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Coaching is a form of development in which a person called a coach supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.[1] The learner is sometimes called a coachee. Occasionally, coaching may mean an informal relationship between two people, of whom one has more experience and expertise than the other and offers advice and guidance as the latter learns; but coaching differs from mentoring in focusing on specific tasks or objectives, as opposed to more general goals or overall development.[1][2][3]


The first use of the term "coach" in connection with an instructor or trainer arose around 1830 in Oxford University slang for a tutor who "carried" a student through an exam.[4] The word "coaching" thus identified a process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be. The first use of the term in relation to sports came in 1861.[4] Historically the development of coaching has been influenced by many fields of activity, including adult education, the Human Potential Movement, large-group awareness training (LGAT) groups such as "est", leadership studies, personal development, and psychology.[5][6]


Professional coaching uses a range of communication skills (such as targeted restatements, listening, questioning, clarifying etc.) to help clients shift their perspectives and thereby discover different approaches to achieve their goals.[7] These skills can be used in almost all types of coaching. In this sense, coaching is a form of "meta-profession" that can apply to supporting clients in any human endeavor, ranging from their concerns in health, personal, professional, sport, social, family, political, spiritual dimensions, etc. There may be some overlap between certain types of coaching activities.[5] Coaching approaches are also influenced by cultural differences.[8]


The concept of ADHD coaching was first introduced in 1994 by psychiatrists Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey in their book Driven to Distraction.[9] ADHD coaching is a specialized type of life coaching that uses specific techniques designed to assist individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The goal of ADHD coaching is to mitigate the effects of executive function deficit, which is a typical impairment for people with ADHD.[10] Coaches work with clients to help them better manage time, organize, set goals and complete projects.[11] In addition to helping clients understand the impact ADHD has had on their lives, coaches can help clients develop "work-around" strategies to deal with specific challenges, and determine and use individual strengths. Coaches also help clients get a better grasp of what reasonable expectations are for them as individuals, since people with ADHD "brain wiring" often seem to need external mirrors for accurate self-awareness about their potential despite their impairment.[12]

Unlike psychologists or psychotherapists, ADHD coaches do not provide any therapy or treatment: their focus is only on daily functioning and behaviour aspects of the disorder.[13] The ultimate goal of ADHD coaching is to help clients develop an "inner coach", a set of self-regulation and reflective planning skills to deal with daily life challenges.[14] A 2010 study from Wayne State University evaluated the effectiveness of ADHD coaching on 110 students with ADHD. The research team concluded that the coaching "was highly effective in helping students improve executive functioning and related skills as measured by the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory (LASSI)."[15] Yet, not every ADHD person needs a coach and not everyone can benefit from using a coach.[16]

Business and executive[edit]

Business coaching is a type of human resource development for business leaders. It provides positive support, feedback and advice on an individual or group basis to improve personal effectiveness in the business setting, many a time focusing on behavioural changes through psychometrics or 360-degree feedback. Business coaching is also called executive coaching,[17] corporate coaching or leadership coaching. Coaches help their clients advance towards specific professional goals. These include career transition, interpersonal and professional communication, performance management, organizational effectiveness, managing career and personal changes, developing executive presence, enhancing strategic thinking, dealing effectively with conflict, and building an effective team within an organization. An industrial organizational psychologist is one example of executive coach. Business coaching is not restricted to external experts or providers. Many organizations expect their senior leaders and middle managers to coach their team members to reach higher levels of performance, increased job satisfaction, personal growth, and career development. Research studies suggest that executive coaching has a positive impact on workplace performance with some differences in the impact of internal and external coaches.[18]

In some countries, there is no certification or licensing required to be a business or executive coach, and membership of a coaching organization is optional. Further, standards and methods of training coaches can vary widely between coaching organizations. Many business coaches refer to themselves as consultants, a broader business relationship than one which exclusively involves coaching.[19]


Career coaching focuses on work and career and is similar to career counseling. Career coaching is not to be confused with life coaching, which concentrates on personal development. Another common term for a career coach is career guide.


A Christian coach is not a pastor or counselor (although the coach may also be qualified in those disciplines), but rather someone who has been professionally trained to address specific coaching goals from a distinctively Christian or biblical perspective.[20]


Co-coaching is a structured practice of coaching between peers with the goal of learning improved coaching techniques.


Dating coaches offer coaching and related products and services to improve their clients' success in dating and relationships.


