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Coaching clients should demand the highest standards of coaches: training, ethics, certification

June 30, 2009

Would you go to an accountant who wasn’t certified? Or to a doctor who didn’t pledge to uphold the Hippocratic oath? Why would you partner with a life or business coach who hasn’t been trained in the coaching process or doesn’t abide by a code of standards?

Lexington, Kentucky, USA - Would you go to an accountant who wasn't certified? Or to a doctor who didn't pledge to uphold the Hippocratic oath? Why would you partner with a life or business coach who hasn't been trained in the coaching process or doesn't abide by a code of standards?

Coach-specific training, ethics and certification are the first things clients should ask for when deciding on the coach they will hire, according to the International Coach Federation (ICF), the world's leading organization of professional coaches. A true professional coach will be able to answer yes to all of these requirements.

"Unfortunately, not everyone who labels themselves as a coach has been formally trained in coaching skills," says ICF President Karen Tweedie, PCC¹. "Beware of those who tell you they are a coach but lack certification and do not abide by the ICF Code of Ethics, considered the industry's highest standard. While a person may have significant expertise in other professional areas, such as business, consulting, education or counseling, this does not make them a coach."

  1. Coach-specific training. Make sure the individual has received professional training from a program specifically designed to teach coaching skills. Don't be misled to think someone is a competent coach because he or she has other professional credentials or sets high fees.
  2. Ethics. The ICF has established a respected Code of Ethics for members and an Ethical Conduct Review Process for clients who have ethical complaints against an ICF member or an ICF Credentialed coach. All coaches who are members of the ICF have pledged to uphold this code and agreed to cooperate with an ethical review if necessary. If the coach is not an ICF member, what ethical standards do they follow? Who holds them accountable?
  3. Credential. Does the individual hold or are they in the process of earning and ICF Credential? Coaches who have been credentialed by the ICF have received coach-specific training, achieved a designated number of experience hours and been coached by a mentor coach.

All ICF Credentialed coaches are listed in the online ICF Coach Referral Service (CRS), a free public resource that allows consumers to tailor their search for a qualified coach based on specific criteria, including professional experience of the coach, coaching specialties, desired coaching method, language preference, location, and more. The CRS is available at

The ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaching is a distinct service and differs greatly from therapy, consulting, mentoring or training. Individuals who engage in a coaching relationship can expect to experience fresh perspectives on personal challenges and opportunities, enhanced thinking and decision-making skills, enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence in carrying out their chosen work and life roles.

The International Coach Federation is the leading global organization for coaches, with more than 12,800 members in over 90 countries, dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, providing independent certification, and building a worldwide network of credentialed coaches. The ICF is the only organization that awards a global credential which is currently held by over 5,100 coaches worldwide. For more information on how to become or find an ICF Credentialed coach, please visit our Web site at

  1 PCC: Professional Certified Coach, credential awarded by the International Coach Federation.