Board Certification for Life Coaches is Important!

I’d have thrown my #$@&%*! textbook across the room if I had been holding it in my hands. Instead, I was reading an e-book in the Kindle app on my computer.

No throwing the computer across the room, Laura.

I am attending The Institute for Life Coach Training where I am taking the 30-hour Board Certified Coach Training. This is a class for people with degrees, licenses and Board Certifications in the field of professional psychotherapy.

I’m an active learner. I cannot memorize stuff. It has to make sense to me. I have to digest it, really learn the material in order to develop my knowledge. And so I was struggling to integrate what I was reading with what I already know from all those years of psychology training and those additional years of licensed practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

I have been a bit embarrassed to learn how much I did not know about life coaching. Life coaching is definitely not psychotherapy or counseling!

I struggled and read. I looked up references. I went to websites. And finally, I got it. I am shifting my way of looking at the world from a mental health therapist/counselor point of view into a life coach perspective. And that’s important. Critical even. Because I must change the way I look at the people who ask for my services.

Every profession has their own body of knowledge composed of required knowledge, skills, competencies and ethics. Mental health counseling has one set; life coaching has another. Life coaching calls the competencies core competencies.

Most professions have a unified way of looking at the world and the work they do. Therapy has one set; life coaching has another. There are also differences between teaching, consulting, mentoring and life coaching. But I’m mostly concerned with the differences between psychotherapy/counseling and life coaching as I’m working to shift my thinking and focus from mental health to life coaching.

I think the most important quality for me is coaching’s emphasis on egalitarian relationships. Coaching is a partnership. While I was trained as a therapist in non-power relationships, coaching is a true partnership between two people who hold equal power in the relationship.

In therapy, people in pain come to an authority figure to alleviate their pain. They qualify for an official diagnosis and they can use their medical insurance. This is the medical model of mental health and dis-ease.

Regardless of how diligently I worked to empower my clients, my position as a therapist was one of authority and superior knowledge. I was expected to help a sick person get well.

Not so in life coaching.

Issues involving the use of power and dominance are critically important in the coaching relationship. No one is dominant in the coaching relationship. A coach approach to clients involves an equal balance of power. Coaching makes certain that the client holds their own power while the coach holds their own. It’s a true partnership of equals.

As a life coach, I am not expected to be wise or to dispense wisdom from on high. Instead, I must listen carefully to my client as she or he is the authority on their life. I will only become the authority on life coaching.

Life coaching takes a reverent view of the client as their own unique font of knowledge. People have their own answers inside them. They might just need a bit of assistance hearing themselves.

That’s where a coach learning to ask powerful questions enters the picture. The answers are already inside the client. The skill I needed to grasp was asking questions. I reviewed lists of coaching type questions and despaired knowing I literally cannot memorize.

Finally, lightbulb time. I recognized that I have the skill of listening very well to the things people say and don’t say. I think in metaphors and colorful language. As I read coaching case after coaching case, I eventually got it. I can use my very own skills of listening and metaphor to reformulate my insights. I can change my insights into questions. I can use the sum total of everything I learned as a mental health counselor and turn it into something better. I think it’s better.

I felt such relief to understand that I already have a body of knowledge. I simply needed a new way of looking at the world of my work. With that change, I can move forward into learning more about this profession of life coaching.

Back to my original topic. Board certification for a life coach is important because anyone can say they are a life coach. There is no licensing requirement, yet there is an identified body of knowledge that distinguishes a life coach from other professions. This body of knowledge includes a way of looking at the world, competencies and ethics. If a person who says they are a life coach does not have the required training, they might not be able to help you find the answers inside yourself that you are seeking. If they do not commit to the ethics, they might harm you.

This is why I am going to school. To my knowledge, there are two credentialing organizations for life coaches: International Coach Federation and the Center for Credentialing and Education. The certifications are Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Master Certified Coach (MCC), and Board Certified Coach (BCC) credentials.

I’m working toward the Board Certified Coach (BCC) credential because it is offered specifically for therapists who transition into life coaching. And now I can say I feel like I’ve begun my transformation.

 Contact me:

If you’d like more information or would like to make an appointment.


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2016 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

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