Coaching is a relatively new discipline which began truly taking shape in the 1990’s. Drawing from predecessors such as positive psychology, solution-focused therapy, organizational development, and appreciative inquiry, coaching has a positive focus and an underlying belief that, with help, the client has the ability to identify goals and make positive life changes. When defining coaching, many people focus on what coaching is not. It is not therapy, mentoring, or consulting. Coaches generally avoid advice-giving and do not spend time in sessions exploring previous wounds or failures. Instead, they challenge the client to concentrate on strengths and new potential while exploring the present and planning the future.

As I studied coaching and earned my certification, I became aware of the many disciplines that have informed and continue to strengthen the field of coaching. Meanwhile coaching has developed and crystallized as a field and practice distinct from its predecessors. In her recent article in the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, Joanna Jarosz (2016) provides a great summary of how the coaching profession defines itself and distinguishes itself from others. The following list is a brief outline of her findings:

Definition of Life Coaching

Life coaching is a long-term efficient relationship that allows clients to maximize their potential

Assumptions about the Clients

  1. Clients come from normal (i.e. non-clinical) populations
  2. Clients are creative, resourceful and whole
  3. Clients have the ability to change and grow

Assumptions about Coaches – Coaching Skills

  1. Unconditional positive regard, no judgment and no assumptions
  2. Active listening, focus is on the client
  3. Challenging, empowering, acknowledgment and holding the client accountable
  4. Dancing in the moment

Components of a Successful Coaching Relationship

  1. Life coaching relationship promotes what is right in the client
  2. Coaching relationship creates a safe and open environment
  3. The coach and the client both equally design the relationship
  4. Client-centered, individual approach
  5. The focus is whole life
  6. Coaching is dynamic therefore change is always part of the relationship

Characteristics of the Coaching Process

  1. Coaching Process has an objective
  2. Coaching Process is goal directed
  3. Coaching Process is client-centered
  4. Coaching Process is rooted in the present and future-oriented

Outcomes as a Result of Coaching

  1. Sense of self
  2. Life of one’s dreams
  3. Behavior/personality change
  4. Improvement in wellness and quality of life (Jarosz, 2016)

Trying to capture all of that information in a sentence or two, I would describe coaching as the creation of a safe and trusting relationship in which clients can do the following: take time to think and dream, explore and develop strengths, identify goals and targets, create plans, practice and develop new habits, be challenged and encouraged, and become the agents of positive change in their lives.

Reference Jarosz, J. (2016). An integrative review of the evidence-based literature. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 14(1), 34-56.


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