7 Misunderstandings About Life Coaching

When I first started coaching full-time back in 2005 I rarely met anybody who had an opinion on Life Coaching, so little was known about it.

However, in the intervening time as more and more people have rushed to embrace coaching as a career more and more misunderstandings have arisen.

You are probably going to have all of these aimed at you at some time or another.

There’s no point getting exasperated by people who are willfully ignorant about what it is we do for a living, but it is useful to be able to enlighten those people who want to know what it is we do and how we can help other people.

1. Life Coaches Are Therapists Without The Training

There are indeed Life Coaches practicing who have had zero Life Coach training, but the vast majority in my experience have had at least basic Life Coach training.

I have had a lot of training over the last dozen years – I just haven’t had training in therapy.

And do you know why?

It’s because I’m not a therapist and no desire to ever be one.

Coaching is not the same as therapy or counseling for that matter.

Of course there are areas of similarity – in fact I have had therapists and counselors recommend clients to me, but there are two major areas of difference.

Firstly, coaching clients rarely think about themselves as being ‘broken’ or need ‘fixing’.

I have worked with hundreds of very high achievers who had no need for psychotherapy and/or counseling.

Yes, I have also worked with scores of people who have had depression issues, but they are always either through that time in their life or the situation is managed.

Secondly, coaches tend to look at where a client is now and where it is she wants to get to.

We rarely go digging around in a client’s past looking for root causes as a therapist might.

If you meet somebody who says they are a Life Coach and they have had zero training, then they are merely a Life Coaching without the training.

2. Life Coaches Tell You How To Live Your Life

Telling clients what to do when the advice is unsolicited is the antithesis of good coaching.

About the only person I ever tell what to do is my wife and she just ignores me.

If you have a coach tell you what to do and you haven’t sought out that advice – fire them on the spot.

If as a coach you offer unsolicited advice, fire yourself on the spot.

3. Life Coaches Need To Be Experts In What Their Clients Do

I had the fantastic opportunity of saying to a client once, ‘It’s not rocket science you know’.

It was amusing to me because the guy worked for NASA and even though he probably wanted to kill me for saying something he’s undoubtedly heard a gazillion times before, he just laughed.

My knowledge of rocket science is slim.

I did watch ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ once and know that you don’t mess with any computer called HAL, but after that I’m struggling.

But guess what?

My client didn’t hire me because I’m a rocket scientist, he hired me because I’m a Life Coach, and the same will apply to you.

If you hire me because you’re a Life Coach and need help getting more clients or help with some other aspect of your business, then you’re really hiring me as a consultant and I do indeed need to be an expert if I’m going to advise you.

For the most part however, our job is to help our clients think differently and we don’t need to know anything about what they do for a living to do that.

I just need to be able to ask killer Life Coaching questions and then shut up and listen.

And if you take a client on who is constantly asking you to advise them, then I suggest you reconsider the coaching relationship.

4. Life Coaches Just Help You Set Goals

If you sign up for my newsletter by clicking on the red button, one of the four ebooks you will get is on how to set goals.

Nobody needs a Life Coach to understand how to set goals.

On the other hand, if somebody needs help setting the right goals that are values driven and will keep you motivated, then that’s a different story altogether.

If the only tool in your coaching bag is being able to set goals, then my guess is you’re going to have a short career.

5. There Must Be Something Wrong With You If You Need A Life Coach

There’s something wrong with me then because I have one.

We all have blind spots in our thinking.

I’m actually not one of those coaches who evangelically believes everybody should have their own coach.

If you’re perfectly happy and content with your life and don’t want to make any changes, why on earth would you need a Life Coach?

I only hire one when there are specific things I want to work on, and so should you.

6. Life Coaching Is An Expensive Rip-Off

Sadly the money a person spends on a Life Coach is not necessarily an indication of the expertise of the coach.

There are indeed a growing number of high priced coaches who are awesome at marketing and less so at coaching.

But that is no different to any industry.

There are highly paid incompetent Attorney’s, Doctor’s and Accountants.

Only a month or so ago I had a terrible meal at a really expensive restaurant and the worst car I have ever owned also happened to be the most expensive.

My average client spends about $1,250 with me. That means I have to provide $1,250 of value at a bare minimum and hopefully much more.

I’m confident enough in my own abilities to believe I can not just do that, but help a client understand the value.

How many people do you know who spend thousands of dollars on things like exotic vacations, fancy cars, expensive clothes and alcohol to try and feel better or happier?

It’s probably a lot, so you should be able to help them understand how you coaching them can probably be cheaper and a lot more effective at making lasting change.

7. You Need To Make Sure Your Life Is Perfect Before You Can Coach Others

I get really irritated by coaches who try and give the impression on Social Media and through their website that they have cracked life.

They haven’t.

And to try and suggest otherwise is at best disingenuous and at worst openly dishonest.

Being a Life Coach, even a great Life Coach, does not insulate you against the vagaries of life.

In fact it’s the times when things are not going according to plan that can help us to become better coaches in the long-term.

I’m not saying that you need to scream to the world every time something goes wrong or you mess up, that would probably get tiresome, but it really is ok to admit you’re Human and have Human frailties.

So there you have the 7 misunderstandings I see most frequently, but my guess is you have encountered others.

If that is the case, please share them in the comments.


  1. Great article Tim! Yes, I agree with Sonia; a thousand times to number 6 & 7. This article really provides a lot of perspective, especially for someone new to the life coaching business. This article will also help coaches overcome these 7 misunderstandings/objections when faced with a prospective client. Thanks Tim!