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What does a Personal Development Coach do?

By Maggie Worth
Updated May 17, 2024
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A personal development coach, also called a life coach, helps clients determine what they want out of life and set achievable goals to get there. Goals may be personal, professional, or a combination of both. Such coaches have long been used by business executives, sports figures, and entertainers, and coaching relationships are becoming more popular with the general public.

A personal development coach differs from a counselor in that coaches need not be licensed, are not required to register through state agencies, and do not need to meet educational requirements. Coaches rarely accept, or are covered by, insurance plans, with the exception being licensed counselors who are also life coaches. Further, counselors and psychologists traditionally focus on helping clients work through emotional issues, which may take many years. Coaches focus on goal-setting and plan implementation that can be set in motion promptly.

Although education and certification are not mandatory, several organizations provide structured training and certification programs for life and personal development coaches. These classes teach future coaches to help clients uncover motivations, identify barriers to success, set attainable goals, and stick to a plan. Most programs require the coach to log a specific number of paid client hours before becoming certified.

Coaching usually occurs through a series of in-person, webcam, or telephone sessions. It begins by identifying the client's main goal, as well as the deeper motivations behind it. For example, a client may have a goal of starting a business. The underlying goals may be to have more control over daily decisions, to pursue a completely different profession, or to have more balance between work and home.

Some clients come to coaches because they don't know what they want. They only know that their current situation isn't it. In this case, the personal development coach will begin by helping clients figure out what will make them feel fulfilled. Some coaches use personality tests or other written exercises to uncover hidden goals.

Once a goal is identified, the personal development coach and the client will work together to create a plan for reaching that outcome. They will set measurable, attainable benchmarks along the way, and will likely establish a system of rewards for achieving each portion of the goal. Over time, the coach will help the client move along the path to success, using visualization exercises and similar techniques to help the client stay focused.

While coaching does involve finding ways to cope with issues outside the client's control, the main focus is on self-discovery. A personal development coach might say that his main job is to help clients get out of their own way, meaning that his job is to help clients uncover and change the behaviors that are keeping them from achieving what they want. A coach's ultimate goal is a happy, fulfilled client.

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