A life coaching course will enable you to confidently pursue life coaching work with a varied range of clients. However, not all coaching courses are the same. ‘Life Coaching’ is a broad umbrella term, and as such, it can be difficult to know if you’re getting a suitable qualification, and indeed, the best bang for your buck.
It’s easy for the process of selecting a coaching course to leave one feeling overwhelmed or confused.
We feel there are several steps to go through as you select a life coaching course. This article will take you through those steps and provide our views on how to choose something that is most suitable for you, your career, and your life – we hope you find this guide useful!
1) KNOW YOURSELF
As “life coaching” as a concept varies enormously, your first step in selecting a coaching course is to have some degree of personal insight as to what or who you want to be as a coach. Now just to emphasise, you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do as a coach before your training, and indeed we find that this often evolves as students go through their coach training journey. But knowing what is important to you can be really helpful for picking a suitable course. A few questions that can be helpful to ask yourself at the early stages of research are:
HOW MIGHT I LIKE TO WORK AS A COACH?
There are few limits as to where you can take your coaching once you’re qualified, particularly if your course is accredited (an important factor that we will look at shortly). Not everyone knows what exactly they’d like to do with coaching at the start of their journey, and that’s completely fine. Part of your journey through training and starting up is often about identifying the kind of client you want to work with through practice and trial and error, and the way you enjoy coaching.
Typically, most new coaches are open to what lies ahead, in which case a broad-based curriculum that introduces you to key approaches that would work in a range of contexts would be the way to go. It’s worth noting that some of the more simplistic approaches to coaching (represented by a focus primarily on the GROW model) are perfectly suitable for basic performance coaching in the workplace. However, they rarely meet the complex needs of personal coaching, or indeed clients in the workplace who would benefit from deeper work as a means to improve performance. For the ability to coach clients at a deeper level, a more integrative and psychologically-grounded course like our Diploma in Transformative Coaching is likely to be more suitable for you.
The flip side is that you may want to work in an area where there are certain requirements around accreditation and credentialing, either formally or from a reputational perspective. A classic example is coaching within organisations and corporations, who often require the coaches they hire to have been through training that has been accredited by a reputable industry body. If this is the case, its clearly essential to ensure that the course you choose has the necessary accreditation for you to be able to fulfil at least some of these criteria (more on accreditation later).
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO ME IN A TRAINING ENVIRONMENT AND LEARNING JOURNEY?
Think about the best and worst learning environments you’ve been in. Each coaching school will have a distinct training style which may be more or less suited to you.
Things to consider here include:
> The size of the group. Our group size is around 20-25 but we know some training organisations who have over 100 people in a room. Do you like the bigger groups with the buzz and energy that comes with them, or do you prefer a more focused and personalised group?
> Is the training online or live classroom based? Is there is a blended approach which includes some of both?
> Is there a much writing or private study? Is it academic or practical and reflective?
> Is it chalk and talk or do you get to practise, reflect and play with ideas?
Thinking about what you want from your actual training experience is vital in helping you choose the right course. We’ve developed our course over a number of years and believe our smaller, more focused group sizes, focus on real-life practice and reflection and our support structure provides a learning environment that really helps to embed the fundamental skills of being a great coach. But you need to decide for yourself whether the features of our training are right for you personally. You can find more about the coaching course itself here to get a better sense of the training environment and learning journey.
WHAT TRAINING OR SKILLS DO I HAVE ALREADY?
Are you starting coach training from scratch? Or have you had training previously and are looking to master your coaching, or build specialist skills and expertise? Perhaps you have coaching hours under your belt, and wish to become credentialed, or a qualified supervisor to help others to be more effective coaches?
Our course is aimed at people who are beginners in coaching, or perhaps have a relatively basic understanding of coaching and want to build on that. So if you’re already at an advanced level, perhaps what you’re looking for is not a core coaching course but specialist coaching skills – these can often be shorter and less expensive than a full programme. Our Specialist Short Coaching Courses are a great example of this type of training.
Similarly, more and more often we have potential students approach us who have a background in related professions such as Psychotherapy, Psychology or Counselling. Given that coaching often draws on approaches that originate from other psychological interventions, and utilises these approaches from a different perspective, the chances are if you have a background in a profession such as this, that the content you learn in itself may not be new. So in this case, the main question is whether the investment in this course provides you with enough benefit in the form of approaching similar concepts from a different perspective, as well as other factors such as the support network and accreditation. More on that here.
2) UNDERSTAND ACCREDITATION
Back to the premise of not all coaching qualifications being created equally. To be sure you choose one which is worth more than the paper it’s written on, you want to choose a course that is professionally accredited.
In the UK, we recommend that you choose a coaching course which is accredited by both the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Association for Coaching (AC). These are the two main professional bodies governing the self-regulated coaching profession. Any training course accredited by these bodies will have gone through a rigorous quality assurance process. So to choose a life coaching course accredited by the ICF and AC ensures you will receive an excellent training.
Life coaching courses accredited by both the ICF and the AC are rare. You can search for ICF accredited life coaching courses here. The Diploma in Transformational Coaching is accredited by both the ICF and AC, as well as providing an exceptional mix of theoretical and practical training, in a flexible programme.
Once you have some insight into your own coaching goals, and understand ICF and AC accreditation, it is time to do your homework and look at the various coaching courses out there.
Whichever course you choose is likely to cost you a fair amount in the short term until it pays for itself, and therefore you need to choose wisely.
