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What is a Life Coach?

You have probably seen or heard of the latest self-help trend “experts” in America, called Life Coaches. Some are present on reality television, some offer ads on TV or on the radio, and many claim to offer the ability to help you organize and improve your life. Life Coaches report that they are not therapists, psychological experts or even consultants. But what exactly is a life coach? Could you benefit from one?

Life coaching reports that it has history in the psychodynamic/therapy movement. The actual history however is hard to find, and pinning a year or a date on when life coaching actually started is difficult. The person most often reported as the one who brought life coaching to the forefront is Thomas Leonard. Working as an accountant in the 1980’s, he felt that he saw a need for clients that was not being met by his accounting services alone, including life planning and organization. Thomas created checklists and assessment tools to assist clients in reaching goals. Interestingly enough, Leonards mother is a psychologist. Others point to Stephan Covey and his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”

Credentials and Training
One of the major pitfalls and complaints about life coaching is that there is no licensing required to call yourself a life coach, compared to mandatory regulations for all mental health workers, doctors, teachers etc. No education is required, nor is any specific training or theory system, nor is there any professional ethics or guidelines.. The worst, and probably the scariest part, is that there is no regulatory committee. In easy terms, that means nobody is watching the behavior of these “coaches”, nor is anyone held to a standard if you feel they have treated you unethically. Monetarily, you have little to no recourse to reclaim any money or payments made to these “coaches”.
There are training programs available, but no program has any specific standard to follow, and many consider these programs to merely be money-making schemes, whereby they offer training and take payment and then give the newly trained life coach a document stating they are “certified”. This certification is not regulated by any private or state or even federal board. The truth of the matter is, anyone can rent a buildling or build a website, even if they are a 15 year old high school student, a child predator, an inmate or a 4th grade drop out. While real life experience does offer knowledge and experience that can be useful to others, it cannot compare to a trained professional using evidence based practices.

Services offered
According to, there are many services offered by life coaches. Some do career coaching in either organizing your resume and assisting in finding a new job, or helping you to enjoy the job you already have. There are financial coaches, executive coaches, relationship coaches, goal coaches, life or personal coaching and a myriad of others. New areas include coaching for mothers and for professionals with mental problems
To find a Life Coach in your area, you do an easy search on the internet for an available coach. Many offer multiple forms of contact, including email, video conferencing and over the phone, as well as in person. Many critics report that one would be better off either talking to a friend, or at least someone in a regulated profession such as a Therapist or Social Worker. The fees are the same if not less to speak to a trained mental health worker, and these professions have a much higher rate of success and evidence based practices. The founder himself had no formal training and offered nothing to his clients but opinions. Many feel that it preys on consumers who are seeking a quick fix; these consumers lose hard earned money and may show short term benefits, but no long term help.
Many people could benefit just as well from reading a self-help books, although supporters say that a life coach is available to you at any time and is less biased than a family member or friend.

Who goes to Life Coaches?
Often the mental health field carries a stigma. Approx 70% of all therapy clients are women, whereas in life coaching the clientele is 60% men. Often those seeking a life coach are professionals, often more affluent. Fees range from $1000 a month to $3000 a month or higher. Some coaches cost $10,000 a month. Some coaches do a weekly 30 minute phone conversation, while others offer 3 sessions spread over 6 months. Email coaching does cost less. In general however, life coach Chicago is least expensive than most other trained mental health providers.