Types of Life Coaching

There are two basic types of life coaching – directive and non-directive. A directive coach may be employed to advise on some specific area that needs to be improved. To do this, you engage a coach who has some particular expertise in a given area. Examples would include a fitness coach, athletic coach, business coach, voice coach, etc. Other terms for directive coaching would include consulting, teaching, advising and mentoring. Basically, a directive coach shares his or her expertise and “directs” the client to success.

Many non-directive life coaches also serve as directive coaches in specific areas where they have particular expertise.

A non-directive coach’s expertise is in the process, not the subject area. The NDC (non-directive coach) can assist in a variety of subject areas such as weight loss, career advancement, education or starting a business – just to name a few.

In directive coaching, the coach is the expert but in non-directive, the client is the expert. Certainly, there are some areas where the directive approach is more appropriate but there are also areas where non-directive is the way to go.

Let’s face it – most of us already know what we need to do to reach our goal. What we need is a plan, motivation, accountability and encouragement. This is what the NDC provides but don’t think for a moment that it is just cheerleading.

The NDA (non-directive approach) process is as follows:

1. Define the goal. The client may say that the goal is to “get a better job” but through appropriate inquiry we may learn that he loves his job but needs to make more money. In this case, the goal would be to increase income, not necessarily to get a better job. The NDC helps the client to discover his actual objective. The goal must be reasonable and attainable. We call this “validating the goal.”

2. Determine the current situation. Before we can develop a plan for the client to obtain the goal, we must assess his current situation. What resources are available? What support does he have? What happened in previous attempts? This is defining the starting point in the process of achieving the goal.

3. Develop a plan. Too many people claim to have a goal but have never developed a plan to get there. The goal may seem lofty or far away but an appropriate plan gives a pathway with intermediate objectives along the way. Often people think of a goal as something you don’t have one minute but do the next. The NDC assists the client in putting together a realistic plan that has various “success points” along the way. If the goal is to lose 20 pounds, losing 5 is a success point. If the goal is getting a new job, updating the resume is a success point. Success points provide motivation to continue the journey.

4. Accountability. From session to session, the NDC will assign the client various tasks to perform. It may be as simple as “Ask your husband what he thinks about your goal” or as detailed as “Research the requirements to be a Marine Biologist, including average income and employment opportunities.” At the following session, the NDC asks about the assignment. Was it completed? What was the result? What prevented you from completing the assignment? It is important that this review be done in a very supportive, not critical way.

5. Encouragement. You can’t minimize the importance of positive reinforcement. Although it is the client’s goal, it is the coach’s job to help the client attain the goal. An example of this collaborative effort is in the accountability mentioned above. If a client fails to complete the assignment, a directive coach may use negative reinforcement such as refusing to hold another session until the assignment is completed or chastise the client for not being serious about attaining the goal. The NDC, on the other hand, would work with the client to explore exactly what prevented the assignment from being completed and how to remove negative influencers.

Just because a coach is “non-directive” does not mean that he or she does not suggest actions for the client. One of the most effective techniques of the NDC is to lay out various alternatives and let the client explore the positives and negatives of each.


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