Five Things You Should Know About Coaching

Last week the International Coaches Federation (ICF), coaching’s credentialing organization, held their annual conference in Denver, Colorado. There were roughly 1,200 people from all over the United States, Japan and the UK. The coaching movement has grown over the last fifteen years into a powerful industry. As it has increased in popularity, many have wondered how coaching differs from therapy and other more traditional models of counseling. Following are some basic facts about coaching and what it offers:

1: Coaching is a growing profession. According to the ICF, some 20,000 full-time coaches practice worldwide, about three-quarters of them in the United States. More than 6,000 are members of ICF, up from 1,500 three years ago. Forty percent of ICF members are psychotherapists who have become full-time coaches or added coaching to their practices. Universities, including Georgetown and George Mason, offer coaching courses. And the American Psychological Association (APA) sponsors coaching workshops for continuing education credit.

2: Coaching assumes you are healthy and whole. While many people seek therapy to heal their past or overcome an incident of trauma or disappointment, coaches help people who are already functioning well to function at a more optimal level. “The bottom line,” says Linda Finkle, a coach and president of the D.C. chapter of ICF, “is that coaching is forward-moving and action-oriented. We don’t care how you got to where you are. We’re not here to get you over it or deal with it better. We ask, ‘What do you want to do with your life?’ We help you to recognize what’s holding you back, and then move you forward” (A Coach for ‘Team You,’ by Cecilia Capuzzi Simon, Washington Post, June 10, 2003).

3: Coaching champions personal growth and leadership. According to the Coaches Training Institute, the client knows what is best for themselves, so the coach’s role is to help them access that inner knowing. Coaches hold their clients to become the best person they are capable of being through life-work balance; goal setting, from losing weight to switching careers; personal fulfillment; and negotiating your personal “edge”. Coaches help people see what’s possible while identifying behaviors and attitudes that may be self-limiting.

4: Coaching can be customized. While many coaches are generalists, there are corporate coaches, coaches for small business, life/personal coaches, executive coaches, and specialty coaches, like parenting or working with young adults. A field entitled Master Coaching is designed to stretch and develop accomplished coaches so that they can grow beyond their established skills and competencies.

5: Coaching should be selective.
One of the purposes of the ICF is to help people find the coach most suitable for their needs. When selecting a coach, ask the same kinds of questions you would when hiring someone to be a key member of your company or team. Check credentials, check references, and then check your own instincts. The best coaches are those whose clients work with them because they click together. For more information about coaching, visit

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