Life coaching is both an art and a science. The tools, techniques and methods life coaches use are crafted through ongoing training, experience and reflection, making the results very different coach by coach. However, the basics of a life coaching session – its length, location, structure and overarching principles are typically universal.
In this life coaching session 101 guide, I’ve put together a list of key qualities so you know what to expect from a life coaching session, whoever you work with.
Coaches follow a set of principles
Most coaching training programs and professional coaching bodies have a code of ethics that govern the way life coaches practise.
Confidential – What goes on in the coaching room, stays in the coaching room. That is, unless what’s shared is illegal or commands a duty of care from the coach
Answers are from the client, not the coach – The client (in almost all cases) has the knowledge, resources and skill to help themselves move forward. The coach is not the expert in the clients’ life and the answers they give may be unsuitable due unknown factors or experience. If the client asks, the coach may choose to share their experience, but usually only when asked
Safe space – Following the same rules as the confidentiality of sessions, the client should feel comfortable to share whatever they need to, knowing they will not be judged
The client is not broken– In coaching the clients’ current experience doesn’t mean they are bad, just that their way of thinking is probably not serving them as well as it could be
Taking notes – Most coaches will take some notes during the session, as prompts, reminders or to reflect the clients’ words back to them, when the right moment occurs
Life coaching sessions take place face-to-face or online
The choice of where to hold sessions depends on a few factors, such as where the client lives, the coach’s preference and the time of day when the coaching happens. Previously there was a heavy bias to face-to-face coaching, but today, as with much of life, it is happening more and more online via video calling tools and social media sites. Remote coaching takes away travelling time, so is often a more convenient way to fit coaching into our schedules.
Face to face life coaching session locations:
The life coach’s office – at home or work
A public place – restaurant, café, pub or park
Walking coaching – Taking coaching to the great outdoors and getting into nature at the same time
Remote coaching options:
Voice call – Where a client (or coach) is camera shy or doesn’t have a great internet connection, a voice call session works
Online video call – More and more platforms offer video calling, great for life coaching sessions due to convenience. The most popular options are: Skype / Zoom / Whatsapp / Facebook messenger - video
Instant messaging – If committing an hour chunk of time is not possible, a new trend emerging is coaching via SMS or rich message such as Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage. In these “sessions” a coach will post a question and the client responds in his or her own time. The dialogue can be time boxed or continue indefinitely.
It usually lasts for about 60 minutes
Typically a life coach will book out their time in 1 hour increments, as such most sessions last this long. Intensive life coaching programs and some kick off sessions, can last anything from 90 minutes to a full day, and are usually designed around a specific topic or transition such as changing career or finding your purpose.
If a client and coach have an enduring relationship, they may also offer mini “top-up” or accountability sessions for 30 minutes to check in on progress, reigniting the clients’ motivation and focus on their desired outcomes.
It has a start, middle and end
Life coaching sessions have regular structures similar to any type of meeting held across the world, the people open up conversation, the aims of the session are shared, the session tries to achieve those aims, and at the end of the meeting there will be a review to see if the aims were met and to share any other findings.
Opening – The coach & client greet each other, sort logistics and technology, and get to work
Beginning – The coach will ask the client to define an outcome for their session, this can be completely new, or a continuation of a previous session’s goal
Middle – Depending on the chosen goal, the coach may start with open questioning or choose a relevant tool or technique to move the session on. One key tool in any life coach’s casebook is silence. This silent space gives a client thinking and processing time, which can be very powerful.
End – Near the end of a session (and often throughout) the coach will check in to see the progress the client feels they’ve made towards their outcome. They may also offer (or ask the client to share) a summary of the discussion, any key actions, themes or revelations taken from the session.
If you’d like to find out more about what to expect from a life coaching session by experiencing one with me, book yourself onto a free 30-minute introduction to life coaching online calls.