Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today



Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Coaches counsel individuals as they work toward and fulfill their goals. Life coaches and career coaches help people identify, pursue, and achieve their objectives—often in the professional domain but in others as well—with a results-driven, action-oriented approach.

Essentials of Life Coaching

People may hire an executive coach for a variety of reasons, including finding a job that fits them well, clarifying and accomplishing professional goals, and navigating difficult career transitions. Coaches can also be useful to individuals at all stages of their career, from those seeking their first real job to seasoned professionals looking for a change or better work-life balance.

Although investment in a coach may pay off, it’s important to proceed with caution: Credentials vary widely. Clinical psychologists with doctorates offer coaching services, but so do individuals with little or no formal training. This is a relatively new and unregulated industry.

What’s the difference between therapy and coaching?

Psychotherapy helps patients with mental illness, as well as those looking to overcome challenges or simply grow and evolve. Coaching is not intended as mental health care and serves to counsel clients through concrete changes. Coaching often has a narrower scope, does not explore the client’s past, focuses on achieving goals rather than processing emotions, and involves a more collaborative relationship between coach and client. However, psychotherapy has shifted over time, so the differences between therapy and coaching may not be as distinct as they once were.

Why has coaching increased over time?

Life coaching has grown into a billion-dollar industry. The rapid rise in coaching may be due to stigma around mental health care, frustration with traditional models, and the large unmet need for help. Additionally, people can become life coaches easily because there are no training or licensing requirements, no supervision expectations, and no legal framework governing the practice.

article continues after advertisement
Could You Benefit From a Life or Career Coach?
Olga VELES/Shutterstock

Not every professional has his or her dream job, but everyone deserves respect and fair compensation. Otherwise, he or she may start to feel disgruntled, bored, or even burned out.

A coach can help dissatisfied individuals identify what they need from their career and kickstart change toward success and achievement. Young professionals just starting out, for example, might consider consulting a coach and save themselves from bouncing from field to field before they find the work that works for them.

Is career coaching right for me?

Career coaching can be valuable for anyone, but it can be especially helpful for people who are transitioning from one profession to another or who recently acquired a career-related certificate or college degree. Career coaches can help clients understand their strengths and articulate them to employers, teach skills such as networking and interviewing, motivate clients throughout the job search, and help clients cultivate a healthy work-life balance. If those seem like skills that you need to improve, or if what you’re doing so far simply hasn't worked, you may want to explore career coaching.

What should I look for in a career coach?

Since the coaching field is relatively unregulated, it’s important to do research and ask questions before committing to a career coach. It’s a good idea to ask if they are a member of a coaching organization, for a copy of their resume that details their education and experience, about any and all fees related to their services, for client references, and about their coaching philosophy and scope of practice. Doing research ahead of time can help make sure that their process and goals align with your own.

Essential Reads