The 10 Things a Good Life Coach/Therapist Does

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit:

I’m in my second week of training to get the basics of coaching under my belt. The teacher’s approach is a practical one: she first goes into a bit of theory and then throws us into the deep by asking us to coach each other.
Last week I was a coach, this week I got to be on the receiving end.

Apart from that session, I also did a practice session last Monday with on of my best friends who also follows the training. We took turns coaching each other and then offering feedback. And my partner was so kind as to coach me on my hard-to-beat coffee habit last night.

During the past few years I’ve visited about 7 mental health professionals, some with whom I gained more insight and others with whom I didn’t feel that way. Some I visited once, others I still visit today.

All these experiences put together have offered me a few insights into what makes a good coach. This is personal, of course. I still have a lot to learn, but these 10 signs of a good coach are ones I hold dear.

  1. A good coach is 100% confidential.
    This goes without saying, though it should be expressed explicitly. In order for me to feel comfortable sharing my deepest, darkest secrets, I have to be 100% sure you will keep them.
  2. A good coach is free from judgement.
    As a coach, you don’t get to decide which choiced the client should make. The trainer in our course gave the example of a man who came to see her because he couldn’t choose between his wife and his lover. He wanted to decide within one month. After that month, he just decided to keep both. A good coach will help you reach the goal you want to reach. They don’t decide whether that goal is right for you or not.
  3. A good coach helps you find your OWN solutions.
    Any solution I have to your problem is bound to be flawed. The best solutions are the ones you come up with yourself. Then you have the right motivation, the right understanding and the ability to adapt your strategy as you go along.
    “So in what ways could you tackle this particular issue? How have you dealt with it before? What works and doesn’t work?”
  4. A good coach knows how to ask the right questions.
    The woman who coached me in class yesterday was very nervous. As a result, she couldn’t come up with any questions to ask me, the client. Which questions are the ‘right’ questions in a session of course very much depends on the client and his/her goals. Good questions are open and invite you to explore your own story. They can be: Why do you think this is so hard for you? Or: What would it take for you to feel happy at your job?
    A coach or therapists asks questions to understand you better, and to help you understand yourself better.
  5. A good coach challenges you.
    I have very good memories of the second psychologist I ever went to. I was still new at the process but she was able to very deliberately pick out the inconsistencies or strange aspects of my story. I remember at one point saying I had never been an athletic person, even though at that time I rode a bike to work which took about two hours every day. She asked “So what does it mean to be ‘an athletic person’?” My answer had nothing to do with sports, but everything with being ‘cool’ and looking like a super model. It also showed me that this static idea of myself is one that does not serve me.
  6. A good coach takes their time.
    When you’re going through a personal development process, you have to take it one step at a time. Sure, you can wish you were Buddha and start behaving like that right away. When I started diving into spiritual books, I found myself ‘feeling peaceful’ very soon, only to realise later on that I had been spiritual bypassing the entire time.
    In a session, there should be time to explore issues fully: What does the client want? What do they do now? How do they feel? What do they need? What impacts their situation?
    We all need time to process those aspects of our lives.
  7. A good coach filters out what’s relevant.
    You may share a whole story on how your household chores are way too overwhelming and only briefly mention how your mother would always have her home spic-and-span. That might be the issue your coach picks up to explore why this comparison is so important to you, and who really puts that clean house on your priority list.
  8. A good coach sets their own issues aside.
    A coaching session or therapy session is about the client or patient, no matter how relevant your experiences as a coach may be. Coaches get triggered too, of course, even during sessions. It is then their responsibility to deal with their own issues AFTER the sesson, and, perhaps, see a coach?
  9. A good coach always keeps learning.
    Human beings are probably the most complex life form on this planet. From the way our emotions influence our bodies, to how our thoughts create our reality; we keep learning more ways to understand ourselves and eachother better. As a coach it is very enriching to keep expanding and building on your knowledge. It doesn’t have to cost a ton. Books can offer a great deal, too.
  10. A good coach leads you to insight by throwing the ball back.
    A coach doesn’t tell you what’s wrong with you, or why you are the way you are. A good coach will lead you to your own insights by handing your own words and stories back to you.
    “So what exactly changed between the time you were happy in your relationship and the time you weren’t?”
    “You said you felt disappointed. What was your expectation?”

Going through this training, practicing and visiting therapists and coaches has given me so many great insights already. It has opened my eyes to my own story as well, and has helped me coach myself at times.

What do you consider essential in a great coach or therapist? My list is anything but complete!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: