Although many people, whether certified by programs like Coach U or not, are making much money by dabbling in life coaching, people continue to question the profession’s legitimacy. Gregory Diehl, a life coach who promises to “strategically antagonize” his clients, describes the field as a nebulous “middle zone between the work of a psychologist and an excellent friend.” He dissects a client’s core values so they can be self-examined more accurately.
So, no psychologist because a psychologist diagnoses and treats people who are experiencing psychological distress. Diehl believes that his clients can redefine their lives and personal boundaries. He’s more of a mysterious sensei. Diehl is not your typical “excellent friend” but a demanding philosophy professor. Despite this, he has a loyal client list and a successful publishing business based on his practice, allowing him to live in fifty countries in the last twelve years while developing a rabid fan base that craves his brand of confrontational counsel. So: therapist-teacher, teacher-friend, mentor-friend. Which one is it? Of course, it’s all of them, not just one. These kinds of paradigms are frequently used to help people understand the sometimes ambiguous cultural position of life coaching. The apparent contradictions are to be expected. The International Coach Federation employs a mix of consultants, therapists, and mentors.
Markita Collins, an ordained minister and motivational speaker, is another coach who walks the line between pastor and entrepreneur. Executive coach Farrell Reynolds of Woodstock, New York, an early graduate of the Coach U programs, declares to all new clients that he is neither a “therapist nor a squash buddy.” He then irritates his students by focusing his instruction on the four business rules he devised. He’s a mix of Jungian soothsayer and corporate sales consultant. According to Thomas Leonard, it is every life coach’s responsibility to define what a life coach does for a client. It is not what people believe.
With coaches specializing in life moments ranging from the professional to the personal, understanding may be greater now. They are successful because, as active entrepreneurs, they have discovered methods to target specific client bases. They are promoters on some level. Developers. Hustlers. They are insanely selfish, confident in their abilities, and capable of marketing themselves to an audience eager to benefit from their expertise as if they were modelled after Leonard’s list.
The life coaches you’ll meet are doing their job: gathering paying clients and then assisting those clients in gaining insight rather than handing out a list of actionable behaviors to help them get out of whatever bind they’re in. They work as life coaches. They are paid to focus on one client’s interests and behaviors at a time. These coaches have some things in common. They do not offer advice. They don’t give any answers. They are constantly revisiting their practices and updating and maintaining their professional codes of conduct. In today’s world, they must work to make their voices heard widely through social media and build appealing and influential brands to a potential client base. And the life coach must act as a private linchpin of personal choice and professional development for their clients.
Life coaches will work to define what it is that they do. That is their obligation. However, they will frequently tell you how the stakes are different and how they are not. It will feel debatable, if not suspicious. Life coaches, like any other human, can be perplexing. Their work necessitates some thought. You may discover whether you have the talent and understanding to become one yourself.