What Is A Life Coach (And Do You Need One)?

In This Post

  • What is a Life Coach
  • Types of Coaches
  • How Coaching is Different from Therapy
  • What Life Coaching Isn’t
  • What Makes a Coach Great
  • Who Uses Life Coaches?
  • Styles of Coaching
  • What to Expect When You Work With A Great Life Coach
  • My Personal Experiences with Coaching
  • See What this is All About – Try a Free Coaching Call
  • A "Put This Into Action List" For You

What the Hell is a Life Coach?

I graduated from The Life Coach School in January and have been getting a lot of questions about what I do and why would someone need a life coach.

I thought I’d answer all your questions about “what is a life coach” here this week.

Simply Put

Simply put, the answer to “what is a life coach” is:

  • Life coaching is a general term for people who help other people get a perspective on where they’re feeling stuck, helping them to push forward to reach their personal and professional goals (big and small).
  • We help people create the life they really want. 

Types of Coaches

One frequent question I get on the topic of ‘what is a life coach’ is, “what types of things do people work on with a life coach?”

The answer is – life coaches help you work on virtually anything you can think of.

There are soooo many types  of coaches, which is amazing. You can find a coach to help you with virtually any type of goal you’re wanting to achieve. Some examples of types of coaches are:

  • Business coaches
  • Career coaches
  • Dating coaches
  • Marriage coaches
  • Parenting coaches
  • Executive coaches
  • Mid-life coaches
  • Millennial coaches
  • Success coaches
  • Performance coaches
  • Sales coaches
  • Confidence coaches
  • Weight loss coaches (different from personal trainers, this type of coaching typically focuses on mindset)
  • Financial coaches (different from financial advisors, this type of coach focuses on mindset around money vs. the mechanics of how/where to manage money)
  • Grief coaches (this is different from therapy, see more about that below)
  • Personal development coaches
  • Life coaches who focus on all of these without specializing

How is Coaching Different from Therapy?

On the topic of “what is a life coach”, another common question I get is “how is life coaching different from therapy?”

I think Tony Robbins answers this best. On his page “Life Coach vs. Therapist“, he says:

“Therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy, is a long-term process in which a client works with a healthcare professional to diagnose and resolve problematic beliefs, behaviors, relationship issues, feelings and sometimes physical responses. The idea behind therapy is to focus on past traumas and issues to change self-destructive habits, repair and improve relationships and work through painful feelings. In this sense, therapy focuses on the past and on introspection and analysis.

The difference between a life coach and therapist is that a life coach sets clients up with a process that may be long or short-term, instead of regular sessions. In life coaching, a client works with a coach, who is not a healthcare professional, in order to clarify goals and identify obstacles and problematic behaviors in order to create action plans to achieve desired results.

The process of life coaching takes the client’s current starting point as an acceptable neutral ground and is more action-based from that point onward.

What Life Coaching Isn’t

  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychiatry
  • Friendship 
  • Someone who does the work for you
  • Froo-froo (is that a word? you know what I mean )
  • Life coaching isn’t a nice-to-have, if you’re ambitious and wanting to make the most of this life (yes, this is definitely a personal opinion but it is shared by almost all of the most successful people in this world. Having a coach is one of their best kept secrets to success)

What Makes a Coach Great

Another question I get on the topic of “what is a life coach is” – what makes a great coach?

I’ve met a LOT of coaches in my corporate and entrepreneurial work. Here are some these I’ve noticed, what separates the good from the great.

Great coaches 

  • Provide root cause, or causal coaching. They don’t give clients the answers, they help clients find the answer for themselves.
  • Help their clients to unleash the power of their own thinking and knowledge. It’s all in there, it just needs to be unlocked.
  • Believe 100% in their clients abilities and potential.
  • Listen hard.
  • Help the client identify patterns and trends, that lead to the same results.
  • Ask great questions.
  • Don’t commiserate (even when they REALLY want to).