Financial coaching is a relatively new form of coaching that focuses on helping clients overcome their struggle to attain specific financial goals and aspirations they have set for themselves. Financial coaching is a one-on-one relationship in which the coach works to provide encouragement and support aimed at facilitating attainment of the client's financial plans. A financial coach, also called money coach, typically focuses on helping clients to restructure and reduce debt, reduce spending, develop saving habits, and develop financial discipline. In contrast, the term financial adviser refers to a wider range of professionals who typically provide clients with financial products and services. Although early research links financial coaching to improvements in client outcomes, much more rigorous analysis is necessary before any causal linkages can be established.[21]

Health and wellness[edit]

Health coaching is becoming recognized as a new way to help individuals "manage" their illnesses and conditions, especially those of a chronic nature.[22] The coach will use special techniques, personal experience, expertise and encouragement to assist the coachee in bringing his/her behavioral changes about, while aiming for lowered health risks and decreased healthcare costs.[23] The National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC) has differentiated the term health coach from wellness coach.[23] According to the NSHC, health coaches are qualified "to guide those with acute or chronic conditions and/or moderate to high health risk", and wellness coaches provide guidance and inspiration "to otherwise 'healthy' individuals who desire to maintain or improve their overall general health status".[23]


Homework coaching focuses on equipping a student with the study skills required to succeed academically. This approach is different from regular tutoring which typically seeks to improve a student's performance in a specific subject.[24]

In education[edit]

Coaching in education is seen as a useful intervention to support students, faculty and administrators in educational organizations.[25] For students, opportunities for coaching include collaborating with fellow students to improve grades and skills, both academic and social; for teachers and administrators, coaching can help with transitions into new roles.[25]


Life coaching is the process of helping people identify and achieve personal goals through developing skills and attitudes that lead to self-empowerment.[26] Although life coaches may have studied counseling psychology or related subjects, a life coach does not act as a therapist, counselor, or health care provider, and psychological intervention lies outside the scope of life coaching.


Relationship coaching is the application of coaching to personal and business relationships.[27]

Sports coaching[edit]

In sports, a coach is an individual that provides supervision and training to the sports team or individual players. Sports coaches are involved in administration, athletic training, competition coaching, and representation of the team and the players.

Ethics and standards[edit]

Since the mid-1990s, coaching professional associations such as the Association for Coaching (AC), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), the International Association of Coaching (IAC), and the International Coach Federation (ICF) have worked towards developing training standards.[1]:287–312[28] Psychologist Jonathan Passmore noted in 2016:[1]:3

While coaching has become a recognized intervention, sadly there are still no standards or licensing arrangements which are widely recognized. Professional bodies have continued to develop their own standards, but the lack of regulation means anyone can call themselves a coach. [...] Whether coaching is a profession which requires regulation, or is professional and requires standards, remains a matter of debate.

One of the challenges in the field of coaching is upholding levels of professionalism, standards and ethics.[28] To this end, coaching bodies and organizations have codes of ethics and member standards.[1]:287–312[29] However, because these bodies are not regulated, and because coaches do not need to belong to such a body, ethics and standards are variable in the field.[28][30] In February 2016, the AC and the EMCC launched a "Global Code of Ethics" for the entire industry; individuals, associations, and organizations are invited to become signatories to it.[31][32]:1

With the growing popularity of coaching,[33] many colleges and universities now offer coach training programs that are accredited by a professional association.[34] Some courses offer a life coach certificate after just a few days of training,[35] but such courses, if they are accredited at all, are considered "à la carte" training programs, "which may or may not offer start to finish coach training," according to the ICF.[36] Some "all-inclusive" training programs accredited by the ICF require a minimum of 125 student contact hours, 10 hours of mentor coaching and a performance evaluation process.[37][38] This is very little training in comparison to the training requirements of some other helping professions: for example, licensure as a counseling psychologist in the State of California requires 3,000 hours of supervised professional experience.[39] However, the ICF, for example, offers a "Master Certified Coach" credential that requires demonstration of "2,500 hours (2,250 paid) of coaching experience with at least 35 clients"[40] and a "Professional Certified Coach" credential with fewer requirements.[41] Other professional bodies similarly offer entry-level, intermediate, and advanced coach accreditation options.[42] Some coaches are both certified coaches and licensed counseling psychologists, integrating coaching and counseling.[43]

