Personal Development or Life Coaching: Frequently Asked Questions

Life coaching is a one to one, voluntary, confidential relationship which is led by your agenda – you decide what you want to talk about and work on. Sessions typically last between an hour to 90 minutes and are based on goals and changes to behaviours you want for yourself. In coaching we believe that the mind which holds the problem also holds the solution. So, a good life coach will listen intently to everything you say in these sessions and will ask you powerful questions and use coaching tools that will help you to think in different ways to you find your own solutions to make transformative change.  There might also be ‘take away’ tasks which you agree to do in-between sessions to help you make the changes you want.

People seek the help of a life coach when they when they want to improve aspects of their lives, they have a problem or issue they want to solve, or they just want to grow and do things differently. Coaching can help you think about what you want out of life, consider the kind of person you want to be and discover your sense of purpose, meaning or calling. It helps people to find and engage their passions and make desired changes in a sustained and lasting way.

The job of a life coach is to create a relationship with you to help you be more open to adapting and learning – about yourself and the possibilities for change within your situation. A life coach will help you to build self-awareness and self-acceptance and discover what you are capable of. A life coaching session focuses on the growth of the person and supporting them to be all that she/he/they can possibly be. It addresses questions such as: What is my place in the world? Who am I? Who was I? Why am I? And who am I to become?

There are differences between what friends, family or counselling typically do to help someone (such as unravelling difficulties and focusing on problems), and what coaching studies have shown work in helping people to change. Coaching is based on theories of positive psychology, which means it is interested in building on your psychological strengths – what you are already good at but might not really be aware of. It also means that it looks to the future rather than to the past, poses possibilities and creates realistic optimism. Life coaching sessions can help create confidence, excitement, energy and hope about trying something new or doing something differently. My published research has shown that coaching is a transformational, energising, positive and inspirational experience which helps people create change.  

People typically have between 4 and 8 sessions, but these can be extended depending on the changes you want to make and how much coaching support you feel you need.

People can see a coach weekly, every two weeks, every month, every 6 weeks, every 8 weeks or as and when they need to. Coaching often needs to take place more frequently in the beginning to establish trust and rapport in the relationship – this is the reason that the first meeting is sometimes called a ‘chemistry’ session.

The role of a coach is to connect and collaborate with you in a compassionate and caring way to help you overcome challenges and increase your resilience – but coaching doesn’t treat clinical issues like depression and anxiety. However, it is possible to have coaching whilst having clinical help, providing the professionals involved agree that this could be of benefit to you.

Choose someone who is highly qualified and a member of a recognised coaching body (such as the European Coaching and Mentoring Council, the Institute of Coaching or the International Coach Federation) to ensure they adhere to high ethical standards and keep up to date with research and training for their professional development.  You can choose a coach who is located near to you or choose a coach who does online or video coaching using skype or zoom. Ideally find a coach who can do both so you will always be able to find a way to connect.

Like any thing in life you will find some coaches are better than others.  A good coach will always have a coaching qualification. They will listen attentively and tune into what you want to achieve and how you want to get there. They will help you articulate your dreams and discover your goals and help you to find ways to achieve them. They will look at you as whole person – not just as a role you have (e.g. parent, manager, student). A good coach will try to uncover and harness your motivations to be successful in changing what you want – not what someday else wants from you or who they think you ought to be.