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Does life coaching have to be accredited?

The term ‘coach’ is unregulated. This means that anyone can call themselves a life coach and set up a business. However, this doesn’t mean that we should question the validity of the profession or feel discouraged about becoming a life coach. Many of the therapeutic services in the UK are unregulated, including counselling and psychotherapy.

If coaching is unregulated, then why should we study to become an accredited life coach?

In the case of a counsellor, if we were looking for one, we might go by a recommendation from a friend or check several counsellor’s websites. Any counsellor who has completed formal training will include this information on their website, we will find this reassuring and be more inclined to contact them. The same goes for a life coach. If we are thinking about recommendations, then it is much more likely that a skilled counsellor, who has been trained in psychological theories, is much more likely to be able to provide a quality service that helps their clients and leads to recommendations by people who have benefited from their work. The same applies to a life coach. If they have studied the techniques to elicit motivation and change in their clients through powerful questioning, and how to structure sessions to maximise this, then they too will have much more success. Without these skills, a life coaching session would be nothing more than a friendly chat.

Even though life coaching, counselling and psychotherapy are all unregulated, practitioners who want to reassure their clients that they are qualified and diligent in their work will register with a voluntary body that has minimum standards for membership. In life coaching, two of the key governing bodies are the Association of Coaching (AC) and the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Both organisations ensure that coaches adhere to the very best in training standards by requiring evidence of completion or enrolment on an approved course and a minimum number of training hours. Cheap, pre-recorded, online courses that boast of getting a ‘certificate’ at the end would not qualify for recognition of either of these bodies. Instead, anyone considering accreditation should look for an internationally recognised qualification such as a diploma. The Coaching Academy has been training since 1999 and have their continually updated courses accredited by both of these non-profit organisations.

Association of Coaching (AC)

Established in 2002, the Association of Coaching is a leading international, independent and non-profit professional body dedicated to promoting best practice and raising awareness and standards of coaching worldwide. It is made up of professional coaches, academic institutions, trainers and providers of coaching. It has an expanding professional development programme that includes digital learning, webinars, podcasts and virtual conferences that provide CPD.

International Coaching Federation (ICF)

Another non-profit organisation, the ICF was first formed in 1995 and now has over 50,000 international members. It is dedicated to providing independent certification to coaches and is the world’s largest organisation of professionally trained coaches. As well as membership, it also conducts research in the field of coaching and has a register of approved coaching courses and coaches. The Coaching Academy Personal Performance Coaching Diploma has been awarded 121 Approved Coach Specific Training Hours (ACSTH).


There are many other benefits to becoming an accredited coach. Firstly, it is an introduction to a network of coaches who will be at different stages in their coaching journey. A student coach can find other students with whom they can gain their much-needed training hours as they practise coaching each other. A newly qualified coach will find other coaches who are also at the start of setting up their business, in which case they can support each other, sharing tips and encouraging each other along the way. There will also be mentor coaches who can guide other coaches through the early stages, until they are experienced enough to mentor others in return if they decide to. The coaching community really does believe in championing its members and that there is enough potential in this expanding sector for us all to have successful, fulfilling roles within it.

Secondly, if we want to work as a self-employed coach, either part-time or full-time, we will require insurance to protect ourselves and our business. Insurance for coaching is relatively cheap to buy (usually less than a few hundred pounds a year), but we won’t be able to obtain this unless we are accredited by an approved training provider. This will leave us uninsured and exposed to huge risks that could force us into debt, potentially closing our business, or making us personally liable, depending on how we have set up our business. If we are hired by businesses or organisations to coach their employees, they will expect us to be professionally insured as well.

The benefits of becoming an accredited coach are huge but, fundamentally, we should all want to provide the best service we can to our clients. Working as a life coach is a privilege, and we show our respect to our clients by firstly ensuring that we have our own knowledge and learning in place.

If you want to learn more about life coaching, then click here for more about how long it takes to train as a life coach or here for the current trends in coaching.