What is transformational coaching?

what is transformational coaching faq

20th November 2019

At Animas, we specialise in Transformational Coaching – and with good reason. In our experience, it facilitates growth and change on a deeper and longer lasting level than other forms of coaching. It draws on the best of various coaching models to create a distinct form of coaching suitable for a huge range of purposes. Therefore, it is not in competition with any other forms of coaching; rather it utilises the best of every type.
We are at the cutting edge of developing the field of Transformational Coaching, and nothing gives us more joy than seeing coaches we train take the benefits of this style of working into the wider world.  

“Transformational coaching creates the space for the client to see themselves afresh.” Nick Bolton, Founder, Animas

So, what is Transformational Coaching?

Transformational Coaching has evolved as a more complete approach to coaching, moving away from a simple performance-focused tool that is traditionally used to one of a humanistic and psychological focus, where the whole person is taken into account – not just what is visible on the surface. It is a reflective way of coaching that aims to explore a client’s cognitive, emotional, sensory and relational patterns in order to create a more complete understanding of their perspective on the world. Through this awareness, there is much more potential for clients to unlock bigger transformative shifts, break down the negative patterns or beliefs that may have held them back and – most importantly – open up the path to achieve the outcomes or changes they genuinely want to see in their lives.

The Transformational Coaching Model

You can argue that transformation coaching is a ‘model’ itself. However, because it draws on so many other models, and is inherently client-focused, it doesn’t limit itself. Therefore, how transformational coaching is experienced by one client is likely quite different to that of another. However, there are core concepts, as illustrated by the following picture: Transformational Coaching Model Transformational coaching is:
  • Psychological – It explores the client both inside and out, their beliefs, values, expectations, assumptions and psychological patterns that guide how they show up in life or the workplace
  • Humanistic – It builds on the assumption that clients are whole, unbroken and they have the resources they need to make changes
  • Integrative – Drawn from a wide range of schools of thought, it enables coaches to find their own unique, psychologically grounded way of working with clients
  • Holistic – Coaches learn to pay attention to all aspects of a client’s experience – the cognitive, affective, somatic, relational and behavioural dimensions

How does transformational coaching differ from life coaching?


“In today’s hectic and complex world, coaching offers a transformational space for reflection, discovery and clarity”. Nick Bolton, Founder, Animas

Both traditional life coaching and transformational coaching have some universal qualities such as open questioning and focusing on the client for answers, but there are also key differences to be found. In traditional forms of coaching, we see certain restrictions on the part of both the coach and the individual receiving coaching. This means the client must work within the parameters of the specific model of coaching. A traditional life coach will focus on a client’s goals and objectives, working collaboratively to explore possible ways to achieve it, blockers that could prevent success and ultimately to shape a realistic plan to help the client reach their desired result. A Transformational Coach might similarly start with goal setting and a sense of the ideal outcome. The work would likely progress differently, however. In broad terms, in the transformational coaching space a coach is much more likely to explore a client’s view of the world, view of self and their relationships. This will involve looking at their current set of assumptions around things that matter most to them, their beliefs, their values, their use of language and what this reveals around their view of the world, the stories that have been created in their lives and how this affects how they live. Thus a Transformational Coach provides a space to improve a person’s self-awareness and to see themselves afresh. This root-cause approach in turn can help to facilitate profound change in the client’s lives, more so than in other traditional forms of life coaching.

Transformational Coaching Skills

  • Whether working as a life coach, executive coach, career coach or integrating with other forms of work, Transformative coaching is about bringing zest, calm, verve, and creativity into everyday life and realising potential. A good Transformational Coach won’t shy away from the uncomfortable because it is in the uncomfortable that transformation can really occur.
  • Deep listening. Absorbing all stimuli, the coach is aware of both what is being said and that which remains unsaid
  • Holding space. The coach will create a safe environment for the client to fully open up, using silence as a tool for greater client introspection.
  • Observing and identifying. Deeply seeing the client’s beliefs and patterns of behaviour, both transactionally and what lies below the surface
  • Reflecting back. Sharing significant information with the client from what the coach has heard, seen and felt in the session
  • Challenge. Where relevant the coach will ask the difficult question to elicit change through bringing into the space what isn’t being said

How to become a Transformational Coach

There are various routes for training to become a life coach that include self-study, online or distance learning and live classroom based teaching. Life coaching is a self-regulated industry and as such there are currently no formal requirements in order to call yourself a transformational coach. However, you might not be surprised to hear that we truly believe in the power of a high-quality transformational coaching course. To succeed in this field a good grounding in the core skills, principles and techniques can be a huge advantage, both in terms of confidently being able to serve clients and also getting out there to find clients who want to work with you.

