your mind up.
Since there’s no single, required credential for the title “Life Coach,” so make sure you’re searching on a verified platform (such as Zencare, where our clinicians have been vetted by our team to ensure the highest quality care).
New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.