There are many ways to become a coach.
Some coaches are therapists who transition to work as coaches. Others work in a specific field before transitioning to a coaching role in that same industry.
Some simply discover a passion for coaching and pursue training through an online or in-person program. Although not all coaches pursue formal training, anyone can benefit from attending one of these programs.
The internet is simply flooded with coaching training programs, and it can be overwhelming to find the right one. In this post, we present you with some training programs that are worth your attention. Remember to research them thoroughly before signing yourself up.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.
This Article Contains:
- What Is Coaching Training?
- Best ICF-Accredited Training Programs and Institutes
- Training Options for Therapists
- A Look at the Validity of Happiness Coaching Programs
- 3 Online Coaching Training Opportunities
- Life Coaching Training Institutes + Online Options
- 2 Recovery Coach Training Courses
- Coaching Programs for Management and Business
- Training Courses for Health Coaching
- Relationship Coach Programs
- 2 Training Options for Grief and Trauma Coaching
- A Take-Home Message
What Is Coaching Training?
Coaching training is a formal training process through which professionals from all backgrounds can become effective and skilled coaches. Coaching training programs can take place in person or online. They are offered by both university departments and training companies.
Coaching is an art form, one that must be acquired through practice. For this reason, coaching programs usually offer a hands-on component. Similar to therapy training, coaching training pairs new coaches with mentors who help them improve by critiquing their work and offering case-specific guidance.
The training programs below can be specialized or generalized. They may be specific to a certain industry or focused on a certain type of client. Depending on the program, coaches may already be established and may use existing clients as case studies and learning material for their classes. Others are tailored toward complete beginners.
Coaching training programs usually present participants with certificates upon completion. Certification is not required to be a coach but can be an attractive credential when connected to a prestigious and well-known institution, such as the International Coaching Federation.
Best ICF-Accredited Training Programs and Institutes
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s best-known and respected coaching program certifier.
It provides accreditation for programs that are considered the industry gold standard. It accredits both life coaching and business coaching programs.
Below are some of the best ICF-accredited training programs, as well as some places where you can find your own.
1. Coaching Out of the Box
Coaching Out of the Box offers a Fast Track to ICF Certification program for those looking to become a certified coach in the least amount of time possible.
The training takes 60 hours total and includes 3 hours of one-on-one mentorship training.
2. The Goal Imagery Institute
The Goal Imagery Institute offers a Holistic Life, Career & Executive Coach training for those who are looking to become well-rounded, generalist coaches.
It offers two tracks: a 60-hour and 125-hour program. The program offers training in a wide range of subject matters including emotional intelligence and positive psychology.
3. Express Coaching
Express Coaching offers an ICF-certified life coaching program that provides a knowledge base for beginning coaches to help clients. The program is available online, and it also offers scholarships to make the programs more affordable.
Training Options for Therapists
Therapists have a variety of training options to become coaches. Some therapy training programs, such as Widener University’s PsyD program, have a dual-degree MBA option and also offer practicum and internship experience with coaching.
Therapists who do not want to complete a formal program can get a job at a consulting firm and learn by doing. They can start a client-facing coaching firm, even without experience, and learn by soliciting supervision from another coach/therapist.
The differences between therapy and coaching are subtle. Therapists can even become coaches in a very similar realm to their therapy expertise. For example, a therapist who did therapy with students with learning disabilities can become a coach for special education teachers.
Coaching involves taking one step back from the work, helping empower someone else to do it instead. This article provides more information about how coaching differs from mentoring and counseling.
Therapists, of course, can take the same route as non-therapists and complete one of these coaching training programs. Therapy skills, such as active listening and case conceptualization, may put them ahead of the curve in terms of client-facing skills.
They will, however, encounter the differences that come with coaching, including how to let others do the work and how to switch from speaking like a therapist to speaking like a coach.
A Look at the Validity of Happiness Coaching Programs
Happiness coaching programs are still in their infancy, and there is still not an established or empirically supported framework for the programs that provide training.
For simplicity’s sake, we will explore the next closest thing: positive psychology coaching.
Positive psychology coaching involves the application of positive psychology principles to the practice of coaching. Since anyone can become a coach, the empirical literature is disparate and just beginning to flourish.