Critics see life coaching as akin to psychotherapy but without the legal restrictions and state regulation of psychologists.[28][44][45][46] There are no state regulation/licensing requirements for coaches. Due to lack of regulation, people who have no formal training or certification can legally call themselves life or wellness coaches.[47]


  1. ^ a b c d e Passmore, Jonathan, ed. (2016) [2006]. Excellence in Coaching: The Industry Guide (3rd ed.). London; Philadelphia: Kogan Page. ISBN 9780749474461. OCLC 927192333.
  2. ^ Renton, Jane (2009). Coaching and Mentoring: What They are and How to Make the Most of Them. New York: Bloomberg Press. ISBN 9781576603307. OCLC 263978214.
  3. ^ Chakravarthy, Pradeep (20 December 2011). "The Difference Between Coaching And Mentoring". Forbes. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b coach, Online Etymology Dictionary, retrieved 4 July 2015.
  5. ^ a b Cox, Elaine; Bachkirova, Tatiana; Clutterbuck, David, eds. (2014) [2010]. The Complete Handbook of Coaching (2nd ed.). Los Angeles; London: Sage Publications. ISBN 9781446276150. OCLC 868080660.
  6. ^ Wildflower, Leni (2013). The Hidden History of Coaching. Coaching in practice series. Maidenhead: Open University Press. ISBN 9780335245406. OCLC 820107321.
  7. ^ Cox, Elaine (2013), Coaching Understood: a Pragmatic Inquiry into the Coaching Process, Los Angeles; London: Sage Publications, ISBN 9780857028259, OCLC 805014954.
  8. ^ Rosinski, Philippe (2003). Coaching Across Cultures: New Tools for Leveraging National, Corporate, and Professional Differences. London; Yarmouth, Maine: Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN 1857883012. OCLC 51020293.
  9. ^ Hallowell, Edward M.; Ratey, John J. (2011) [1984]. Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood (Revised ed.). New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 9780307743152. OCLC 699763760.
  10. ^ Barkley, Russell A. (2012). Executive Functions: What They Are, How They Work, and Why They Evolved. New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 9781462505357. OCLC 773666263.
  11. ^ Hamilton, Jeff (6 January 2011). "26 Benefits of Adult ADHD Coaching". Psychology Today. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  12. ^ Knouse, Laura E.; Bagwell, Catherine L.; Barkley, Russell A.; Murphy, Kevin R. (May 2005). "Accuracy of Self-Evaluation in Adults with ADHD: Evidence from a Driving Study". Journal of Attention Disorders. 8 (4): 221–234. doi:10.1177/1087054705280159. PMID 16110052.
  13. ^ McCarthy, Laura Flynn. "What You Need to Know about ADHD Coaching". ADDitude Magazine. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  14. ^ Shenfield, Tali (16 October 2014). "How to Develop an 'Inner Coach' in Teens with ADHD and Executive Dysfunction". Advanced Psychology: Child Psychology and Parenting Blog. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  15. ^ Parker, David; Sawilowsky, Shlomo; Rolands, Laura (31 August 2010). "Quantifying the Effectiveness of Coaching for College Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder" (PDF). Edge Foundation. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  16. ^ Koretsky, Jennifer (22 February 2012). "5 Reasons Why ADHD Coaching Doesn't Work". Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  17. ^ Stern, Lewis R. (2004). "Executive Coaching: A Working Definition" (PDF). Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. 56 (3): 154–162. doi:10.1037/1065-9293.56.3.154.
  18. ^ Jones, Rebecca J.; Woods, Stephen A.; Guillaume, Yves R. F. (June 2016). "The Effectiveness of Workplace Coaching: A Meta-Analysis of Learning and Performance Outcomes from Coaching". Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. 89 (2): 249–277. doi:10.1111/joop.12119.
  19. ^ Lorber, Laura (10 April 2008). "Executive Coaching – Worth the Money?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 November 2008.
  20. ^ "Definition of Christian Coaching" (PDF). Christian Coaches Network International. October 2017. Retrieved 2018-03-20. Christian coaching is an approach to the practice of professional coaching—whether focused on personal or professional growth—that integrates the biblical worldview when working with clients to recognize their potential and effect personal change.
  21. ^ Collins, J. Michael; Olive, Peggy; O'Rourke, Collin M. (February 2013). "Financial Coaching's Potential for Enhancing Family Financial Security". Journal of Extension. 51 (1): 1FEA8. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  22. ^ Engel, Reed Jordan (2011). An Examination of Wellness Coaches and Their Impact on Client Behavioral Outcomes (Thesis). Purdue University. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  23. ^ a b c "Health Coaches & Health Coaching: Definition, Qualifications, Risk and Responsibility, and Differentiation from Wellness Coaching" (PDF). National Society of Health Coaches. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  24. ^ Maslin Nir, Sarah (8 November 2010). "Like a Monitor More Than a Tutor". The New York Times. p. A21. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  25. ^ a b Nieuwerburgh, Christian van (2012). Coaching in Education: Getting Better Results for Students, Educators, and Parents. Professional Coaching Series. London: Karnac Books. ISBN 9781780490793. OCLC 778418798.
