No kind of formal coaching certification is required to call yourself a life coach. Is that a problem? I never thought so. But recently in the news there have been two horrific events in our profession. One was a sex scandal involving sexual abuse of a client by someone calling himself a life coach. The other was the tragedy of three people dying because they stayed in a sweat lodge unmonitored and beyond endurance at the exhortation, although not command, of a well respected coach. So what do we do to protect ourselves and our clients? Is coaching certification a solution?
Would coaching certification help?
There would certainly be some benefits to requiring coaching certification for life coaches. It would set a minimum standard of knowledge. It would provide a formal code of conduct and possibly some level of legal status and protection. It would also require some demonstrated level of expertise. All of these are valuable safeguards. And in fact there are several organizations and experienced master coaches that offer certification either as general life coaches or in a specific method. JTS Advisors, for instance, offers a Master Coach Certification, which includes extensive training and experience in three discrete branches of coaching and which teaches, expects and reinforces the highest level of integrity in both staff and trainees.
Coaching certification is a double-edged sword
If coaching certification were to be legally required in order to coach, how could that possibly be monitored? Coaches work in so many different ways, so many different fields. Would the business coach get the same certification as the relationship coach? Who would be allowed to take the certification and who excluded based, for instance, on a criminal record? Many people become coaches because they have recovered from some problem or situation which might preclude them from even being eligible to be certified. Would we want to exclude the ex-con who wants to help at risk young people avoid prison but has a criminal record? What about a recovering alcoholic who killed someone in a DUI and now can speak with credibility to others who are at risk of causing a similar tragedy? And none of this addresses the issue of international coaching certification. With the internet, the availability of skype, and cheap international telephone communication, we can coach and be coached anywhere in the world. There is no way to regulate that, so what is the point of trying to regulate and certify coaches on a national or a state basis?
While there are some obvious pluses to requiring coaching certification for life coaches, I believe it is not a very practical option. Voluntary training and certification, definitely. But required? I just don’t see it. That’s my opinion. What’s yours?
Dorine G Kramer
JTS Advisors Strategy and Accountability Coach