Positive psychology can provide an evidence-based framework for the practice of coaching (Seligman, 2007). Since positive psychology is the study of meaning, positive emotion, and engagement, all of which combine to create happiness, it appears positive psychology coaching could lead to happier clients.
Unfortunately, since there is not a robust body of literature about positive psychology and happiness coaching, we can’t make a statement either way on its validity and efficacy. One thing holding back the research is that there is still no unified definition of what positive psychology coaching entails (van Zyl, Roll, Stander, & Richter, 2020).
Once a definition of the practice is agreed upon and coaches begin to work from an established, evidence-based framework, we will have more information about the validity of happiness coaching.
3 Online Coaching Training Opportunities
Online training programs are certainly the most convenient and accessible options out there. Here are three online training programs – two for life coaching and one for business coaching – that are accredited by the ICF and offered online.
1. The Life Purpose Institute
The Life Purpose Institute offers a Life Coach Certification that is available online. It also offers in-person, five-day intensive workshops. The online core program takes five days to complete, but the institute also offers more intensive three- and five-month-long programs.
2. The Coach Training Alliance
The Coach Training Alliance offers a Certified Coach Program. Packed with knowledge about how to start and grow a coaching business, this program’s specialty is helping you to start strong professionally.
3. The Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute
The Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute offers a Certified Personal and Executive Coach Program. This hybrid coaching program is meant to give you the coaching tools to run a successful coaching practice based on the principles of positive psychology.
For an even more comprehensive look at online training programs and tools for coaches, check out our article on the 17 Best Online Coaching Programs.
Life Coaching Training Institutes + Online Options
A life coach is a professional who is trained to offer social support.
They help people break negative habits, understand themselves deeply, and achieve their life goals.
Although we all can hopefully think of important people who support us when we need help, having a professional life coach can be important for those who struggle with life direction or other issues.
Here is an article if you are interested in learning more about life coaching specifically.
1. Institute for Life Coach Training
Several life coaching training institutes offer online training, the most prominent of which is the Institute for Life Coach Training. The Institute for Life Coach Training offers over 40 different elective courses and accredited coaching programs that can lead to certification.
2. The Life Coach Training Institute
Another (distinct, but similarly named) institute offering online options is the Life Coach Training Institute. Based in San Diego, California, this is the largest in North America; however all of the Life Coach Training Institute’s coaching programs are offered online.
These two institutes are each certified, albeit by different accrediting bodies. While the Institute for Life Coach Training is certified by the International Coaching Federation, the Life Coach Training Institute is certified by the International Association of Accredited Coaches.
If you are going to spend money on an accredited program, it makes sense to be familiar with the overarching organization doing the certifying and to understand the value that this accreditation provides.
2 Recovery Coach Training Courses
Recovery coaches help clients at all stages of recovery to prevent relapse. Like other forms of coaching, these coaches use a strengths-based approach (Eddie et al., 2019). Their work is nonclinical.
Unlike addiction counselors or therapists, they do not provide any mental health diagnoses. They do not address the past, and they do not attempt to heal trauma. Instead, recovery coaches help their clients to navigate the distinct steps of recovery, helping them achieve their goals.
1. The Recovery Coach Academy
The Recovery Coach Academy provides a five-day intensive training course to help people become recovery coaches. The training program is offered online, but the academy is based in Hartford, Connecticut.
Coaches learn how to remove obstacles to recovery and serve as a guide for people who are already involved in the process of recovery. Among other things, program participants learn about the stages of change, the stages of recovery, and how to work with adult learners.
2. The International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches
The International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches is another organization that provides recovery coach training. This organization offers multiple programs, most notably its Certified Professional Recovery Coach certification, which trains participants in the neuroscience behind recovery and family issues in addiction.
It is certified as a form of continuing coaching education by the ICF. The institute also offers a dual Life Coaching/Recovery Coaching Certification.
Coaching Programs for Management and Business
Coaching programs for management and business dominate the coaching offerings.
Many programs are executive coaching programs, which produce executive coaches who work with managers in the workplace. These programs can help managers learn how to coach their clients.