A quick online search will give you a bewildering array of coaching courses and different fees. There are some courses which cost in the region of £9,000. Others, generally those with a focus on distance learning are significantly cheaper (some less than £500!).
No matter what the cost, you are investing a significant amount, both in terms of time and money into your life coaching qualification, so you need to do your homework and check what you are getting for the fee. This means you need to have a clear understanding of what the course covers, and what is included in the fee that you are paying.
Additionally, if cost is a defining factor for you when selecting a coach training course, there are some schools, like ourselves, that offer payment plans which enable you to spread the cost across several months (we allow the cost to be spread over up to 10 months, depending on how far in advance you register), making it a more comfortable commitment.
PROGRAMME DELIVERY AND CONTENT
Thinking back to what is important for you as part of a learning journey, it is key to search for a programme that provides what you’re looking for in terms of the content and learning environment. Consider group sizes, how the training will be delivered, balance of theoretical and practical learning, the level of support you get outside the classroom. All of these will be a factor in your enjoyment of the course, and as such it is important to understand not just what, but how you will be learning.
Here are some things that we feel are essential when looking at a coaching course to ensure that you have a proper chance to embed the skills needed to be a great coach:
> REQUIRES REAL-LIFE CLIENT WORK – Coaching is, first and foremost something you do, not just something you know. It’s a skill that requires honing. Just as you wouldn’t expect to learn to drive merely by reading a book, nor would you expect to become a coach without practising it – a lot. So be sure that any course you choose includes the need for you to actually get out there and undertake real-life practise with real-life clients, not just practice in a training environment.
> SHOULD INCLUDE OBSERVATION, MENTORING AND SUPERVISION – Following on from the above, if you really want the best learning experience, you’ll want to be sure that you have the opportunity to be mentored, and for your coaching practice to be observed and supervised. Make sure the course includes mentoring, supervision and observed practice if you want to become a skilled coach.
> FACILITATES REFLECTIVE LEARNING – Coaching is a skill that develops with time and, as a result, we believe that any coaching course that sets out to help you become a genuinely skilled coach should encourage reflective learning.
> HAS A RIGOROUS QUALIFICATION AND ASSESSMENT PROCESS – How do you know if you’re ready to move from training to becoming a professional coach? Well, one way, at least, is knowing that your coaching skills have been assessed to a good standard. If simply turning up to training is enough to pass, then that doesn’t say good things about the quality of the coaches being produced. Be sure that the school you choose assesses you by using such methods as recorded or live sessions, reflective practice and a client log. If they’re not checking you, then they’re not checking anyone!
> SUPPORT AND COMMUNITY, BOTH DURING AND AFTER TRAINING – Becoming a great coach is a journey that doesn’t end after your training finishes. Ask yourself how strong the support network is, both in terms of formal support from the training organisation but also current and former students who are there to provide support, guidance and ideas to help you with your own coaching practice. It’s difficult to overstate how helpful a good support network is and it’s something we’re enormously proud of at Animas. An element that our students, current and former, consistently mention when talking about the the biggest impacts on their coaching journey. You can find out more about our community here.
> TRANSPARENCY – Any training school worth its salt will be able to offer you an example of a course syllabus or conversations with a course consultant to find out exactly what their course entails, allowing you to work out just how well it fits in with what you are looking for from your training.
Similarly, any school with genuine credibility should be completely transparent about its fees and not have any hidden charges. So we would definitely recommend ensuring that you feel absolutely clear about the fees involved. If there is anything that feels confusing or unclear and the organisation doesn’t help you clarify the source of that confusion, or you sense a reluctance to discuss this openly, then take that as a red flag.
4) SPEAK TO PEOPLE
Embarking on a life coaching course, and potentially career, can be a big commitment. Talking to people who have undertaken the training you’re considering will help reaffirm whether it really is right for you or not.
There are a number of different ways you can do this. You could join an online coaching forum such as the Coaching and Mentoring Network and ask the opinions of those who are qualified coaches.
Most professional coaching schools will also have a range of testimonials (ours are here) from former students freely available on their website, and in some cases other materials that reflect previous opinions on the course from those that have qualified. Feel free to pop over to our blog posts or video interviews to see what our current and former students are up to.
At Animas, as well as being able to speak with one of our course consultants to find out anything you’d like about the course, we are also more than happy to introduce you to people who have done the training, so you can hear about their experiences firsthand.
5) CHOOSE A COACHING COURSE WHICH WORKS FOR YOU
Considering all of the above, we want to reiterate the importance of selecting a life coaching course that works for you and fits in with you, your lifestyle and your goals.
The majority of people choosing to train on our course become life coaches as a secondary career. As such, there are still bills to be paid, and restrictions to work around. Therefore choose a course that suits your specific needs, perhaps mixing both live training at weekend sessions, with online and offline study too. At Animas we provide the option of both weekday or weekend training, along with a mix of online and offline input, to give students the flexibility to choose what fits them.
About the Animas Accredited Diploma in Transformational Coaching
At Animas, we’re enormously proud of the course we offer, which has been refined and improved through over a decade of experience and learning on our part. If you’d like to find out more about our course, then pop over to our main course page here. Alternatively, our free one-day Introduction to Transformational Coaching will help you get a better understanding, in person, of what is involved in training with us, our ethos, values and what you can expect if you choose to train with us.
Thanks for reading and we hope you’ve found this guide useful!