Life coaching is a useful way to develop skills/abilities and boost performance. Coaching can also help address issues and challenges before they become major problems. Most life coaching clients are successful, healthy individuals who want to make improvements or changes in their lives and need expertise and accountability in setting and accomplishing goals. Other life coach clients feel stuck and need help to overcome inertia and get moving in the direction they want to go.

There are many different kinds of coaches. Executive Coaches assist businesspersons, companies, and organizations improve performance. Career coaches address people's career concerns. Health coaches assist clients improve their physical health. Performance  coaches help clients enhance their effectiveness and performance at work or in specific endeavors (e.g., sports). Life or personal coaches provide support to people who want to make changes in their lives by helping them explore what they want and develop goals and plans to get what they want. 

My ideal life coaching client has these qualities:

  • Is self-motivated and ready to make lasting change—I generally limit myself to working only with serious, committed clients.
  • Is willing to take risks and try new things—I will ask clients to think in new ways and take actions that may be different from their usual way of behaving.
  • Values honest and direct feedback—I am committed to each client’s personal growth and development.
  • Understands what coaching is about—Clients should know the value of following through on assignments, keeping appointments, and being honest with themselves and me.

How are coaching and counseling different?

Counselors must earn a graduate degree from an accredited program and obtain supervised experience before they are qualified to be licensed in the state where they practice. They are primarily trained to treat mental illness, but many have also been trained to assist people in addressing developmental issues throughout the lifespan and address relationship difficulties.

Anyone call call themselves a life coach. Although no training or experience is required, most life coaches have received some training. Some even have graduate degrees in counseling or psychology. In Mississippi and other states, a license is not required to engage in life coaching; however, most coaches will be certified from some agency (e.g., the International Coach Federation).

The objective of counseling is to assist clients in addressing and resolving problems that make them feel badly and impair them in significant ways. These impairments can include anxiety, depression, trauma, addictions, family or origin concerns, and other serious mental health disorders. Until these issues are resolved, the client will generally not be able to fully live life. Once their mental health symptoms have been alleviated or significantly improved and they are feeling stronger and more confident, then they can begin to address personal and professional growth.

Life coaching clients are generally emotionally and psychologically healthy and are ready to make personal and professional changes. Life coaches help clients set goals, develop action plans, and provide accountability. They help clients motivate themselves and overcome obstacles. 

Life coaches who are also licensed mental health counselors have an important advantage over life coaches. Often, the true obstacles to personal growth and development are clinical issues such as anxiety, depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. A life coach may spend months working with a client to overcome obstacles without recognizing that the client has a mental health problem.