Who Uses Life Coaches?

Most of the most successful people in the world use life coaches, and often refer to coaching as one of the secrets to their success.

  • CEOs
  • Executives
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Celebrities
  • Business Owners

To me, I love this data point that so many successful people attribute their success to having a coach.

But, I really love hearing from all the people without flashy titles who have a coach.

  • I’ve met so many other amazing people who have a coach because they want to live their best life. 
  • They are tired of playing small.
  • They want to reach that goal that they’ve been chasing for so long.
  • They want to reinvent themselves after a transition such as becoming a mom, approaching middle age, etc.
  • They want to push past those things that have been holding them back, their upper limits and limiting beliefs.

These are people of all walks of life who want to maximize their potential

Styles of Coaching

When people ask “what is a life coach”, they often wonder what styles of coaching are out there. Here are the 3 most common styles:

  • Individual 1:1 coaching – This is where you have a call (or web conference) directly with the coach. You have the coach’s full attention.
  • Group coaching – usually where you’re part of a group working on a common goal (e.g. weight loss) and you take turns being coached. When not being coached, you can get value in watching the coach help other people in the group.
  • Memberships – memberships come in all styles and for basically any topic you can think of. I’m in one now where we get monthly assignments, to work on areas we want to improve. The coach answers our questions in a forum style on a private membership website.

What to Expect When You Work With A Great Life Coach

When people ask “what is a life coach”, they also wonder what they could expect when working with the coach. 

I’m going to focus this answer on what to expect from a GREAT coach. You should expect:

  • Coach has mastered a coaching philosophy (The philosophy I use is called “causal coaching”, which I use to guide my clients to identify the root causes of why they haven’t yet achieved the results they want.)
  • Coach has a framework they can use to guide you through any topic. For example, the framework I use is called The Model created by Brooke Castillo.
  • Coach is a great listener!
  • Coach asks questions and goes deep to understand their client and what is driving them
  • Coach offers tools but doesn’t do the work, or tell the client what to do. Coaching is about empowering the client to achieve their own desired outcomes.
  • The coach isn’t a friend. Great coaches don’t commiserate. They don’t respond to the client’s emotions or try to make them feel better. They are objective and provide a safe place for the client.
  • The coach isn’t merely an accountability buddy. True coaching isn’t just an accountability buddy, although accountability is a helpful component of coaching. Your coaching call shouldn’t sound like:“tell me about what you did last week, why didn’t you do what you said you would, what are you going to do this week. The end.” Instead, it should dig deep into your desired outcomes, pinpointing obstacles, and finding perspective.

My Experiences With Coaching

As of this writing, I have have had coaches for the last two years. To me, coaches are a requirement for my success, growth, and sanity .

I’ve worked on so many topics and goals with my coaches. Here are just a few:

  • Figuring out the next step for my career
  • Stop being resentful of people when they don’t do what I want/expect them to do
  • Being more present win my relationships
  • Identifying my passions
  • How to be in self-integrity
  • Getting healthy using mindset and no more yo-yo diets
  • Creating a business from scratch
  • Repairing damaged relationships
  • Making huge progress in less time
  • Basing my happiness and worth on me and not what other people think
  • Shifting my money mindset from scarcity to abundance

Take Action

  1. Click here to apply for your (no cost) Strategy Session with me. This is the best way to dive into your goals, what’s holding you back, and to make an action plan to accomplish what you truly want.


I hope I gave you a good basic answer to the question “what is a life coach.”

And, also some criteria to use in finding a great coach!

As you probably know, one of the best ways to learn is by doing. If you’d like to experience a no-charge coaching session, please book a call with me.  Here’s the link to schedule the free session on my calendar

Related Links

Free Strategy Call: Click Here to Book a Free Coaching/Strategy Call With Melisa

Blog post: How a Career Coach Helped Me Find My Professional Purpose and Passion



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