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Messy Misconceptions of Coaching and Certification

As a trained coach, certified by an accredited International Coach Federation (ICF) program, I battle a lot of misconception about what coaching is and the types of certifications out there. It makes sense. The word "coaching" is broadly used.

There are advisors, mentors, motivational speakers, and consultants with specialized experience who use the word "coach." There is the traditional sports context of the word coach. You have people who take certification programs that are not accredited that use the word coach. You have people with no training at all other than life experience that use the word coach. And then you have those that went through extensive training to learn tools and techniques also used by councilors and therapists that are effective in helping people make meaningful life changes, and are held to a code of ethics - and these people are called coaches too.

When you look for a coach how can you tell what you are getting? The first step is being informed on what the possibilities and differences are and then debunking common "truths" that are really myths. I hope the following will help.

Myth: Coaches give advice and should be experts in a field where I need advice.

Let's go back to what do you mean by coaching. Do you want specialized advice on a particular subject? If you are a woman getting divorced and want to know what your rights are and how to file for divorce, you need an expert like a divorce lawyer who is familiar with situations like yours. If there is a past divorce lawyer who now coaches women through a divorce process maybe that is what you need.

However, if you want help to approach your divorce with the most open mindset possible, to feel empowered rather than like a victim, to figure out what your life after divorce will look like, and to gain clarity so you make the best decisions given your values, needs, and situation - then you want an ICF certified coach. Why?

ICF trained coaches are taught how to create awareness, provide clarity and help you rely on your own values, needs, experience and intuition to make the best decision for you. It doesn't matter if it is work or at home, creating a business or going through a divorce. You carry your mind with you in all places. That's why a trained coach can coach any situation. You don't need help with the situation. You need help with how your mind approaches the situation.

That's why a trained coach can coach any situation. You don't need help with the situation. You need help with how your mind approaches the situation.

Myth: A coach needs to experience what you've experience to have empathy.

No. Not at all. First, how can anyone experience exactly what you experience? It's impossible. And how can they see it through your unique lens of values and life experience? They can't.

Second, as a coach you are taught that coaching isn't about YOU. It isn't about YOUR experiences or stories. You learn to take yourself out of the picture and show up 100% for your client. You listen holistically - to their words, their emotion, their body language to understand what is real for them. Then you acknowledge and validate without judgement.

It doesn't matter that I've never been fired before. If I'm coaching someone who has been fired, who is bitter about it and who values loyalty, I know his feelings are real for him. I can see it and hear it. And I can say, "It totally makes sense that this situation is upsetting for you. You loved your job and one of your core values is loyalty. This situation doesn't feel like loyalty to you."

Being present with people is all you need for empathy. Nowhere did I use the word "I" or make it about me. A coaching conversation is sacredly about the client.

Advisors, mentors and consultants may take a different approach - making it about their stories, their processes, their successes. And I don't doubt that they have success. Just realize you are not them. And while their process worked for them and perhaps others, what is keeping you stuck may not be finding the right process, but uncovering a gremlin that is whispering "Something bad will happen if you try. Maybe you shouldn't do this thing at all." Coaches uncover and repurpose gremlins. It's unlikely that your advisor, mentor or consultant will.

Myth: Coaching certifications are worthless and are bought, not earned

While this may be true for many coaching certifications, there is a reason why there is an international professional accreditation for coaching. The International Coach Federation accredits training programs and credentials coaches in order to "provide accountability to clients and the coaching profession as a whole."

If you are interested in a coach, not an advisor, mentor, consultant, etc. then consider finding someone who has received a certification through an ICF accredited program. In all cases, trust your judgement (the voice that isn't fear). You know what you need and if someone is right for you.

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