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Is Life Coaching Legitimate? 5 Myths About Life Coaching Busted


What’s the first thought in your head when someone tells you they’re a life coach? Come on, be honest! Despite being an increasingly recognised industry, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what life coaching really is – is life coaching legitimate and something worth trying, or is it just a scam industry filled with self-important "gurus" who charge astronomical fees to tell you what to do? If you’re wondering if life coaching is legitimate, this post will bust what I think are the top 5 myths about life coaching and set the record straight on what it is – as well as what it ISN’T.

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Myth #1: “Life Coaches are just people who charge huge amounts to tell you what to do. How are they qualified for that?!”

Unfortunately, this perception of coaching persists because there are a lot of big-name coaches who do just this – act as a self-appointed authority who doles out advice (or worse, orders) on what you should be doing to solve all your problems and live a fantastic life. The truth is that coaching is a collaboration between Coach and Client to explore what you want from life, how your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours are currently stopping you from getting there and making changes to these to get your desired outcome. Sometimes advice may be appropriate, but this usually only with express permission from the Client to receive it.

It is worth noting that an exception to this are coaches who are also qualified mentors; in this case, giving advice would be part of their practice. However, that would be agreed between Coach and Client at the start of their work together. While life coaching is legitimate, if someone calling themselves a coach is charging you solely to tell you what to do in any given situation look elsewhere, cos they ain’t coaching.

white text on black background reads "I can get advice from my friends for free!". Surrounded by tealm magenta and yellow stripes. From is life coaching legitimate blog.

Myth #2: “I can get advice from my friends/family for free!”

Maybe you can, and if that turns out to be all you need to get to where you want to be, great! However, friends and family are rarely impartial in life and will have ideas about what you “should” do to be successful. If you’re considering ditching your career in medicine to pursue your ambition of becoming a stand-up comedienne, for example, your parents may not be the first people you want to explore that with. While your Coach will be invested in your overall success, they won’t be tied to any particular idea of what that looks like for you. Coaches are also trained to look at things like language and behaviour in a way that differs greatly from day-to-day conversations to help you pick apart what’s going on in your world.

Oh, and for the “advice” bit, see Myth #1.

Myth #3: “Coaching is the same as therapy or counselling, right? I’m not sure how that can help me with goals”

While there is a lot of similarity between coaching and counselling and therapy, the two are different.

Generally, coaching is seen as looking forward to the future. That is, recognising that there is an outcome or goal you want to reach and making changes to get you there. As part of this, there may be certain things that have happened in the past that are affecting how you operate now, and coaching will look at those insofar as they are affecting you reaching your desired outcome. While coaching can be effective for addressing everyday or situational anxiety, it shouldn’t be used to treat clinical anxiety or other mood disorders.

Counselling and therapy on the other hand, are focused more on working on diagnosed issues such as moderate to severe anxiety and depression, or to resolve significant and/or traumatic past issues that are impacting your life currently. That isn’t to say that you can’t have coaching if you have a diagnosed mental health issue, but it is important that you find a coach who knows where their competency lies and can work together with your healthcare professional if appropriate. This is particularly important as, generally, coaches are not trained to deal with mental health crises.

Myth #4: “Life coaching legitimate?! Anyone can all themselves a ‘Life Coach’ without any training or qualification – how do I know you’re not a charlatan?”

white text on black background reads, "how do I know you're not a charlatan?". Teal, magenta and yellow stripes surround the text. From Is life coaching legitimate blog.

A slight side-note - while it’s true that anyone can call themselves a Life Coach, in the U.K. anyone can also call themselves a counsellor or therapist, so this isn’t particular to coaching. That being said, there are things to look for to help you pick a good coach.

That your potential coach has had thorough training is essential. The Diploma I hold has been accredited by both the Association for Coaching and the International Coaching Federation (the 2 professional bodies active in the UK who accredit coaches and their training) for having a certain amount of training hours - which includes seeing clients - setting me out from coaches who have done a 2 day certification course which required no work with real clients outside the training room. It also means the course I followed contained training on a variety of coaching models and frameworks and not just one or two models.

Personal accreditation from one of the above organizations can also be an indication of a legitimate life coach; however many coaches choose not to pursue accreditation for various reasons (among which is that accreditation can be costly and time-consuming), so lack of this isn’t necessarily a minus. Being a member of a professional body may also mean that they have to adhere to that body’s ethical or professional standards. For example, while, at the time of writing, I myself am not accredited by either of the major coaching bodies, I am a Graduate Member of the British Psychological Society and use their ethics codes for guidance.

Myth #5: “Coaching is too expensive!”

This one comes down to value – not of the coaching itself, but what it will get you. What’s your deep down reason for considering coaching? What is it that you (really, really) want? If, say, your first answer is that you want to overcome self-doubt, what will you get as a result? Increased satisfaction at work, a new job or promotion, better pay, recognition and new opportunities, more enjoyment and fulfilment in life? Those are your deep down reasons. Put a value on them – how does it compare to what you’d need to invest in coaching fees? Does it feel a bit less “expensive” now? Of course, there will be some numbers that do feel unreasonably high, but chances are that you will be able to find a coach you click with, who isn’t a charlatan and whose fees are in your budget!

Hopefully, this post, Is Life Coaching Legitimate? 5 Myths About Life Coaching Busted, has gone some way to address the popular perception of the industry. While some self-styled life coaches do charge you just to tell you what to do, doing this is not considered coaching; a life coach’s job is to listen and explore with you and not to act as a substitute for advice for friends and family; there is overlap between the areas of counselling, therapy and life coaching but the general rule is coaching shouldn’t be used to treat mental illness, nor for issues causing significant distress; in an unregulated industry, there are still things you can look for to help you pick out a legitimate life coach and, lastly, while coaching can require a sizeable investment, what you will get as a result of the work you do in coaching is worth it!


Visit my website to find out more about me and who I work with. To read more about the benefits to working with me specifically, read my article 5 Benefits to Working with This London Life Coach!

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