Are you considering hiring a professional coach? You have probably read about the many benefits of coaching on the internet. In this article let’s walk through those benefits and give some context on things to pay attention to as you explore. As with any relationship, when you are deciding on a prospective thought partner, finding a good fit is essential. Ok, let’s dive into considerations to explore before hiring your own coach.

Not All Coaches are Professional Coaches

The coaching field is very full. There are a lot of people who call themselves coaches but who have little to no training on how to be an effective coach. What I see in the market place are people calling themselves coaches, but they are really consultants. Typically, if a “coach” is selling you a get rich quick plan, or promising to grow your income to over 6 figures, or has a magic cure for anything, they are probably not a professional coach working within standards like the International Coach Federation (ICF). They are most likely acting as a consultant. [see more about the different roles below]

I am not saying that if you are a small business person that you might not need a consultant to help with marketing, social media, or [insert your need here], but that is  consulting and not coaching. Two very different skills.

What is Professional Coaching?

Let’s look at the definition of professional coaching:

The ICF defines coaching as a partnership between a coach and a client in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches honor the client as the expert in their life, work, and goals.

Professional coaches belong to a professional organization, with ethical requirements, standards of education, and ongoing training expectations. When you are looking for a coach, asking about these issues is very useful.

Questions to Ask a Coach

  • Which Professional Coach Organization have you earned a credential? (ICF, Board Certified Coach BCC, etc.)
  • How does your professional organization define coaching?
  • Do you have a code of ethics that you adhere to, and what is it?
  • How many hours of coach-specific training have you received?
  • Client hours tells you how long they have been working with people, how many coaching hours have they accrued? (ICF requires 100 client hours for an ACC credential, 500 client hours for a PCC credential, and 2500+ for an MCC credential)

Given that there are so many people saying they are coaches who have a weekend certification, it’s crucial to ask about these things. Coaching is a powerful skill set, and it takes time and practice to get good at the skills. I came from a therapy background, and I had a lot of training. The coach training is different, and I needed coach training to be a great coach.

With ICF, there are Core Competencies that guide the coach to hold the space for the conversation in such a way that it supports the client to grow their insights and awareness as they move towards their goals. It takes time and practice to learn to master these competencies. The competencies also create a pathway toward sustainable change.

Differences Between Counseling, Consulting, and Coaching

Let’s look at the differences between these professional styles. All three serve a purpose and can be exactly what you need, depending on what you are looking for. And, while they are similar, there are some big differences between them also. I am going to give you the nutshell version of each role. 

As you look at the three skills, ask yourself which one would help me the most? What are the pros and cons for each? And, are you ready for professional coaching? Are you looking for someone to solve the problem for you? Or are you ready to learn to solve the problem for yourself?

What do Professional Coaches Do?

This was somewhat answered above, yet let’s lay it out clearly. Professional coaches partner with clients. For most people, when you come to coaching, you are looking to do something. Let’s say that you want a new job, maybe to grow your leadership skills, possibly you wish to write a book, have better work/life balance, or generally be happier in your life. Maybe you have an important goal, and you haven’t been able to achieve it alone. We know that self-accountability is hard when you are all alone.

Think about this, how many people do you have in your life that have zero attachment to what you are choosing to do and are focused on helping you? If you say to your spouse, “I want to think about quitting my job and finding another one,” they have a bias of you having a job. The conversation may be really helpful, but your spouse may have their fears about finances, how that will impact time with the family, and might get hooked into their own agenda. Consider for yourself how that might be a benefit of professional coaching. Having a thought partner to consider all the pros and cons can give you access to listening to yourself and deciding for yourself.


In most close relationships, it is tough to have complete non-judgment from those who love us about our choices. Especially when the decisions might impact them. Our friends and family have biases that may hinder you from moving towards big changes.

This is where having a trusted partner in a conversation is hugely important. It can allow you the space to noodle around ideas without freaking out someone who cares about you. It gives you time to clarify your goals and understand what is driving your focus—discovering what is vital to your decision making. And, creating awareness about what’s causing concern so you can explore your ideas fully. Understanding your goals and developing your plan before you take action. Coaching gives you the space to discover if your goals are really what you want. Then find the courage to communicate what you say is important to you.

