Life Coach Training
Ethics and Business
Like any business, project, or endeavor in life, your coaching practice will succeed to the extent that you conduct it in harmony with universal success principles. In this lesson we will underscore some of the primary ethics that govern life coaching. (We have already touched on some of these items in the lesson on setting healthy boundaries. Here you will find a reiteration with some embellishment.)
Respect your clients by keeping all discussions and interactions with them confidential. Never divulge the contents of a coaching session or the name of your clients. Your relationship with the client is sacred, built on trust. Do not violate that trust by offering personal information to others.
The only exception to this practice is for the purpose of professional growth and training. If you are discussing a particular case with a teacher, mentor, or fellow coach for the purpose of improving your skills or helping the client, do so without divulging the name or any other identifying information about the client. If your client gives you permission to share any information, you may do so. Otherwise all interactions remain confidential except for teaching and learning purposes, and in that context the information should go no further.
Focus on Client Service
During your coaching session keep the focus of attention on your client and her needs and process. Do not allow the focus to drift to you or your process. You might share an example from your own life or experience, but only if it is relevant and in the service of helping the client. Do not make the session or a portion of it more about you than the client. Your purpose during your session is to help the client. Use other appropriate venues to express your needs or work on your personal growth.
Romantic and Sexual Relationships
A coach with integrity does not date or sleep with his or her clients. This muddies the coach-client relationship and creates an emotional and interpersonal dynamic that prevents the coach and client from seeing each other objectively. It’s not healthy or ethical.
While attractions may sometimes occur and they may be tempting, do not allow sexual or romantic feelings to interfere with your coaching relationship. If your client tells you that he or she has such feelings for you, you can discuss them in the context of illuminating the issues you might help them understand or progress with.
If you find yourself romantically or sexually drawn to a client and you would prefer to be involved in that way, you must terminate the coaching relationship.
Friendship and Social Interactions
Can you do friendly or social things with a client outside the coaching relationship? This depends on the individual relationship. In general it helps to set a boundary between coaching and social life. This keeps your coaching interactions clean and devoid of confusion with other issues.
You may develop a friendship with a client that goes beyond the coaching scenario. If this is healthy and supportive to both of you, you may want to interact at that level.
Sometimes you may become friends with a client after the coaching relationship is complete. If this happens in an organic, natural way, let it.
It’s generally not a good idea to get involved in business deals with your clients. Anything that might blur the roles in a coaching relationship and distract you from seeing each other clearly should be avoided.
This is especially so if the client ends up purchasing something from you or someone you recommend. In such a case you may have a conflict of interest.
If, however, you have a product or service that is directly related to your coaching service, such as a book, DVD, or CD, and you sell it to the client with the intent to augment their coaching experience, this may be helpful to the client.
Use discernment and be very honest with yourself and your client about your intentions. If you sincerely seek to help, that’s one thing. If you just want to make money or help someone else make money, that’s another.
Support your client to live a life of integrity by modeling integrity. Do what you say you are going to do. Do not use your client for any selfish purpose. Be fair and honest in your financial dealings. Acknowledge your client for acts of integrity, good will, and noble purpose. If your client is doing something in his personal life or in your coaching relationship that you believe is out of integrity, tell him. Create a space of truth and fairness, which will bless both you and your client.
The field of life coaching is a relatively new one. At the current time it is generally not subject to the kinds of regulation and licensing to which other more traditional professions are subject. If you have any questions or doubts about the legality of offering coaching as a profession, consult your state laws or a qualified authority.
If you are already licensed as a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or in any other social service profession, consult the rules and regulations in your profession to determine if offering services specifically as a life coach may constitute a conflict of interest.
Terms of Agreement
Some life coaches ask clients to sign an agreement that lays out the terms and responsibilities in the coach-client relationship. This may include duration, finances, roles, and/or a hold harmless waiver. If you feel such a document will help you and the client, use it. If you are fine without it, you may want to go that route. If you would like to see a sample agreement form that one of our graduate coaches uses, Click Here. This is simply one method that one coach uses. If you choose to use an agreement form, you are encouraged to use terms and language meaningful and appropriate to you. If you have any considerations or questions about using such an agreement or waver, consult an attorney or legal authority you trust.
Some coaches prefer to have an insurance policy in the event that a client claims injury or damages. This might be especially appropriate if you are coaching clients who come to your home. If so, ask your home insurance provider about adding a rider to include clients who come to your home for coaching.
I know of one company that provides insurance for your coaching services: Lockton. I have not worked with them directly. If you are interested, check them out.
If you present workshops at a holistic health center, you may be required to provide your own insurance. I have an insurance policy with Namasta (www.namasta.com) because when I teach at certain holistic health centers they require presenters to be covered. If you are concerned about insurance, speak with a provider.
1. What code of ethics is meaningful to you? Write below the key elements of your personal code of ethics in coaching:
2. How do you prefer to relate to the legal information mentioned above?
I conduct my coaching practice in harmony with
ethics of kindness, honesty, and service.
I abide by the law in regard to my coaching practice.
I set and use healthy boundaries with my clients.
I make choices about my coaching practice in alignment with my values.
The material in this lesson © by Alan Cohen is proprietary for the education of students enrolled in
Life Coach Training Program by the Foundation for Holistic Life Coaching.
Using for any other purpose without permission is strictly prohibited.