What is the role of a coach?

Here are five ways to tell whether or not a coach is a qualified, experienced and truly helpful professional.
2 people coaching on couch

What is the role of a coach? 

Most people have heard of personal coaches, but not everyone can name their actual roles and responsibilities in a client-coach relationship. Contrary to popular belief, a coach is not a therapist, nor are they a traditional mental health professional. 

Instead, the role of a coach is to provide an experience that helps clients move forward, feel at peace, achieve goals and become better versions of themselves. Think of it this way — whereas a therapist is primarily concerned with looking at a client’s past in order to help them resolve problems and confront the present, a coach is more interested in helping clients create the life they’ve always dreamed of having.

That said, not all coaches are built the same. Unlike therapists or other mental health experts, there are few requirements in order to call oneself a life coach, which means the quality of the experience you’ll receive can vary widely between coaches. That’s why it’s important to work with a coach who exemplifies only the best traits in a client-coaching relationship. 

Here are five ways to tell whether or not a coach is a qualified, experienced and truly helpful professional.

The five roles of a great coach 

1. Great coaches are sounding boards

One thing a great coach has in common with a therapist is that they act as a sounding board for their clients. If a client is going through a hard time, a coach will be there to provide reliable support, guidance and a safe space to vent. 

At the same time, a great coach differs from a therapist in that they will make sure to redirect the conversation toward your aspirations and dreams as needed. Part of a coach’s job is to help you learn how to overcome the challenges you’re facing and apply your learnings to your goals — not simply to listen to your problems and collect a paycheck. 

2. Great coaches are consistent

A great coach will always make sure to be consistent with their clients. Whereas poor coaches will often be unavailable or unable to provide anything more than sporadic support, a strong life coach shows up routinely and reliably to ensure their clients are always making progress. 

To this end, an amazing coach will usually employ additional tools — like an online journaling platform or flexible communication methods — to make sure they’re available when and how clients need them. 

3. Great coaches act as guides

A client-coach relationship is always a two way street, but a great client-coach relationship is still led by the coach. When clients come to coaches, they should expect their coach to lead conversations toward meaningful, impactful insights. More than simply conversational partners, the best coaches act as guides and stewards, showing clients new and inventive ways to approach their dreams.  

4. Great coaches are observant and thoughtful 

If people were able to identify and solve every challenge that held them back, the position of “coach” would probably be obsolete. But we all know that we as individuals each have blind spots that are hard to root out, challenge and correct. 

This is where a great coach comes in. An amazing coach will observe you in a nonjudgmental way in order to uncover the specific factors that are holding you back. By remaining observant and thoughtful throughout the course of your communications, a great coach will supercharge your ability to make progress toward your goals.  

5. Great coaches will challenge you 

The job of a therapist is to validate and reassure. On the other hand, the job of a coach is to challenge clients in order to help them change, grow and evolve. The best coaches will help their clients reexamine any negative personal beliefs that might be preventing them from succeeding before guiding them through the process of dispensing with those beliefs.    

what makes a great coach infographic

A great coach can be hard to find, but it’s worth it

Just as not all therapists are the right fit for every client, not all coaches are similarly talented. Despite this, the best coaches will always stand out by acting as sounding boards, being consistent, guiding conversations toward success, remaining observant and challenging clients as necessary to unlock their full potential. 

Curious to learn more about what separates a mediocre coach from an amazing coach? Let us know what you’re looking for in your client-coach relationship, and we’ll work to pair you with a coach that meets your specific needs and preferences.

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