Category Archives: School

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.


Learning to Listen and Life Coaching is NOT Therapy

We learned about listening this week in the Coach Approach class at The Institute for Life Coach Training . I first started learning about listening in 1972 when I participated in a peer counseling program. We learned that listening and sincerely hearing what someone is saying is a great gift to them. That being heard is a deep human need.

I’m really good at this. To some extent, I believe it’s an inherited trait. My youngest sister is very skilled at listening too. Or it may be a survival skill we picked up in our family-of-origin.

I see deeply within people seemingly without effort. In fact, the effort I had to put forth involved recognizing boundaries and shutting my mouth. Not comment on the things I saw when in surface conversations. Mind my own business. Only comment on feelings and issues when asked or invited to do so. Now that skill took a few years to learn!

One important factor I learned in peer counseling is that you have to have the ability to attend to what others say. You have free yourself from self-distractions to listen to other people talk about themselves. This means that people need to let go of their own stuff in order to give their attention to the other person. It also means to me that I need to listen to others without bias and an opinion or judgment about what they are saying.

I had a mentor who could hear me talk and feed back to me what I hadn’t realized I’d said. That was an amazing skill. It was healing and encouraging. Somehow, she’d normalize whatever I was experiencing and weave it into a positive frame. I’d come away from those conversations willing to live whatever I needed to in order to come out the other side. Nearer to my goals. She taught me that skill over the years. I didn’t understand it until I began to study the listening skills involved in life coaching.

This week I went through the documents I used to use for psychotherapy patients and changed them for coaching clients. It was a dramatic change with massive edits. I’d been sensing the vast difference between coaching and therapy, but this activity had a WOW factor to it for me.

The first things I deleted were the series of questions about health and medical status. The next were the questions about eating, drinking and drugging habits. As a therapist dealing with mental health, I had to be mindful that a person’s health, personal habits, and/or medications can cause psychiatric symptoms. I needed to be prepared to send people back to their physician, to a psychiatrist, or even to treatment for addiction.

Eventually, I got to the place in my form where I deleted questions about your history, specifically family, suicide attempts, and child abuse.

As a life coach, my focus is different. I’m not working with symptoms, history or people who have mental health conditions. If I do agree to coach someone with a diagnosis, like for example, PTSD, my work is not related to that diagnosis. Instead, my focus is on living as fully as possible in your life according to YOUR definition of living fully. I won’t be treating people; I’m having partnerships with them.

Some therapists do therapy with people and then manage to do coaching. I cannot imagine myself working that way. When I went to work as a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor [later retitled Marriage and Family Therapist], I became a therapist. I internalized my work, developed skills, and enlarged my talents. Performing psychotherapy became instinctive and intuitive.

Now I’m working to grow myself into a life coach. To become. It’s not a surface change for me. I don’t learn like that. I have to take what I’m learning deep inside me and allow the learning itself to change me. I am working to become a life coach, not simply the mechanics of life coaching.

As a coach, I will be having conversations with people. The ideal is to partner with someone in order to help them to reach their goals in life. The goals they set for themselves. In order to do that, I have to adjust the listening skills I already have into what I believe is a much more positive stance.

I’ll continue to listen to what people say, listen for what people need me to hear, and listen with my whole self. I’ve always seen the potential within people. Their larger life. The light within them. Even their relationship to their spiritual life path.

However, my focus was on what blocked and stopped them from living fully. I’d work with them on what had been injured in them to prevent them from becoming.

Now, my focus is not on what I see, but on what they see, want, and believe. It’s not on injury but on hope. It’s not on what I can to to help them. Instead, my focus is on what I can do to encourage them to do what they really want. Pursue the goals they have for their lives.

This is an exciting change. I’ve spent a lifetime studying and applying positive thinking to my personal life. I’ve recited and chanted affirmations till the cows came home and went back out again. I’ve studied positive thinkers. I’ve collected stories of people I’ve labeled heroes. To me, heroes are those people who survived and thrived despite overwhelming odds against them. People who allowed their inner light to shine on the world. And who made a positive difference in the lives of others.

And so it begins. I have my newly re-minted Life Coaching Information Form and seriously adapted Coaching Agreement Form. I have a list of people from vastly different backgrounds willing to allow me to practice coaching on them. I even a waiting list of those who would be willing to allow this student coach to coach them.

Life is good.

Contact me

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


Telephone: (615) 464-3791


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.

Starting School in My Golden Years

Starting School in My Golden Years. Article One in a series. The remainder of the articles in this series are listed on my blog under the heading Life Coach Training.

-Written by Laura Bradford Coleman, Ph.D.

I Started School This Week. I’m attending The Institute for Life Coach Training’s 30-hour Board Certified Coach Training to earn the Board Certified Coach Credential (BCC) credential from the National Board for Certified Counselors. I qualify for this 30-hour course instead of the 60-hour or 130-hour program due to my National Certified Counselor credential. While it’s on retired status, my credential is still considered active and valid.

I want to take their Relationship Coaching Specialist program. I was licensed in California as a Marriage and Family Therapist and would very much like to transfer my skills from therapy to coaching.

I also worked with children, having studied with a world class child therapist. I wonder how much of my knowledge, abilities, and techniques from child therapy can transfer into child coaching.

My first class was on Thursday on the telephone. How convenient! Just put on my earphones, sit on my couch and go to school. It’s a little bit more difficult than that for me. I’m a visual learner with an almost perfect total recall of anything I pay attention to.

In college, I never took notes. All I had to do was pay attention to the professor’s mouth and think seriously about his or her words to digest the class. I did have to read the textbooks and think about what I read. But I didn’t have to sweat it or struggle. Just focus.

But listening without seeing is another story. I forced myself to pay attention and mentally visualize her [our instructor] speaking. Then I worked to think about what she said. It helped that we had handouts in the learning packet. I inputted those in my Kindle app where I could look at them while she spoke.

Our instructor mentioned Andragogy or adult learning theory. It’s funny how different words from different fields of study might just mean the same thing. I thought immediately of what I knew as active learning. It’s not exactly the same thing because children and adults are not exactly the same. But in my mind, what this means for me is that I must involve my very self in this learning. Since this is important to me, if I don’t get it from the class or the class materials, I must find other things to do and read and study.

In my psychology master’s and Ph.D. programs, we were required to write a minimum of a ten-page paper for every course demonstrating the theory involved in the topic, how we integrated that theory into our own thinking, and how it would look in actual practice. It was a special university with unusual faculty. I value that experience greatly.

My professors allowed me to present my knowledge in a variety of creatively written ways. Some of my course papers were short stories. As long as I bookended each story with the theory on the front end and the personal integration on that back end, creative expression was accepted. I cried years later when my university went bankrupt and shut their doors.

I know I learn well by doing something with what is being taught. Yesterday, I re-read the material and thought about everything presented. I bought a book by the founder of the school and read one chapter, Therapist as Life Coach: An Introduction for Counselors and Other Helping Professionals. I explored the school’s website and listened to a recording of a talk. I read an old newsletter.

Thinking, thinking and thinking about life coaching and me. Now I see that I can recreate for myself the dynamics of my education. I can make it as rich for myself as I want it to be. And I can keep a journal of my experiences, sharing it with my friends.

Contact me

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


Telephone: (615) 464-3791