Patrick Williams founded the Institute for Life Coach Training in 1998, and since then, both the program and the profession of life coaching itself have evolved. Now, Williams has teamed up with Diane Menendez, a former faculty member, to write the second edition of Becoming a Professional Life Coach: Lessons from the Institute for Life Coach Training. While the textbook is meant for students of the institute, I found it useful as a way to learn more about the field of life coaching in general — and even to learn techniques I can use on myself.
Textbooks, as a whole, follow a few unspoken guidelines. They should be thorough, well-researched, clear, concise, and, hopefully, not mind-numbing. Thankfully, Williams and Menendez achieve all of this, and also supplement the textbook with transcripts from coaching sessions. These transcripts provide an opportunity for the reader to “experience” the techniques in action, which is particularly helpful for those trying to understand the questioning methods being taught.
In this second edition, the authors add to Williams’s original book and include up-to-date information on areas like somatic coaching, ethics, positive psychology, and neuroscience.
I found the chapters called “The Power of Purpose” and “Design Your Life” particularly enlightening. In addition, Williams and Menendez offer an explanation of coach Jeanie Marshall’s “Five Types of Affirmations for Empowerment.” The five kinds are releasing/cleansing affirmations, which help you let go of things like your own resistance or negative thought forms; receiving/accepting affirmations, which are said to open you to something good; being/intending affirmations, which “enhance conscious awareness of your intention about something or about your mission in life;” acting/claiming affirmations, which are meant to bring something into manifestation and also establish boundaries in relationships; and integrating/embodying affirmations, which allow us to integrate the meanings of other affirmations and what we have already learned.
As Williams and Menendez explain, “An empowering process emerges by using these five categories of affirmations in a systematic way to assist you in embracing an affirmation that you desire to believe but currently do not.” This section was so inspiring that I’ve personally begun to create my own list of affirmations.
However, I do have one gripe about the book. Williams and Menendez take a hard stance at the beginning on what they perceive as the difference between therapists and life coaches. They assert that therapists focus primarily on a client’s past whereas life coaches focus on a client’s future and achieving the life that they want. They even provide a chart to further clarify the differences they perceive between therapists, mentors, consultants, and coaches. But while therapy does focus on healing the issues that may stem from the past, the goal is still to assist the client in achieving the future they want by overcoming that past. While this point in the book is not one that overrides the general messages and teachings, I did find it rather biased.
Still, if you are curious about the life coaching profession, Williams and Menendez’s resource is a thorough one. The book provides a deeper understanding of the field along with the techniques and skills necessary to join it. While reading the book will not alone provide certification to practice as a coach, it may help curious readers decide whether or not to plunge into formal training.
Becoming a Professional Life Coach: Lessons from the Institute for Life Coach Training, 2nd Edition
W. W. Norton & Company, March 2015
Hardcover, 480 pages