Choosing a life coach - where do I start!?

Updated: Jan 9



Congratulations. You’ve decided to hire a life coach. That’s a HUGE step, and should be celebrated!


Choosing a coach, especially for the first time, is not always an easy task. And, it does require a good amount of due diligence before you jump in. Of course gut instinct or intuition are also important (more on that later), but there are other factors to weigh in as well. Below we’ll go through some helpful information, like getting clear on your why, how to pick the right coach for you, what the coaching support might look like and discussing the investment you should be prepared to make.


This article is designed to help those looking for a more holistic form of life coaching that addresses the personal and emotional levels rather than just mindset. However, if you’re looking for mindset, business or career-specific coaching, I still recommend you have a read because personal issues show up in all areas of our lives.


So with that, let’s explore!


Know your why


Firstly, it’s important to know why you are hiring a coach. Read my article on <<goal setting>> to help firm that up. It is really important you can clearly communicate your needs and desires to a potential coach so that they can consider if they are a good candidate to support you and if they can say yes to offering you support. A good coach will know what is and is not within their scope and can often refer you to someone in case they feel you’d be better served elsewhere. If you’re still not 100% sure of your grand vision, that’s okay! A coach can also help you refine that, and it may change over time as you progress.


Shop around, and ask friends for referrals


When seeking out your coach, check out at least 2-3 different people and schedule an intake conversation. Some coaches will charge for an intake session, but most don’t. The conversation might last anywhere between 15 minutes and one hour depending on how the coach operates. I like spaciousness, so I allow up to one hour with new qualified prospects.


Be open to working with someone who is different to the people you’d usually be drawn to as friends - they can bring brilliant new perspectives to you. Gender doesn’t matter so much, and working with different genders can again provide unique opportunities to gain different perspectives. The coaching container provides an intimate space to explore such dynamics at a depth not always available in a therapeutic relationship.


During your intake call, make sure there is a good click. By ‘click’, I also mean a felt sense of safety and an openness to trusting this person based on first impressions. You want to like the person, but also feel they are capable of challenging you and stretching you where required. You might like to find out a bit about their story and background to see if there is a through-line connecting your experiences. Someone who has already done what you are trying to do is generally well-qualified to guide you.


Speaking of qualifications, do ask your prospective coach what kind of training they have done. There are many coaching certifications out there and they vary greatly in quality. Many professionally recognised certifications are very much mindset-based and don’t incorporate so many of the deeper healing modalities and psychotherapy-style work. Many of those who are not professionally recognised lack some of the foundations of coaching. Coaching is an unregulated industry, which on some levels is great because it allows coaches to focus on what works for their clients and not be forced to follow a formalised “care plan'' but instead work with what comes up. Unfortunately, this means it’s largely up to you to make sure you have the right person in front of you. Take a look at their testimonials, ask about cases they’ve worked with before, and don’t buy before you’ve had the intake call.


It’s always great to ask your friends if they have any referrals. It might save time invested in trawling Google or Instagram or anywhere else you might look to find your coach. I can’t recommend a good global coach database unfortunately, because I don’t know one to exist. Having a coach is becoming more and more common globally (yes, especially in the US), so you might be surprised at the responses you’ll get within your own circles. Ask them what they liked/didn’t like about their coach and the journey as a whole, and have your own questions ready to ask when you get on the intake call.


Know (roughly) what you want the support to look like


It’s helpful to have an idea of what level of support you want before you have an intake conversation… AND, be open to changing your mind. Some coaches will only have 60 minutes to spend with you each week, or every other week, other coaches will offer longer sessions and/or access via text or email between sessions to provide support along the way. Stay curious about what might be best for you depending on your goals.


When thinking about how long you should sign up for, consider other change processes you’ve embarked on during your life. How long have they (really) taken? Three months is a long time, but it’s also a short time. Be reasonable in your expectations, and if you have the budget I do recommend considering a longer time frame - say 6 months. In most cases you will find that the deeper you can go in resolving what has been blocking you and really start embodying the change while still receiving support and accountability, the longer lasting the transformation and the more likely you will be able to stick with it after the coaching container is closed.


Be prepared to let yourself be seen


Show up *radically* honest. From the first intake call and in every other interaction you have with your coach - tell the truth. Sharing about your innermost experience can feel a bit like standing naked in the town square. And that’s okay. Doing that in the safety of a coaching container is liberating. Like the first time you ever go skinny dipping (or is that just me?). The best way to release shame is to let yourself be seen, and you’re the only one who can choose to do that. Your coach can’t make you, though a good coach will understand that building a level of trust where you can open up fully can take time, and they will be there every step of the way.


Further, a good coach will not make you feel judged for anything that you share. They will accept you in every single way, no matter what you share, so that you can process it in a healthy way and move past it.