Another way that coaching can support you is in having an unbiased partner to explore your thinking, fears, and places where you might be getting in your own way. Coaches listen from outside of your situation. Allowing them to help you create a bird’s eye perspective, so you explore your concerns and dreams from multiple perspectives.

How Professional Coaching Benefits Sustainable Change 

You are a unique human being. No one on the planet is exactly like you. No one has had all of your experiences or lives inside your head as you do. With that in mind, consider what creates an “aha” experience for you? There may be times when someone says something that blows your mind and changes the way you perceive the world.

If it is true that we believe our own voice, then when our insight and awareness come from inside of us, we not only know it, we feel it. That mind/body experience creates a deeper level of understanding. And, that leads to more ownership, more commitment, and more awareness about what actions need to be taken. You get to self-determine and then learn to honor your agreements with yourself.


  • Support clients to build safe and trusting relationships
  • Partners with clients to determine focus and goals that are important
  • Models transparency and openness
  • Demonstrates radical curiosity
  • Listens deeply on multiple levels to what is spoken and unspoken
  • Challenges the client in ways that evoke new thinking
  • Facilitates the client’s insight and awareness
  • Hold client as capable and accountable for honoring their dreams
  • And, partners with clients to transform learning into action

Full Ownership of Yourself

In my initial conversations with prospective clients, I regularly get asked, “Do you give homework?” When I ask about the question, I hear two things, 1) I wouldn’t say I like to get homework, and 2) I need homework to keep moving forward.

Well, I don’t give homework. In the 20+ years of working with human beings, I haven’t found that my giving you homework is particularly useful. What I do instead is ask my clients, “What action will support your insights from our session today?” Then my clients name their own actions. So, they give themselves homework… it’s a win/win.

My reasoning is this: If I say, “Between this session and the next, you might consider doing XYZ,” my brain may light up with a powerful connection between this XYZ action and your goal. But, it is far, far more critical that your brain lights up. Your brain fires up when you teach me what you need to do to anchor your learning, to decide the next step that you are committed to, and to name for yourself what excites and stretches you toward your goal.

At the end of the day, what we know is that sustainable change has to be driven by the person wanting the change. I can’t create lasting changes in another person, only in myself; the same is true for all of us.

So, in my mind, one of the most significant benefits of having professional coaching is that you are supported to do the deep work.
Coaching asks for your exploration into your goals and also explores what is getting in the way of you taking consistent action toward your goals, you fundamentally take full ownership. And, this is what leads to changes that stick.

One Last Thing

I am biased, I have experienced therapy, coaching, and consulting, and I definitely appreciate the focus that coaching brings to me. Only you can look at your life situation and determine if having a coaching partnership would benefit you. That said, what got you here, won’t take you someplace else. If you are feeling stuck, the coaching partnership is a powerful tool for getting unstuck.

And, you are always welcome to set up a complimentary call with me, and we can discuss if coaching is right for you.

Your Turn...

I would LOVE to hear from YOU!

  • What goal you have that you have been putting off?
  • Name what is getting in the way of you acheiving that goal?


Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC, author of StoryJacking: Change Your Dialogue, Transform Your Life and the Reflective Coach, and the new book, Light Up: The Science of Coaching with Metaphors. Lyssa is a Confidence Coach, Certified Mentor Coach, Coaching Super-Vision Partner, ICF PCC Assessor, and coaching educator. Using her understanding of the ICF Core Competencies and her knowledge of Neuroscience, Lyssa works with Professional Coaches to expand the capacity to partner with their clients through how they show up and hold the space for those with whom they work.

Lyssa is the creator of the Power of Metaphor Certification Program. Giving coaches new ways to tune their ears to hear the powerful metaphors their clients bring forward and discovering how to leverage the important metaphors to create stronger agreements, build trust and safety, allow the client to lead, and ultimately evoke powerful embodied awareness.

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