These days it seems like every third person on Instagram is a coach of something. It can be incredibly difficult to discern which life coaches are high quality coaches and which ones are just trying to make a buck. On top of that, how do you know which coach is the right one for you? How do you know who you will work best with to help you reach your goals?

These are common questions we get asked as our clients do their research and try to find the right fit, and so we wanted to share our guidance to help demystify the process and help you find the right life coach for you.

First make sure a life coach is actually what you’re after. Coaching is often confused with other related disciplines like mentorship or therapy. However, it is actually quite different, and each of these has unique characteristics. This graphic pinpoints some of the key differences between life coaching, mentorship and therapy.

Therapy has a past orientation, helping you understand why you are the way you are. Coaching is much more future-oriented. Your life coach won’t spend much time digging into your past experiences. There is still certainly a self-awareness component, helping you understand who you are and why, but all with the intention of using that self-awareness for the future.  “Okay, I know these things about myself, how can I create strategies and habits to help me progress toward my goals given all I’ve learned?” Unlike a mentor, a life coach is not there to offer guidance and advice based on his/her own experiences. Sure, they might occasionally offer a suggestion or two, but for the most part, your life coach will ask powerful questions to help you find the right answers and solutions for you. It’s important to note that none of these disciplines are better or worse than any other – you simply need to understand the differences and have appropriate expectations for what will be accomplished with each provider.

Determine if they are thoroughly trained and certified. Coaching is based on scientific research and well-trained coaches utilize evidence-based coaching models in their work. In order to learn this research and these techniques, coaches need to go through an in-depth training program. Unlike therapy, there is very little governance and regulation of the coaching industry. For example, to call yourself a therapist, you legally need to have a certain level of training and hold an official credential. There is no equivalent regulation for coaches. Anyone can call themselves a coach, whether or not they have been through a coach training program. However, there is an organization called the International Coach Federation (ICF) which accredits coach training programs and ensures they meet a certain standard. When you begin meeting with life coaches, ask them which training program they completed and if it is ICF accredited. At Ama La Vida, we only hire coaches who have been through an intensive coach training program; once they join our team, they undergo an additional 3-months of training on our proprietary methodologies and programs.

Ask them about their coaching style. Each life coach coaches differently based on their personality and training. Some coaches’ sessions are very organized and structured while others are more open and free flowing. Some coaches tend to be more warm and supportive while others can be more confronting and really challenge you. Ask your prospective coach how they would describe their style and then think about if that is the type of support you need at this point in your life to achieve your goals.

Ask what methodologies and tools they use. You want to ensure your coach is utilizing proven coaching methodologies and techniques to ensure your sessions will be effective in helping you achieve your goals. Additionally, you want to ensure their approach resonates with you and fits what you are looking for. Our coaches utilize a variety of tools and techniques based on the coach and the client’s needs. That being said, we have an overarching methodology which we always follow called the ADIT model: Assess, Discover, Implement, Transition. Following this model ensures a consistent customer experience for our clients and provides a framework for our engagements to make them most effective.

Additionally, we have a suite of online eCoaching tools and modules where our clients complete their work. Our clients find these online tools to be incredibly convenient and useful because they can complete them anywhere at any time, and they always have a record of them in the future. Other coaches utilize more paper-based worksheets and workbooks which may be more your style. Think about what you are looking for in terms of the coaching activities and what you’d like to have a record of later. Ask your prospective coach how they will accommodate this.

Figure out what it will cost. Budget of course is an important factor in selecting your coach. Coaches typically charge anywhere from $50 to $500 per hour based on their target demographic and their experience level. At Ama La Vida, we are not the cheapest option, and we are also not the most expensive option. What we pride ourselves on is delivering the most value. Ask your prospective coach what is included in their hourly rate. Are there any additional tools and resources provided? Do they belong to a team or network which can provide support if needed? Do they have a money back guarantee? Price is not always an indication of quality, but make sure you aren’t just selecting the cheapest coach – coaches are not a commodity. Remember, this is an investment in yourself and your future, and you are worth it!

Do a consultation with the coach. Most life coaches will offer a free consultation. This is a great way to determine if the coach is a good fit and if their style is a good match for what you are looking for. Also consider how safe and comfortable you feel with them. Do they make you feel at ease? Coaching provides an opportunity for you to explore and discover all of who you are, but this is only possible if you feel you are in a safe and judgment-free environment. If you don’t feel comfortable being exactly who you are with your coach, chances are they won’t be able to support you to become all that you can be. If it doesn’t feel like you are gelling, that’s okay. They may still be a great coach, just maybe not the right coach for you. No better way to explore the relationship than to try it on for size and see how it feels working with them.

Determine their availability. From a tactical standpoint, is your coach available for sessions when it is convenient for you and you are in a good headspace? Some coaches only work during standard business hours which can be tough if you need to schedule your sessions around your work hours. Also discover how available your coach will be to you. Are they exclusively accessible during sessions, or will they check-in with you in between sessions? Can you send them a quick email or text with a question? What if you give them a quick call – will they charge you for that? At Ama La Vida, we strive to go above and beyond for all of our clients, meaning that our support doesn’t end when the coaching session does. If you want a coach that is on your side and regularly checking in, even in between your scheduled sessions, make sure this is a part of their process and philosophy.

Assess their successes and results. Feeling inspired and motivated is a wonderful feeling, but how does that translate into measurable and tangible results? Coaching is a big investment, and you want to ensure that it provides a strong return. How do they track and measure their results? What are their success stories with other clients? Can you speak to one of their past of current clients to hear more about their experience? At Ama La Vida, data and results are at the core of everything we do. We track, measure, and share your progress every step of the way. If outcomes are important to you, make sure you ask the right questions about how they are measured and achieved.

Evaluate what the experience has been like interacting with them. This is less of an exact science so much as a quick gut check. What a potential partner says is not as important as how they act. A critical component of coaching is accountability and organization from the coach, so take a minute to evaluate how your coach has performed so far in your interactions with them. Did they follow-up with you in a timely manner after you reached out and after your consult? Did they provide you with useful resources? Were they easy to get a hold of? Of course we all slip up on occasion, but typically the way someone acts during this initial exchange is a good indication of the way they will act during your work together.

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Your life coach is an important ally to help you achieve your goals, make big decisions and stay accountable to the things you want in life. We hope this information helps you make an informed decision as you select the right life coach for you. With a team of certified coaches throughout the US and Australia, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you and help you find the right coach on the Ama La Vida team. Click here to fill out a short form if you are ready to be matched with your new life coach. We can’t wait to work with you!

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Nicole Wood

Nicole Wood

Nicole Wood is the CEO and co-founder of Ama La Vida, an innovative life, career and leadership coaching company. She is passionate about helping people to find meaningful and lucrative work and to not have to wait until 6pm to love their lives. Read more about Nicole here.