Self Study

With the amount of information at our fingertips through Google and other internet based tools, students can explore the subject of transformational coaching in a variety of formats such as articles, ebooks and blogs to get a grounding on the key principles of transformational coaching. There’s certainly merit to exploring what you can learn from information that is online. However, you might not be surprised to learn that we wouldn’t necessarily advocate this as your main approach. Without credible, accredited training that provides a supportive environment to be able to undertake real-life practice, it can be extremely difficult to know what information you read online is worth the “paper” it’s written on. Additionally, without a solid grounding in core skills and principles, there’s potentially a risk that you’re doing your clients more harm than good.

Online courses and distance learning

The rise of online and distance courses has brought together a raft of coaching courses where students can watch video content and work through exercises at their own pace. Reviews of the courses from previous students are often shared, helping prospects to understand the value others have received from the course. Many offer a qualification or certificate on completion and some may even be accredited by the more reputable bodies such as the International Coaching Federation or Association for Coaching. This type of training has the advantage of flexibility, and so can suit people with busy schedules or full-time jobs. It can also provide a more structured form of learning, and certainly more credibility than self-study if the course has credible accreditation. However, it still misses out on the practical support that in-person training can provide, and again it can be extremely difficult to verify the quality of the information you receive. In our experience, self-study and online courses can work well – when you accompany them with high-quality, rigorous in-person training that provides you with plenty of practical support. Here is a quick table to very briefly summarise the pros and cons of self-study and distance learning:
Pros Cons
Cheaper One-way learning – no feedback loop
Study where and when you like (internet connection) Much more difficult to verify quality
Location is not a factor Less support in your coaching practice
Lack of peer support or community
Hard to see in action
Less support
More difficult to verify quality

Transformational Coach Training and Certification

A third option is formal Transformational Coach training, which can offer a more comprehensive approach by combining live in-person training, supervision, mentoring, as well as client practice hours. In our view, there is simply no substitute for this. If the course is accredited by a reputable body (such as the International Coaching Federation), you can be assured of the quality of the training you receive. Having an experienced, trained coach to provide live training in our view is essential for good quality learning. Live demonstrations of the tools you’re learning, hearing the experiences of an experienced coach & facilitator, having questions answered in-person and breakout sessions to practice with peers are just some of the benefits that formal training provides. When studying as a group, there are added benefits of being “in it together”. Formal training offers the benefit of a ready-made peer support community, which can be invaluable — not only for practicing the tools and techniques for working with clients, but also for providing you with a supportive community as you delve into your journey as a coach. Some of these people may even become your life-long friends! Here is a quick overview of the main pros and cons of a formal Transformational Coaching Course:
Pros Cons
Check understanding and cement learning as you go along Can be more expensive
Share experiences with classmates Location specific
Live demonstrations and questions answered in person
Support from experienced, qualified coaches
More assurances on quality
Devoted time for learning
Practice skills as you learn
You can learn more about our Accredited Diploma in Transformational Coaching here.

The Diploma in Transformational Coaching

If you’re considering Transformational Coaching Certification, here at Animas we offer the Diploma in Transformational Coaching (DTC), which combines both in-person and online routes of learning. As well as five two-day live training modules of learning, there is a wealth of support that includes online practice sessions, personalised mentoring, group supervision and a thriving network of current and former students. To find out if the accredited DTC is for you, visit our main coaching course page for more information. In summary, Transformational Coaching is an exciting and continuously evolving field which offers a real chance to make a difference to peoples’ lives. Perhaps even more excitingly, the ripple effects of this type of coaching can often be felt and spread into the wider world around those directly receiving the coaching. If you’d like to explore becoming a Transformational Coach, get in touch or feel free book yourself onto one of our free introductory days to find out more.

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