  26. ^ Neenan, Michael (2018). Cognitive behavioural coaching: Distinctive features. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781351188555.
  27. ^ Yossi, Ives; Cox, Elaine (2015). Relationship Coaching: The Theory and Practice of Coaching with Singles, Couples and Parents. Hove, East Sussex; New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415737958. OCLC 881498486.
  28. ^ a b c d Grant, Anthony M.; Cavanagh, Michael J. (2011). "Coaching and Positive Psychology: Credentialing, Professional Status, and Professional Bodies". In Sheldon, Kennon M.; Kashdan, Todd B.; Steger, Michael F. Designing Positive Psychology: Taking Stock and Moving Forward. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 295–312. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195373585.003.0019. ISBN 9780195373585. OCLC 610144651.
  29. ^ Passmore, Jonathan; Mortimer, Lance (2011). "Ethics in Coaching" (PDF). In Hernez-Broome, Gina; Boyce, Lisa A. Advancing Executive Coaching: Setting the Course for Successful Leadership Coaching. The Professional Practice Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. pp. 205–227. ISBN 9780470553329. OCLC 635455413.
  30. ^ For example: "Code of Ethics". International Coach Federation. Archived from the original on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2016. And: "Coaches Code of Ethics". National Federation of State High School Associations. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  31. ^ Woods, Declan; Sleightholm, David (5 February 2016). "For Joint Release on 5th February 2016 - Global Code of Ethics for Coaches and Mentors". PRWeb. Archived from the original on 8 February 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  32. ^ Iordanou, Ioanna; Hawley, Rachel; Iordanou, Christiana (2017). Values and Ethics in Coaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 9781473919563. OCLC 948548464.
  33. ^ For example, membership in one coaching organization, the International Coach Federation, tripled between 2006 and 2016: Milne-Tyte, Ashley (25 February 2016). "The business coaching industry is booming". Marketplace. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  34. ^ For example, a list a programs accredited by the ICF: "List of All Accredited Coaching Training Programs (ACTP): Hour List". International Coach Federation. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  35. ^ Mitchelson, Tom (6 September 2010). "The Life Coach Con: Can You Really Trust Someone to Solve Your Problems?". Daily Mail. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  36. ^ "Approved Coaching Specific Training Hours (ACSTH): Program Accreditation". International Coach Federation. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  37. ^ "Accredited Coaching Training Program (ACTP): Program Accreditation". International Coach Federation. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  38. ^ "Associate Certified Coach (ACC) – Individual Credentialing – ICF". International Coach Federation. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  39. ^ "An Overview of Licensure as a Psychologist". California Board of Psychology. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  40. ^ "Master Certified Coach (MCC) – Individual Credentialing – ICF". International Coach Federation. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  41. ^ "Professional Certified Coach (MCC) – Individual Credentialing – ICF". International Coach Federation. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  42. ^ See "Table 17.1 The different levels of accreditation provided by different professional bodies", in Passmore (2016, p. 298), for a comparison of different coach accreditation options offered by the AC, EMCC, IAC, ICF, and other professional bodies.
  43. ^ Popovic, Nash; Jinks, Debra (2014). Personal Consultancy: A Model for Integrating Counselling and Coaching. London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415833929. OCLC 842330076.
  44. ^ Guay, Jennifer (16 January 2013). "Millennials Enter Growing, Controversial Field of Life Coaching". USA Today. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  45. ^ Morgan, Spencer (27 January 2012), "Should a Life Coach Have a Life First?", The New York Times, retrieved 4 July 2015.
  46. ^ Pagliarini, Robert (20 December 2011). "Top 10 Professional Life Coaching Myths". CBS News. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  47. ^ O'Brien, Elizabeth (8 September 2014). "10 Things Life Coaches Won't Tell You". MarketWatch. Retrieved 4 July 2015.