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Introduction to Life Coaching


Life Coaching is a professional partnership between coach and individual focused on the discovery of one’s life direction and is based on a holistic and action based approach that promotes the process of understanding overall life purpose.

To further clarify and understand what life coaching is it is often helpful to refer to what it is not. Within helping professions, there are several overarching themes and competencies that one must possess and understand to be successful. However, there are also distinctions between the focus and practice of these professions that should be made clear that enable one to recognise the scope and limitations of life coaching. Counseling and consulting are two such helping professions that should be made distinct from life coaching to illuminate one’s understanding.

Life coaching is not clinical counselling. McCluskey and Martin make it clear that some of the most significant differences between counselling and coaching are related to its orientation and focus. Below are some of the most prominent distinctions:

While these awards are clear, there are at times exceptions based on the needs of the client and the expertise and training of the professional. Also, there often remain consistent and similar methodologies between the two. Both counselling and coaching assist in bringing about change in the life of the client along with an added sense of self-awareness and barriers to effectiveness and well-being. Both require skilled professionals and are mostly reliant upon the efficacy of a trusting relationship between client and practitioner to be successful. And both depend on the skilful execution of specific techniques, such as active listening, reframing, positive regard, and documentation.

Life coaching is not consulting or advising. While little research has been published on this distinction in comparison to the differences between counselling and coaching, the contrasts should be made clear, primarily when working in higher education and the corporate world.

As it is with counselling, while the distinctions are clear there are some major similarities as well. Both consulting and coaching look toward maximising the client’s unique talents and leveraging their strengths as a means of successfully achieving set goals or objectives. Both are focused on the present and the future. And both focus on the maximising the client’s effectiveness and promoting their success.

Brief History of Life Coaching

In America during the early part of the 20th century, the economy of industrialisation was at a surge with the growing use of automobiles, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Around the same time, between 1890 and 1920, vocational guidance rose in American culture and became permanent. In 1901, The Civic Service House opened in Boston. There Frank Parson’s began lecturing to students about vocation and the need to make an informed choice when choosing a career path. Further recognition of profession occurred in 1906 when The National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education was created. This was an organised way of lobbying the government for changes in public schools that would incorporate industrial education and vocational guidance. In January of 1908, Parson’s decision to open the Vocation Bureau at the Civic Service House under the motto, “Light, Information, Inspiration, and Cooperation” due to the overwhelming number of students who attended his lectures and wanted personal vocational guidance meetings with him. Throughout his time at the Civic Service House, Parson’s began writing a book entitled Choosing a Vocation. Although the book was not released until 1909, one year after his death, people entrusted Frank Parsons with the title “father of vocational guidance” upon reading his work.

In light of a changing economy that once held dear to industry, but that now clings to individualism, there is an upheaval of employees who are looking for ways to keep up with the demands of “flexibility and innovation”. These demands create a need for people to renew themselves and become better at their current place of employment, or seek out a different vocation altogether. This needed guidance has continued the vocational guidance movement, to what we now know as life coaching. This has been observed by many researchers and theorists, including Abraham Maslow. Maslow, who is considered the father of humanistic psychology, believed that there are people who are in a state of continuous psychological growth. He named these individuals “self-actualizers.” According to Maslow, for “self-actualizers” to maintain continued psychological growth, they are in need of guidance, but not to the extent of clinical counselling. Life coaching meets this identified need. The demand has further been realised by the increased number of publications on the topic, which has escalated dramatically. Between the years of 1937 and 1999, only 93 papers were published. Between 2000 and July 2007, a total of 262 articles were published.

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