What is Coaching?
Coaching helps clients define and achieve professional and personal goals faster and with more ease than would otherwise be possible. Coaching is an ongoing relationship that focuses on clients taking action toward the realization of their visions, goals, or desires. Coaching uses a process of inquiry and personal discovery to build the client’s level of awareness and responsibility, and provides the client with structure, support, and feedback. Coaches are trained to listen and observe without judgment. They know that each client has his or her own answers, and guide the client in discovering those answers. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has.

How is Coaching different from therapy?
Therapy generally addresses emotions, behavior, and disruptive situations by examining the past and asking “why?” we feel or behave the way we do. The primary focus is on healing – bringing the client to “normal” function by correcting dysfunction. Coaching, on the other hand, focuses on people who want to move toward higher function in their lives by creating an extraordinary life. The primary focus is on taking action in the present to move forward. While healing is not the goal of coaching, it is often a side effect of coaching.

Can Coaching replace therapy?
Coaching is NOT a substitute for therapy; however, it can be an excellent complement to many kinds of therapy. Coaching is a valuable tool that empowers clients to reach their potential by taking action in the present. Your coach and any therapist(s) you may be working with can work together to ensure that your needs are being met in the best way possible.

How long does Coaching take?
Most coaches ask for a three to six month commitment, with the understanding that the client makes the final decision. In order to make progress, it is important that you approach coaching as an ongoing process, and understand that it typically takes at least six sessions to see true progress. According to the ICF, the average coaching relationship lasts about nine months. Many coaching/client partnerships extend several years as clients continue to pursue new and more challenging goals.

How do I find a Coach?
Most coaches depend on referrals to market their services. Ask your friends, colleagues, therapists, and business contacts if they can make a recommendation. There are numerous resources on the web, including the ICF site (www.coachfederation.org), which maintains a database of coaches. The ICF is the largest worldwide resource for business and personal coaches, and the source for those who are seeking a coach. The purpose of the ICF is to build, support, and preserve the integrity of the coaching profession through programs and standards supported by the individual membership. Finding a coach is only the first step, however. Since the relationship between coach and client is an intimate and ongoing one, you may want to interview several coaches to find the one that is right for your specific needs and personality style.

How do I know if a Coach is qualified?
Currently, there are no state certification requirements for coaches; however, the ICF offers credentials for coaches who have met their stringent requirements. Ask your coach if s/he is a member of the ICF, where s/he went to school, and what accreditations or certifications s/he has. Most importantly, ask about the coach’s experience – there are many outstanding coaches who have not gone through an ICF-certified program but have years of experience that uniquely qualify them as coaches.

Does my Coach need to be local?
Since most adult coaching is done via phone or email, location isn’t critical. Some people do work better when they work with a coach in person, but personality and style fit are the most important criteria. If you have to choose between compatibility and location, most people will benefit far more from a good fit than close proximity.

How can I get the most from a Coaching relationship?
Prepare for your coaching experiences in advance. Be open and receptive to the coaching, understanding that powerful coaching can come from anything around you. Listen with an open heart and mind. Be open and truthful – it is better to disclose too much than too little. Speak up if you have any concerns or questions. Let your coach know how the coaching has impacted you. See that holding your coaching relationship as a critical factor in your success can impact who – and how effective – you are being in your life. For more information, see “Optimizing Your Coaching Experience” (Rayona Sharpneck, Institute for Women’s Leadership) in the January 2006 issue of WIC’s Consultant’s Direct newsletter.