Coaching can help you overcome difficult times such as a break-up, a new job or illness. We take a look at a rapidly-expanding phenomenon.
Support in hard times
Coaching is not therapy: according to the ICF (International Coach Federation), it's "partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential." In other words, a life coach helps you better comprehend the trials of life (moving, redundancy, relationship problems) and bounce back stronger. A life coach is a professional half trainer, half mentor, and can also help people suffering from anxiety, stress and shyness.
A pragmatic method
A life coach uses the following tools:
- active listening: to decode the emotions of the person being coached.
- questioning, to help the subject find solutions to problems him/herself.
- reformulation: the coach does not give advice, but rather repeats what the subject says, clarifies objectives and the means to attain them, with the subject's agreement.
Coaches don’t work on past experiences: they are interested in the present and especially the future. Exercises, simulations and other personal development techniques allow the subject to become aware of the way he/she functions.
An import from the USA, coaching was created by the American psychologist Michael Brown. It was originally used in companies to teach management methods and communication techniques. Executives were offered individual or group training sessions to optimise their performance at work. Then the TV took on the phenomena with reality TV shows, and life coaching was exposed to the general public. It is a recent phenomena, even if some professionals argue that it dates back to Socrates' famous maieutics (he opened his disciples' minds up through asking questions).
Coaching should be short (between 10 and 20 sessions in total). A one-to-one session can last between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes. Costs vary hugely and depend on factors such as the type of coaching and the level of qualification of the coach. Some professionals also work over the phone and by Internet, which costs less than one-to-one coaching in person.
Choosing a coach
At present, the profession is not regulated by one body, however the ICF have their own standards for approving programmes. But there is no requirement for anyone who wants to practice to join the ICF. It’s not easy to know if a coach is competent or not. As with anything, you should shop around and do some homework before choosing a life coach. You'll work with your coach closely and share personal information with him/her, so you have to feel at ease with the person you choose. You can talk to a coach beforehand, ask about their experience and qualifications, how many people they’ve worked with and what specific success they’ve had, etc. You can also ask for a trial session. Trust your instinct: if you don't ‘click’ and you don’t feel supported, then move on and try someone else. You can search a database of accredited coaches on the International Coach Federation website www.coachfederation.org. The International Association of Coaching has a similar tool listing its certified members at www.certifiedcoach.org.