Life Coaching Ethics

This is week 6 of my education at The Institute for Life Coach Training.

I’m a little behind the commitments I made to myself which includes writing this blog about my experiences. Consequently, I made a decision to write about the past two weeks instead of just one.

During week 5, I began seeing volunteer clients and writing up my own evaluation of my performance. My school supplies worksheets for us to help evaluate each other practice life coaching. I decided I could use these to help me learn the coaching skills I need. I could evaluate myself after every volunteer client and identify the competencies I still need to master. The first item on the list of competencies I need to master is to follow the ethics.

I’ve always been fanatical about professional ethics. It’s an issue that comes from my history of being abused and growing up with rare chronic illnesses. I’ve written on my website that I made a commitment to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. I believe a reverence for others is definitely part of professional ethics for any profession that involves helping others.

There are three other aspects of ethics that seem critical to me. One is to learn what the actual ethics that apply to my profession are. Another is to enthusiastically adopt professional coaching standards. And finally, I insist that I master the actions and skills of life coaching.

I hit a glitch. A road block between language, standards, and conventions that I feel I have to resolve within myself.

There are two slightly divergent coaching models with different histories, frames of reference, use of language and attitudes toward people. These create subtle differences between the two credentialing bodies for coaches.

The oldest organization is the International Coach Federation (ICF). It’s a broad credentialing body encompassing coaches from divergent backgrounds such as consulting, business, education, and mental health. ICF has been instrumental in creating standards of practice named competencies, turning concepts into practical actions, and structuring ethics of practice.

The credential I am seeking comes directly from the counseling profession. The Center for Credentialing and Education (CCE) is an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors, the organization that certified me as a National Certified Counselor and a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor. Their focus is on the counseling profession.

After analyzing the competencies, CCE saw that there were many skills a counselor learned that crossed over into coaching. They identified the gap between what we know as counselors and what we needed to learn as coaches, then insisted we learn the coach-specific skills in that gap for certification. This means I don’t give up everything I learned and did as a therapist. I just need to clarify for myself which skills I give up and which ones I keep.

My initial discomfort comes with the definition of life coaching. ICF says that “Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (ICF). Notice the word partner.

CCE-Global says “Coaching is a career in which professionals have specialized education, training, and experience to assess needs of clients, collaborate with clients on solutions, and offer strategies that assist individuals and organizations in reaching identified goals” (CCE-Global). Notice the word assist.

A partner is an ally, associate, colleague, confederate, or participant. According to, a partner is “a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; sharer; associate.” When you assist another, you aid, facilitate, collaborate, and give them a helping hand. Assisting someone means you “give support or aid to; help” (

The similarity between the two is the idea of collaboration. I’d say the other similarity, is that people who seek life coaching are NOT seeking mental health assistance. They come from a place of desire. Desire for more in their lives. To reach goals and achieve dreams.

I read through the remainder of both ethical documents and saw that there are many similarities even if they are written with different headings on the documents. Both refer to conflicts of interest as problematic. Both mention record keeping, but the flavors of the rules end up sounding slightly different.

When I first decided to return to private practice, I became certified through the National Guild of Hypnotists (NGH). I’m no longer practicing hypnosis, but their ethical standards include a section of recommended language. It’s a very helpful document that for me suggests I can develop my own language list that separates coaching from psychotherapy. In order to do so, I think I need to fully grasp what the differences are.

I have questions to ask. I think the process of researching the ethics and writing this posting has helped me to decide who exactly to ask. Maybe, too, I’ll learn the answers as we proceed in the lessons. After all, we are only halfway done!

Contact me

If you’d like more information or want to make an appointment:


Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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


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