Instead of having to work with an executive coach, business leaders can learn how to implement coaching skills on their own to push their organizations forward.
1. The Naveen Jindal School of Management
The Naveen Jindal School of Management offers an Executive and Professional Coaching Certificate. This program is certified by the ICF and offered online through the University of Texas at Dallas. It focuses on evidence-based approaches to coaching that can be applied at all levels of business leadership.
2. Harvard University Extension School
Harvard University offers an online leadership coaching strategies program. The program is meant for managers and executives who have direct reports, rather than for independent coaches. The program provides a framework for those who are looking to apply coaching skills in their existing leadership position.
Training Courses for Health Coaching
Health coaches are trained professionals who are educated in the latest health, nutrition, and exercise research. Beyond their book knowledge, they are trained in how to form one-on-one helping relationships with others who need their help to live healthy lives.
1. Emory University Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate
This online program is a 20-week-long intensive in which participants learn the ins and outs of health coaching. Participants receive coaching and mentoring from staff and even complete a practicum in which they work with a live client under the supervision of a senior coach. The program is certified by the National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC).
2. Duke University Integrative Health Coach Professional Training Program
Coaches in Duke’s program learn from an integrative medicine perspective, which focuses on how physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors combine to affect a person’s health.
The program combines online and hands-on practical experiences so coaches can feel confident about practicing right after graduation. Graduates can then sit for the NBHWC.
3. Ace Fitness Health Coach Certification
This program, which is rooted in the principles of behavior change science and lifestyle medicine, is a non-university-affiliated and lower cost option than the two listed above.
The program is certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.
Relationship Coach Programs
A relationship coach is a trained professional who helps people learn the skills to build and maintain healthy relationships.
They focus especially on romantic partnerships and family structures.
Relationship coaches differ from dating coaches, as they focus on helping those in already established relationships. They often work with couples together in sessions.
Here are two training options, while our in-depth article, How to Become a Relationship Coach: 7 Certification Courses, offers more options.
1. The Relationship Coaching Institute
The Relationship Coaching Institute is an ICF-accredited program for relationship coaches. It offers online training opportunities for those who already have a coaching background and those who are starting from square one.
2. Somatica Institute
Somatica Institute offers training in both relationship and sex coaching. It also provides programs for those who are already trained as therapists. Somatica coaches focus on using touch and experiential tools to help couples connect.
2 Training Options for Grief and Trauma Coaching
Grief and trauma coaching are two specialties of life coaching that focus on helping clients heal after they have lost a loved one or experienced a traumatic event.
1. The Institute of Life Coaching Training
The Institute of Life Coaching Training provides specialty training in Grief Coaching. It is an online program that helps train coaches to help their clients enjoy life and find meaning after losing a loved one.
2. The International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaches
The International Association of Trauma Recovery Coaches is an organization formed by Bobbi Parish, a trained marriage and family therapist. The organization both certifies coaches and regulates trauma coaching as a field. It provides online training courses for those interested in learning to practice.
Although many clients with grief or trauma see therapists, coaches can be an invaluable part of the healing process. Coaches are there to walk alongside the client as an equal, providing emotional support and comfort as the client makes hard decisions.
A Take-Home Message
As you can see, coaches provide services that cover a vast spectrum. If you are interested in becoming one type of coach mentioned above, the training programs provided in this article are a good place to start your research.
While looking at programs, it’s important to understand your budget, your needs, and your goals. Since coaching is not a regulated industry, it is not required that you complete a program in order to work. However, if you have no prior training and are looking to build coaching skills and a business, a coaching training program could very well be the right move for you.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free.
- Eddie, D., Hoffman, L., Vilsaint, C., Abry, A., Bergman, B., Hoeppner, B., … Kelly, J. F. (2019). Lived experience in new models of care for substance use disorder: A systematic review of peer recovery support services and recovery coaching. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1052.
- Seligman, M. E. (2007). Coaching and positive psychology. Australian Psychologist, 42(4), 266–267.
- van Zyl, L. E., Roll, L. C., Stander, M. W., & Richter, S. (2020). Positive psychological coaching definitions and models: A systematic literature review. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 793.