On confidentiality, there should be a clause on this in your coaching agreement, so that should bring some peace of mind. It is in your best interest to be as honest as possible. Side note… coaches are not bound by client privilege like lawyers are. If you’ve got some shady stories keep that in mind. Remember, no judgement!


Virtual or in person - what’s better?


There are benefits and drawbacks to both virtual and in person coaching. I have worked with people both ways, as coach and coachee, and my personal preference as client is for virtual coaching. I’ll explain why.


I have done many kinds of therapy in the past - from traditional talk therapy with a psychologist to reiki (energy healing). One of the things I least enjoy about the process is getting there and getting home… in fact the only part I liked was being 1:1 with the practitioner. When it comes to the psychologist, sitting in the office watching the minutes slowly click by while waiting for your appointment, and feeling the uncomfortable energy of others who are also there to work on their deepest challenges, is not much fun. To this point, find out where your coach can offer a physical session and if that’s an environment you can feel comfortable in.


The travel aspect can also bring its challenges, as stepping on a bus or train with a red face after an emotional release can make you feel self-conscious when you’re in such an open state. I love having the ability to close down the computer after an insightful session and go and rest on my bed, write in my journal, or even take a shower or a walk in nature. I can stay present with whatever came up in session without getting distracted from fully processing my breakthroughs.


The flip-side of the coin is that although it’s often easier to protect your energy through a screen, you may not be someone who is able to fully connect to another and feel on the energetic level as compared to a physical session. Both the coach and client can’t as easily pick up on body language and gestures, and as the client you are not exposed to a new physical context with which to relate your healing. This doesn’t generally bring limitations to the work unless the place you are accessing your online video portal is somewhere uncomfortable, not private or somewhere you can’t feel truly safe to express. In situations such as living in a household with a lot of conflict or where children are always present, or calling in from a workplace where there is no/limited privacy, it might be best to opt for an in person session or book a private space to join your online coaching sessions.


In summary, feel into what’s best for you and, as always, stay open and curious.


Be prepared to invest


A good coach costs good money. A good coach knows their worth. And a good coach knows they can help you move you toward the results you desire because they’ve done it before. They have also more than likely invested more than the average person’s yearly salary in their own personal development, so they know how scary it is to part with their hard-earned cash (relax - your coach should NOT cost a year’s salary!).


Let them coach you through any money blocks that might come up by getting super-duper honest and throwing all of your financial objections at them. Watching how they move through this process will give you a good indication of how they will help you work through other awkward interactions during your coaching sessions (you should hope you have awkward moments - these are growth moments!). You still get to say no at the end of it if it doesn’t feel good.


Additionally, when considering the investment the coach is asking of you, think about the things you want to cultivate for yourself on the coaching journey. Perhaps higher self-esteem, healthy boundaries, mental clarity or improved self-discipline for example. Do you want to learn these things from someone who already has them and demonstrates them consistently, or someone who under-charges and is feeling burned-out, frustrated and out of balance because they need to work 80 hour weeks to keep the business going? You likely wouldn’t hire a personal trainer with a beer belly that arrives at your session with a bottle of cola in hand...


Saying this is probably not going to earn me brownie points with other coaches, and I am not perfect either. But I do want to draw your attention to this because it’s an important consideration and you definitely do not want to find yourself in a position of resenting your coach, or resenting yourself for making a decision that you don’t feel comfortable with.


Check in with your body


Now you’ve done your research and have someone in mind who you’d like to guide you, it’s time to check in with yourself - below the neck. Use your body and check in with your emotions to feel if you’ve made a good choice. To help orient you to what this actually feels like, think back to a recent decision you made that turned out really well. Something you were very sure about and then when it came through, it was as good as you had hoped. How does that feel in your body - what do you notice?


Now return to the question in front of you. How does it feel to think about embarking on this coaching journey together? Do you feel excited? Nervous? Do you feel a sense of courage and call to action?


Or, do you feel a bit unwell, withdrawn, wanting to run away and take back everything you said on the call?


A bit of nervous energy is fine, in fact, normal and expected. But overall, the signs from your body should be expansive and hopeful, and thinking about working toward your goal with this person by your side should feel empowering.


Dive in!


So here you are. You’ve identified your goal or vision for yourself, you’ve done your due diligence, you’re feeling good about investing in you and you’ve checked in with your body to make sure there is alignment there too. You’ve already taken a huge amount of personal responsibility in approaching the process in this way, and making self-honouring decisions along the way. Now, what’s left?


If you’re feeling good and are willing to show up for yourself in the biggest way yet… Dive in!


Enjoy the ride. Enjoy this experience of allowing yourself to be fully seen and supported as you venture beyond your comfort zone and take action on your dreams, whether they be about reaching a state where you feel healed and whole or about making a big leap toward a life you can more deeply enjoy.


Do you have more questions about hiring a coach? You’re welcome to get in touch with me at anne@annevandergiessen.com.




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