Do I Have to Have a License to Become a Life Coach?

by Chris Blank - Updated September 26, 2017

You provide moral support for your friends and professional advice for your colleagues. They seem to benefit from your guidance, and you enjoy providing the assistance. You have sometimes considered pursuing a career in the field, but you have no interest in completing years of college or graduate school, or qualifying for a license to practice as a psychiatrist or a clinical social worker. Becoming a life coach may provide you with the means to make a living doing the work you love. The amount of training you receive to reach this goal is up to you.

Function

Life coaches work one-on-one with clients to assist them in pursuing specific goals, such as increasing their income, achieving a more harmonious work-life balance, or even finding a romantic partner. Life coaches do not consider themselves to be therapists; although they discuss their clients' life circumstances, they do not provide counseling on general mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. In fact, an individual may work with a therapist to address mental health issues and contract with a life coach to deal with the consequences of dealing with the issue, such as improving performance at work.

Variations

Life coaches specialize in many different areas. Corporations sometimes contract with executive coaches to groom a likely prospect for upper-level management, or to work with an executive who is facing professional difficulties. Faith-based life coaches incorporate religious doctrine with coaching techniques to guide their clients to a richer life in accordance with spiritual principles. Career coaches advise clients how to polish their approach to potential contacts or present their credentials in the best possible light.

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Training

Several avenues exist for potential coaches. The simplest and least expensive means of becoming a life coach is simply to hang up a shingle and give yourself the title of life coach. However, unless you can demonstrate significant achievement and success in the areas in which you claim expertise, your success will be limited. If you're interested in pursuing specific life coach training, programs range from online instruction to graduate degree programs. Many would-be coaches hire their own coaches to serve as mentors to develop their coaching practices.

Certification

Unlike a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, a life coach does not require a specific license to begin working with clients. In this respect they are more like mental health counselors who advise clients on specific issues such as substance abuse, parenting or stress management, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, many life coaches pursue certification to enhance their credentials. In the United States, several organizations provide certification and training for life coaches, including the International Coach Federation, the Progressive International Coaching Board, the Certified Coaches Alliance and the International Coaching Council. The Worldwide Association of Business Coaches has developed its own system of accreditation for executive coaching programs.

About the Author

Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.

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